Archive for March, 2020

Husband hides symptoms to visit wife in maternity ward, Strong Hospital officials say –

March 31st, 2020

DURHAM, N.H. (WLNS) – Like Sherlock Holmes, astronomers have found clues of a cosmic homicide.

A black hole of an elusive class known as “intermediate-mass,” betrayed its existence by tearing apart a wayward star that passed too close.

These so-called intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) are a long-sought “missing link” in black hole evolution. Researchers consider these new observations the strongest evidence yet for mid-sized black holes in the universe.

It took the combined power of two X-ray observatories and the keen vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to hunt down the cosmic beast.

“Intermediate-mass black holes are very elusive objects, and so it is critical to carefully consider and rule out alternative explanations for each candidate. That is what Hubble has allowed us to do for our candidate,” said Dacheng Lin of the University of New Hampshire, principal investigator of the study.

Lin and his team used Hubble to follow up on leads from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton).

In 2006 these satellites detected a powerful flare of X-rays, but they could not determine whether it originated from inside or outside of our galaxy. Researchers attributed it to a star being torn apart after coming too close to a gravitationally powerful compact object, like a black hole.

Surprisingly, the X-ray source, named 3XMM J215022.4−055108, was not located in a galaxy’s center, where massive black holes normally would reside. This raised hopes that an IMBH was the culprit.

Weighing in at about 50,000 times the mass of our Sun, the black hole is smaller than the supermassive black holes at the cores of large galaxies but larger than stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of a massive star.

Because IMBHs are smaller and less active than supermassive black holes, astronomers essentially have to catch an IMBH red-handed in the act of gobbling up a star.


Apple buys Dark Sky weather app and shuts down the Android version – TechRadar India

March 31st, 2020

‘We’re in this together’: B.C. premier extends state of emergency in province-wide address – CTV News

March 31st, 2020

VANCOUVER — B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province has taken “extraordinary measures” to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the next 14 days are critical in the fight against the virus.

Horgan made the comments in a province-wide address from Victoria on Tuesday evening, during which he also extended the province’s state of emergency until April 14.

As B.C. enters what officials have called a critical juncture in the battle, the premier emphasized the importance of following the orders from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“We all need to take this very seriously. These are not suggestions. They’re the law,” said Horgan.

The premier said the province has added critical resources to the health-care system and freed up thousands of acute care beds, as well as increased support procedures and protections in long-term care facilities.

“What we do today will affect what our doctors, nurses and first responders face in the days and weeks ahead,” he said. “It will determine how many of us stay healthy and how much we can do to flatten the curve.”

Horgan also thanked those who were doing their part by staying at home and helping their others in need.

“You might not feel it in your living room, but everyone in B.C. is pulling together,” he said. “There are early signs that our actions are making a difference, but we can’t stop now.” He encouraged people to continue do their part by staying home.

Horgan directly addressed the province’s health-care workers and expressed appreciation for their efforts to keep people safe.

“We know you’re exhausted. And we know you’re being pushed to the very limit. We know you’re putting yourself in harm’s way to keep others safe, and for that you have our deepest gratitude today,” he said. The premier said they would leave “no stone unturned” when it comes to providing front line workers personal protective equipment.

Horgan also announced a new partnership between the government and the province’s tech sector that will connect B.C. companies to health-care centres in need of supplies, such as hand sanitizer or reusable medical clothing. The program is expected to officially launch on Wednesday.

“I’m optimistic about our recovery because I’m optimistic about this province, and our future together,” he said. “We will get through this because of the strength of our people and our communities.”

While Horgan expressed optimism, he also acknowledged the toll the virus has taken on B.C. families and the economy.

“We’ve had some very tough days. Families are mourning the deaths of 24 British Columbians, and many more are in hospital or receiving intensive care,” he said. “There are more challenges ahead, and that’s why the next 14 days are so important.”

