Archive for June, 2020

Google Pixel 4a gets two more certifications on its way to becoming official – news –

June 30th, 2020

New ‘EvilQuest’ Mac ransomware found in pirated apps encrypts users files – 9to5Mac

June 30th, 2020

Microsoft releases emergency security update to fix two bugs in Windows codecs – ZDNet

June 30th, 2020

Canada reports 25 more coronavirus deaths as new cases return to downward trend –

June 30th, 2020

The number of new coronavirus cases in Canada dipped below 300 on Tuesday for the first time since late last week, a promising sign that the country remains on an overall downward trend.

With 285 lab-confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, Canada has now seen 104,186 cases of COVID-19 to date. Seven provinces saw increases Tuesday, including the first new case in weeks for Nova Scotia.

Read more: How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Public health officials also announced 25 new deaths Tuesday, all of them in Ontario and Quebec. Canada’s death toll stands at 8,591 people. More than 67,500 cases of the virus have been resolved.

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Ontario once again led the country in new cases, reporting 157 positive tests and seven new deaths. Quebec saw 68 new cases and 18 more fatalities.

Nova Scotia’s new case was related to travel, public health officials confirmed. It is the only active case in the province, which was the worst-hit in the Atlantic region before its new cases finally flatlined late last month.

Read more: Coronavirus: Canada extends ban on most foreign travellers

Manitoba reported a single new case, while six more were added to Saskatchewan’s total. Alberta and British Columbia saw 41 and 12 new cases, respectively.

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No new cases were reported in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador or the three territories. Except for New Brunswick, none of those jurisdictions have any active cases and have remained free of the virus for weeks.

Canada has been reporting daily case counts under 1,000 for over a month. Despite jumping past 400 new cases Monday, the country’s pandemic wave overall has been falling since late May.

2:50EU allows visitors from Canada and 13 other ‘safe’ countries

EU allows visitors from Canada and 13 other ‘safe’ countries

New modelling released Monday by the federal government projects the downward trend to continue, with hospitalizations also declining.

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Public Health Canada is predicting between roughly 104,000 and 108,000 cases countrywide by July 12, and between 8,545 and 8,865 deaths by the same date. At worst, that would mean roughly 300 cases per day, and just under 23 new deaths daily.

The cautiously optimistic news prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce Monday that his daily coronavirus briefings will come to an end, shifting to just a few times each week.

Read more: Canadians can enter Europe starting July 1. Here’s what you need to know

Yet as all provinces and territories take further steps to reopen their economies, the country is continuing to keep some restrictions in place.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced it is extending its travel ban on all international travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or U.S. residents classified as essential until the end of July. The Canada-U.S. border also remains closed to all but essential workers under a separate order, which expires July 21 barring another extension.

Masks are also becoming mandatory in some jurisdictions. Toronto city council voted Tuesday to make masks mandatory in all indoor public spaces, while people in Quebec will have to cover their faces on public transit by mid-July, officials there announced.

1:45Airlines ease restrictions as Air Canada makes cuts

Airlines ease restrictions as Air Canada makes cuts

On Tuesday, Canada was listed among 14 countries whose travellers will be allowed to enter Europe starting July 1.

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Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected at least 10.4 million people and killed over 508,000, according to lab-confirmed data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Experts have predicted the actual number of cases may be 10 times the official count.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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FAU study looks at which face masks are most effective at preventing COVID-19 – WFLA

June 30th, 2020

BOCA RATON, Fla. (WFLA/NBC) – Health officials continue to stress the need to wear face masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

A new study is shedding light on which types are most effective for containing the virus.

Researchers used a laser to detect droplets as they were coughed and sneezed out of a mannequin head.

They found that loosely folded face masks and bandana-style coverings had little to no effect on stopping stopping the droplets.

But well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of quilting fabrics and off-the-shelf cone-style masks were the most effective.

The scientists said the mannequins projected droplets much farther than six feet when they didn’t have a mask on.


Provincial health officer ‘expects’ British Columbians to be wearing masks –

June 30th, 2020

There may not be a law forcing British Columbians to wear masks indoors, but Dr. Bonnie Henry doesn’t want that to be an excuse for not wearing one, especially when physical distancing isn’t possible.

“I do wear a mask myself and I encourage, and I recommend, strongly, that others do as well,” the province’s medical officer said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing.

Henry says the province has stopped short of mandating the use of masks out of concern for those who would have difficulty wearing one.

 “There are some people for whom mask wearing is not a viable option,” she said. “(Such as) anyone for whom it is difficult to take it on on themselves, young children, people with disabilities, it can very much a challenge.”

On Tuesday, Toronto City Council approved a temporary bylaw to enforce the use of face masks and coverings for indoor public spaces in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Henry said while the number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. doesn’t warrant a similar law, it may be needed in the future.

“We may, during the respiratory season, with a surge, we may require people to wear masks in some indoor situations,” said Henry. “If we start to see much more transmission in our communities.”

For now, she wants British Columbians to have a mask on them when they leave the house and expects to see people wearing them on transit, in small grocery stores and anywhere physical distancing is difficult or not possible.

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Inside the body, coronavirus is even more sinister than scientists had realized – TribLIVE

June 30th, 2020

The new coronavirus’s reputation for messing with scientists’ assumptions has taken a truly creepy turn.

Researchers exploring the interaction between the coronavirus and its hosts have discovered that when the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects a human cell, it sets off a ghoulish transformation. Obeying instructions from the virus, the newly infected cell sprouts multi-pronged tentacles studded with viral particles.

These disfigured zombie cells appear to be using those streaming filaments, or filopodia, to reach still-healthy neighboring cells. The protuberances appear to bore into the cells’ bodies and inject their viral venom directly into those cells’ genetic command centers — thus creating another zombie.

