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Questions about the accuracy of point-of-care-blood tests for COVID-19, elective surgery backlogs, mandatory masking, and unapproved fecal transplants in this week’s top health news.

Health News Recap

  • British Columbia’s health minister will ask airlines for evidence that it’s safe to stop social distancing on flights after Air Canada and WestJet announced they would no longer leave middle seats empty. The new policies go against Transport Canada’s advice that physical distancing is critical in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on flights. Some travellers are cancelling bookings due to the change.
  • A Canadian-led systematic review and metanalysis published in the BMJ called into question the accuracy of point-of-care blood tests for COVID-19. Of the 40 studies included in the metanalysis, researchers found that most had design flaws that could bias the results, and half were not peer-reviewed. According to the researchers, “available evidence does not support the continued use of existing point-of-care serological tests.”
  • Canada’s four Atlantic provinces lifted travel restrictions to allow residents to cross borders within the region for any reason without needing to quarantine afterwards. Travel restrictions for people coming from the rest of Canada remain in place.
  • Migrant workers at an Ontario farm with a major COVID-19 outbreak are hiding to avoid testing for COVID-19 out of fear of being denied pay or deported if they test positive. So far, 191 workers have tested positive on the Windsor-Essex farm, and the local medical officer of health ordered employees to stop working and isolate until further notice.
  • Five out of six regional hospitals in Quebec’s Laurentians and Eastern Townships are running at more than 100% capacity, raising concerns about the province’s preparedness for a second wave of COVID-19. Quebec’s health minister said the government is working on a plan to avoid hospital overcrowding but noted that an uptick in visits is “normal in the short term” as people feel more comfortable going to the hospital after months of lockdown.
  • Manitoba is requesting proposals from private and public facilities to address a backlog of elective surgeries postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The request for proposals is for same-day procedures that wouldn’t require admission, including pediatric dental, ear, nose and throat surgeries, minor orthopedic procedures, ophthalmology surgery, and outpatient spine and urology surgeries.
  • The Northwest Territories Medical Association urged the territory’s chief public health officer to end physical distancing measures, arguing that the policy’s harms now outweigh the risks posed by COVID-19. The association warned that domestic violence, substance abuse, financial stress and anxiety have increased due to physical distancing. Meanwhile, all five of the territory’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have recovered.
  • Nunavut reported its first presumptive case of COVID-19 in a mine worker who recently travelled to the territory for the job. Health Minister George Hickes said the person is isolating from coworkers, and employees at the mine have not had any contact with the general population.
  • Toronto will require people to wear masks or face coverings in all enclosed public places as of July 7 to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, the Ontario government denied a request by mayors from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to make masks mandatory in large municipalities across the province.
  • Health Canada is investigating whether a B.C. anesthesiologist is breaking the law by providing fecal transplants for a wide range of illnesses, from Lyme disease to mental illness. Health Canada only permits fecal microbiota transplants as a treatment for recurrent infection with C. difficile, and doctors must seek approval for other uses.

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