Horgan also directly addressed people who were feeling “unsafe”, as well as those who cannot afford to pay their rent or mortgages. He spoke about the measures the provincial government has taken to help those in need, including the rent freeze and the B.C. emergency benefit.

“I can’t begin to imagine the stress and anxiety you’re feeling. This is a very difficult time.”

On Tuesday, health officials announced five more people had died of the virus in B.C., bringing the province’s death toll to 24.

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Infected but Feeling Fine: The Unwitting Coronavirus Spreaders – The New York Times

March 31st, 2020

As many as 25 percent of people infected with the new coronavirus may not show symptoms, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns — a startlingly high number that complicates efforts to predict the pandemic’s course and strategies to mitigate its spread.

In particular, the high level of symptom-free cases is leading the C.D.C. to consider broadening its guidelines on who should wear masks.

“This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country,” the director, Dr. Robert Redfield, told National Public Radio in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

The agency has repeatedly said that ordinary citizens do not need to wear masks unless they are feeling sick. But with the new data on people who may be infected without ever feeling sick, or who are transmitting the virus for a couple of days before feeling ill, Mr. Redfield said that such guidance was “being critically re-reviewed.”

Researchers do not know precisely how many people are infected without feeling ill, or if some of them are simply presymptomatic. But since the new coronavirus surfaced in December, they have spotted unsettling anecdotes of apparently healthy people who were unwitting spreaders.

“Patient Z,” for example, a 26-year-old man in Guangdong, China, was a close contact of a Wuhan traveler infected with the coronavirus in February. But he felt no signs of anything amiss, not on Day 7 after the contact, nor on Day 10 or 11.

Already by Day 7, though, the virus had bloomed in his nose and throat, just as copiously as in those who did become ill. Patient Z might have felt fine, but he was infected just the same.

Researchers now say that people like Patient Z are not merely anecdotes. For example, as many as 18 percent of people infected with the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship never developed symptoms, according to one analysis. A team in Hong Kong suggests that from 20 to 40 percent of transmissions in China occurred before symptoms appeared.

The high level of covert spread may help explain why the novel coronavirus is the first virus that is not an influenza virus to set off a pandemic.

The new virus spreads about as easily as flu, “and when’s the last time anyone thought anything about stopping influenza transmission, short of the vaccine?” said Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

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With any vaccine still in early development, the best way to mitigate the pandemic is social distancing, he and other experts said. Because people may be passing the virus on to others even when they feel fine, asking only unwell people to stay home is unlikely to be enough. This is why many experts, going against recommendations by the C.D.C. and the World Health Organization, are now urging everyone to wear masks — to prevent those who are unaware they have the virus from spreading it.

Like influenza, some experts now say, this virus appears to spread both through large droplets and droplets smaller than five micrometers — termed aerosols — containing the virus that infected people might release especially while coughing, but also while merely exhaling. They emphasized that the level of virus in both types of particles is low, so simply jogging or walking by an infected person does not put people at risk.

“If you have a passing contact with an infectious person, you would have a very, very low chance of transmission occurring,” said Dr. Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong.

The risk goes up with sustained contact — during face-to-face conversation, for example, or by sharing the same air space for a prolonged time. In addition to its confusing stance on masks, “the W.H.O. has been saying aerosol transmission doesn’t occur, which is also perplexing,” Dr. Cowling said, adding, “I think both are actually wrong.”

Experts agreed that infections were being passed along by people who do not report symptoms — what they call asymptomatic transmissions — but they also noted some confusion around the term.

“There’s no standard definition for it, and you could say to yourself, Well, that’s kind of ridiculous: You either have symptoms or you don’t,” said Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious diseases expert at Columbia University. But studies by his team have shown, he said, that some people never notice their symptoms, others are unable to distinguish the infection from their smoker’s cough or allergies or other conditions, and still others may feel every pain acutely.

There is also a largely semantic debate about what proportion of people who appear to be perfectly fine but then become ill — as in the report in The New England Journal of Medicine of an apparently asymptomatic spreader who later acknowledged having felt mild symptoms.

Ultimately, Dr. Shaman said, these definitions are unimportant.

“The bottom line is that there are people out there shedding the virus who don’t know that they’re infected,” he said.

Where the definitions may matter is in being able to understand the true scope of the pandemic.

Dr. Cowling’s team has analyzed data from China at various stages in the pandemic. The W.H.O.’s mission to China concluded that most people who were infected with the virus had significant symptoms. But in the early weeks of the epidemic, his analysis shows, China set a high bar for what constituted a confirmed case of infection — requiring respiratory symptoms, fever and a chest X-ray for pneumonia.

Their definition left out mild and asymptomatic cases and, as a result, the team vastly underestimated the scale and nature of the outbreak there.

“We’ve estimated in China that between 20 percent and 40 percent of transmission events occurred before symptoms appeared,” Dr. Cowling said.

A separate analysis of the hundreds of people cloistered aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship bears out this scale. Once the ship docked in Japan on Feb. 5, researchers tested all of the passengers and reviewed those who tested positive for the virus on multiple occasions over a two-week period. They found that 18 percent of the infected passengers remained symptom-free throughout.

“The substantial asymptomatic proportion for Covid-19 is quite alarming,” said Dr. Gerardo Chowell, an epidemiologist at Georgia State University who worked on the analysis.

Dr. Chowell noted that the passengers on the ship tended to be older and therefore more likely to develop symptoms. He estimated that about 40 percent in the general population might be able to be infected without showing signs of it.

There have also been many hints, subtle and not, that the virus can be transmitted via aerosols. Sixty members of a choir in Seattle gathered on March 10 for a practice session for over two and a half hours. None of them felt ill, and they made no contact with one another. But by this weekend, dozens of the members had fallen ill, and two had died.

Their experience points toward airborne transmission via aerosols, which can travel farther than the large droplets the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. have emphasized. The virus is still most likely to be expelled with a cough or a sneeze, as far as eight meters (about 26 feet), according to one study. But studies on influenza and other respiratory viruses, including other coronaviruses, have shown that people can release aerosols containing the virus simply by breathing or talking — or, presumably, by singing.

“I think increasing evidence suggests the virus is spread not just through droplets but through aerosols,” Dr. Chowell said. “It would make a lot of sense to encourage at the very least face mask use in enclosed spaces including supermarkets.”

Several studies have shown now that people infected with the new coronavirus are most contagious about one to three days before they begin to show symptoms. This presymptomatic transmission was not true of the coronaviruses that caused SARS and MERS.

“This is where we got very lucky with SARS, was that it really didn’t transmit until after people were showing symptoms, and that made it much easier to detect it and shut it down with aggressive public health measures,” said Dr. Carl Bergstrom, an expert in emerging infectious diseases at the University of Washington in Seattle.

With the new coronavirus, there is transmission by healthy-seeming people, and often severe symptoms and a high fatality rate. “That whole combination makes it very, very tough to fight using standard public health measures,” he said.

A separate analysis from the C.D.C. on Tuesday offered new evidence that a significant portion of people with severe coronavirus infections in the United States have underlying medical conditions. The agency looked at 7,162 cases, a small subset of the 122,000 cases in the U.S., but the findings provided a stark portrait. Of 457 people in that subset who were admitted to intensive care units, 32 percent suffered from diabetes; 29 percent had heart disease; and 21 percent had lung disease. Overall, 78 percent of people with Covid-19 admitted to the I.C.U. had at least one pre-existing condition. The study did not look at deaths.

Rapid tests for infection might help detect people, especially health care workers, who are infected yet feel normal. Masks may help. But experts kept returning to social distancing as the single best tool for stopping the chain of transmission in the long term — not lockdowns, necessarily, but canceling mass events, working from home when possible and closing schools.

“We can’t assume that any of us are not potential vectors at any time,” Dr. Bergstrom said. “This is why even though I’m feeling great, and have felt great and haven’t been exposed to anybody with any symptoms of anything, that’s why it would be irresponsible of me to go out and about today.”

Matt Richtel contributed reporting.


‘Tiger King’ director Eric Goode talks Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin – Page Six

March 31st, 2020

Now that America has binged Netflix’s “Tiger King” and made up its mind about the show’s wild characters, the director of the hit gives Page Six his verdict on his subjects.

While famous fan Cardi B has said she thinks Joe Exotic — the gun-toting tiger breeder who’s currently serving 22 years for murder-for-hire and violations of the Endangered Species Act — should be freed from prison, codirector Eric Goode told us, “I think Joe was a bad guy, [but] he’s a human being and there are parts of Joe I empathize with.”

While Goode says that he doesn’t think Exotic should have gotten such a hefty sentence, he added, “Should he be sprung from jail at this time? I don’t think so.” But “sometimes our criminal justice system is about punishing people and not reforming people.”

Meanwhile, Goode told us he’d like a chance to talk things over with Exotic’s nemesis and fellow exotic-animal owner, Carole Baskin.

After the series was released, she and her husband, Howard, said the filmmakers are “devoid of integrity” and “not interested in the truth.”

“I would like to speak with them,” Goode said. “I feel that Carole, out of all these people, at least had the right message: to stop breeding and exploiting these cats for monetary gain.”

But he said that he worries Carole — who calls herself a big-cat rescuer, but also keeps lions and tigers in cages — isn’t being fair to the animals. “Sometimes you wonder whether or not one should humanely euthanize these cats instead of [letting them] suffer in cages,” he said. “I posed the question to Carole: Is it fair to keep these tigers in cages? These animals pace neurotically. I know she means well, but I wonder if it’s really the right thing to do.”

He also said, “We wondered — and there were a lot of questions that arose when we interviewed her — [about] her lack of intellectual curiosity about these animals … She has never traveled to see these animals in the wild … It felt very much like she just wanted to live with a bunch of big cats.”


FDA approves use of Trump-supported drug to fight coronavirus as positive results emerge – Lifesite

March 31st, 2020

UNITED STATES, March 31, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued emergency authorization for experimental coronavirus treatments using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drugs that have been supported by President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Sunday that it has accepted “30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate donated by Sandoz, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division, and one million doses of chloroquine phosphate donated by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, for possible use in treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or for use in clinical trials.”

The drugs were donated to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and will, according to the HHS statement, be available to be “distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible.”

The move comes as positive results of using the anti-malarial drugs continue to emerge.

Yesterday, Fox News host Laura Ingraham featured another coronavirus patient who attributes recovery from the virus to the use of hydroxychloroquine, after last week she reported on the case of 52-year-old Rio Giardinieri, who believes that the anti-malarial drug saved his life.

Jim Santilli told The Ingraham Angle on Monday, March 30 that he was unsure if he was “going to live to see midnight or the next day,” but within a few hours of receiving his first dose of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, he felt “a drastic improvement, almost 180-degree turn.”

Ingraham has previously promoted the French trials conducted by Professor Didier Raoult. Raoult has since published a new study with 80 coronavirus patients, which he says shows that four out of five of those treated with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin had “favorable” outcomes.

Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a doctor based in Orange County, New York who previously claimed he has had a 100-percent success rate after treating 350 coronavirus patients using hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and azithromycin, is claiming to have continued treating high-risk patients successfully using the anti-malarial drug.

In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal last week, Dr. Jeff Colyer, a practicing physician and the former governor of Kansas, said the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin “[a]ppears to be the best widely available option for treating Covid-19 and not merely easing the suffering from the disease.” Dr. Colyer said that in his view, it would be “irresponsible not to pursue this option aggressively.”

Earlier this month, Trump described the discovery that the inexpensive drug could be used to combat the coronavirus a “tremendous breakthrough.”

On Saturday March 21, Trump tweeted:


Here’s why you should buy the new 2020 MacBook Air [Comparison] – 9to5Mac

March 31st, 2020

Forget Zoom: Use these private video-chatting tools, instead – Mashable

March 31st, 2020

With COVID-19 testing criteria restricted in Canada, can we be sure we are flattening the curve? – National Post

March 31st, 2020

OTTAWA — Canada’s political and public health leaders are all in agreement: we’re entering a critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic as we discover whether the lockdowns implemented two weeks ago are working and we’re starting to flatten the curve.

But as we watch to see whether the case numbers slow down in growth, experts say it is also important to remember just how imperfect the data is.

“The numbers, in terms of the reported cases across the country, regardless of what country in the world one is talking about, will always represent an underestimate of what’s really out there,” said Peter Phillips, a clinical professor specializing in infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia.

For starters, case numbers are always at least two weeks behind the true situation due to the lag time in infected people developing symptoms and then getting test results. But Phillips is particularly concerned about Canada claiming it’s flattening the curve while testing criteria remains limited in many jurisdictions, often because of lingering concerns around lab capacity and supplies.

It might not be good news

“It’s all a function of testing, right?” he said. “Your numbers might get lower and lower. But if it’s because you’re putting in more restrictive testing policies, that’s not surprising. It might not be good news, it might just be a function of the fact that you’re not testing as much as you used to be.”

Different provinces have different policies, which means comparisons across Canada always come with large caveats.

British Columbia is one to watch because it was where COVID-19 first took off in Canada (at least identifiably), and is also now the first province expressing cautious optimism that the physical-distancing measures are working.

“I’m trying not to over-call it, but I do believe we’ve seen a flattening, a falling-off of that curve,” said B.C.’s provincial health officer Bonnie Henry on March 27.

However, B.C. also tightened its testing criteria earlier in March, in part because of a backlog at its labs. It now focuses its testing on health-care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, people requiring hospitalization, and people possibly connected to a “cluster or outbreak.”

On March 28, Henry said it may still be a while until the province is testing more broadly in the community.

“At this point in our epidemic, the important thing is identifying those chains of transmission and where people are getting sick,” Henry said. “A broad testing of well people in our community right now is not what we’re going to be doing. That is the strategy that we will be looking at if and when we come to the downside of our curve, when we’re again looking at introductions coming into B.C. from other places.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Quebec, where case counts are currently soaring; 732 new cases were announced just on Tuesday. But Quebec has also been significantly ramping up testing and expanded its test criteria last week to include people with milder symptoms. So while more testing may be a factor in Quebec’s spike in cases, it should also make it easier to determine when the curve is truly flattening.

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Ontario has come under widespread criticism for its sluggish testing rate. With nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s population, Ontario has the lowest per-capita testing rate in the country at about 350 per 100,000 people — less than half the per-capita rate of the other large provinces. It currently processes about 3,000 tests per day.

Ontario’s health ministry says anyone with symptoms may qualify for a test at one of its assessment centres, but it does identify priorities for when testing supplies are short, including health-care workers, long-term care residents and staff, and hospitalized patients with respiratory symptoms.

David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, said there are other measures to watch when it comes to flattening the curve, such as calls coming into its Telehealth line and the use of “syndromic surveillance,” where various types of data are analyzed for early signs of an outbreak. But he also said testing will improve over time.

“I’m hoping that with our lab capacity continuing to ramp up, we want to head for 10 to 15,000 (per day), that we may have some opportunity to even do wider testing, perhaps in some other areas to make sure we’re not missing anything in that regard,” Williams said.

Nurses from the Ottawa Hospital walk outside the COVID-19 Assessment Centre.

Tony Caldwell/Postmedia/File

Another option is to look at hospitalization rates, which is likely a more accurate measure of a province’s situation due to the variation in testing standards. But hospitalization numbers tend to lag behind even further than case counts, so it will take longer to know whether Canada is making progress. Most provinces also don’t report detailed information about hospitalizations online.

Phillips said testing still has to be the long-term solution, and he’ll remain skeptical Canada has the situation under control until it reaches the point where officials are testing people with even mild symptoms, and then following up positive cases with aggressive contact tracing.

“As we get increasingly close to being able to test more and more people out in the community, we need to have these restrictions on testing lifted,” he said. “The notion that we really don’t need to go after this stuff in the community, we just tell people (with mild symptoms) to self-isolate, I don’t agree that that’s enough. The examples of where in the world things have worked, that is not the way they went.”

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Deadliest day yet for COVID-19 in B.C. as province tops 1000 cases – CTV News

March 31st, 2020

VANCOUVER — B.C. health officials say five more people have died from COVID-19 since their last briefing on Monday, marking the single deadliest day since the virus was first recorded in the province.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the latest fatalities, plus another 43 confirmed infections, at their daily COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday afternoon. The death toll in B.C. now stands at 24, and there are 1,013 identified cases.

“We want to extend our condolences to the families of the five people who have passed away in the last day, of the 24 people who have passed away from COVID-19 since the beginning of this epidemic in British Columbia,” Dix said. “We are of course thinking of them every day.”

Previously, the most deaths recorded in a single day was three.

In addition, Dr. Henry revealed there have now been novel coronavirus infections at 19 long-term care homes and assisted living facilities in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. Each one is being treated as an “outbreak,” Henry said, even though the vast majority of the seniors’ homes have seen a single confirmed case.

That reflects the province’s “aggressive approach to monitoring, to testing and to preventing illness coming into our long-term care homes,” she added.

Officials also announced Tuesday that the Interior Health region has recorded its first “large community outbreak” of COVID-19, at an agricultural business in West Kelowna called Bylands Nursery that employs temporary foreign workers.

“Interior Health became aware of a number of the workers there with respiratory illness, and a number of them have tested positive for COVID-19,” Henry said. “The business itself is being quarantined and everybody is able to be isolated effectively in the housing – the very good housing – that is on site there.”

Officials did not reveal exactly how many people at Bylands Nursery have caught the virus. Staff and operators at the business have been very co-operative with the province’s efforts to contain the outbreak, Henry said.

The provincial health officer also noted that while B.C.’s case count has now topped 1,000, some 507 people have also fully recovered from the virus. She again stressed that British Columbia is in a “critical juncture” in its fight against COVID-19, and pleaded with the public to remain vigilant and follow the necessary precautions.

“This is our critical time here in British Columbia, the next two weeks. We must be true to who we are in B.C.,” Henry said. “No one is immune to this virus but everyone can make a difference.”

Of the current active COVID-19 cases, 128 people are hospitalized, including 61 who are in intensive care.

Officials asked older people who are more at risk of severe illness to stay inside, minimize their risk and rely on the community for their basic needs. Younger people have been urged to stop seeing friends face to face – even while trying to maintain a two-metre distance from one another – and to keep all social interaction online.

Dr. Henry also asked people to avoid unnecessarily travel, particularly from the cities to “smaller communities where they may not be able to support you if you get sick, and where we don’t have as many resources.”

The care homes that have seen cases of COVID-19 so far are: 

  • Lynn Valley Care Centre, North Vancouver
  • Hollyburn House, West Vancouver
  • Haro Park Centre, Vancouver
  • German-Canadian Care Home, Vancouver
  • Little Mountain Place, Vancouver
  • Broadway Pentecostal Lodge, Vancouver
  • Windermere Care Centre, Vancouver
  • Villa Cathay Care Home, Vancouver
  • Inglewood Care Centre, West Vancouver
  • Royal Arch Masonic Home, Vancouver
  • Berkley Care Centre, North Vancouver
  • Delta View Care Centre, Delta
  • Dufferin Care Centre, Port Coquitlam
  • Evergreen Baptist Complex, White Rock
  • Elim Village – The Harrison, Surrey
  • Chartwell Langley Gardens, Langley
  • Shaughnessy Care Centre, Port Coquitlam
  • Amica White Rock, White Rock
  • Langley Lodge, Langley

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