The authors of the new study, an international team led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, say the coronavirus appears to be using these newly sprouted dendrites to boost its efficiency in capturing new cells and establishing infection in its human victims.

Their research was published last week in the journal Cell.

The scientists also believe they have identified several drugs that could disrupt the viral takeover of cells and slow the process by which covid-19 takes hold. These compounds, many of which were designed as cancer treatments, seem likely to work because they block the chemical signals that activate filopodia production in the first place.

Among the seven drugs they identified as potentially useful against covid-19 are Silmitasertib, a still-experimental drug in early clinical trials as a treatment for bile duct cancer and a form of childhood brain cancer; ralimetinib, a cancer drug developed by Eli Lilly; and gilteritinib (marketed as Xospata), a drug in use already to treat acute myeloid leukemia.

The new research emerges from an ambitious effort to identify promising covid-19 treatments using the science of “proteomics,” the interactions among proteins. Scientists set out to identify the chemical signals and cascading chain of events that take place when a virus meets and overtakes a host cell. Then, they look for drug compounds that could scramble those chemical signals and disrupt the process of infection.

Until now, the process by which the coronavirus was thought to infect cells was pretty run-of-the-mill for a virus: It found receptors on the surface of the cells that line humans’ mouth, nose, respiratory tract, lungs and blood vessels.

Like space invaders in a science fiction tale, the tiny virus was known to dock on the surface of the much larger cell. A viral landing party came aboard and hijacked the cell’s usual function, making it a factory for its replication.

The discovery that the coronavirus initiates the sprouting of filopodia in infected cells suggests that it has, at some point in its evolution, developed more than one way to ensure it gets passed quickly from cell to cell.

Typically, a rapid rise in infected cells will raise a victim’s viral load, make her feel sick and promote the transmission of the virus to other people. UC San Francisco’s Nevan Krogan, one of the paper’s senior authors, said there is much about the coronavirus that doesn’t match scientists’ expectations.

But the discovery of filopodia in coronavirus-infected cells suggests that this virus has developed more than one way to wheedle its way into cells and establish itself as a force to be reckoned with.

“It’s just so sinister that the virus uses other mechanisms to infect other cells before it kills the cell,” Krogan said. Other researchers include scientists from Mt. Sinai in New York, Rocky Mountain Labs in Montana (where these electron microscopy images were made), the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the University of Freiburg in Germany.

Cells sprouting filopodia don’t just look creepy; they keep some pretty nasty company as well.

Vaccinia, a member of the poxvirus family that causes smallpox, uses filopodia that sprout from infected cells to “surf” toward those cells and inject them with more viral particles, a 2008 study found. HIV and some influenza viruses have been known to use filopodia to enhance their ability to break and enter into cells. Many viruses alter the exoskeleton of the cells they infect, and inducing filopodia is one way they do it, said Columbia University virologist Angela L. Rasmussen. And while enhancing infection is one role they often play, there are many others.

But Krogan said even those viruses do not seem to set off the prolific growth of filaments that was seen by his colleagues on coronavirus-infected cells. The branching tentacles protruding from those cells were highly unusual, he said.

Columbia University microbiologist Stephen P. Goff urged caution in assuming that filopodia are necessarily behaving as a second mode of infecting cells with virus.

“It’s intriguing and a really cool observation,” Goff said. The study’s striking images show that the filopodia contain a lot of virus and that in the lab, inhibiting their growth seemed to reduce viral replication. This strongly suggests that filopodia are somehow amping up the virus’s ability to infect cells, he acknowledged.

“But we don’t yet know what stage (of infection) is affected” by the strange protrusions, he said. “It will be great fun to find out.”

Coronavirus | Health | News | U.S./World


Should You Be Worried About Another Swine Flu Pandemic? –

June 30th, 2020

On June 30, 2020, several news outlets, including BBC News, reported on a new variant of the H1N1 swine flu that “has the potential to become a pandemic.” These reports stem from a June 29 scientific paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Using a trove of data collected from pigs in China, along with animal experiments and epidemiological observations, the researchers concluded that a variant of the virus responsible for the 2009 swine flu pandemic is increasingly prevalent in pigs and can be transferred to humans. It has, they say, the potential to cause a deadly human pandemic.

Broadly speaking, two things are required before an animal-derived virus can cause a pandemic. First, the virus — though hosted by an animal such as a pig or a bird — must evolve the ability to transfer to, and replicate inside of, a human body. Second, the virus needs to be capable of spreading from one human to another. As of this date, researchers have observed this strain in humans who work in proximity to pigs, but there is no evidence of the latter human-to-human-spread.

What Is Swine Flu?

The 2009 Swine Flu pandemic was caused by a form of influenza A virus — (H1N1)pdm09 — that formed, according to a review in the journal Scientific Reports, “as a result of re-assortment between avian, human, and swine influenza viruses.” Though the virus spread rapidly around the world, it was not particularly lethal. This lack of lethality was, in part, thanks to the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “nearly one-third of people over 60 years old had antibodies against this virus, likely from exposure to an older H1N1 virus earlier in their lives.”

Scientists monitor the genetic drift and evolution of myriad influenza viruses in an effort to create an effective flu shot each year, but they have also been monitoring variations of H1N1 in animal populations due to the risk that a more virulent form of this influenza virus could evolve. The June 2020 report of PNAS represents this latter effort.

What’s This New Swine Flu?

In general, RNA viruses like influenza mutate rapidly compared with DNA viruses. Viruses, which are composed primarily of short bits of genetic material, can sometimes combine with other viruses and mix genetic material between them. Over time, mutations that are advantageous to the virus become dominant, occasionally giving it new properties that could make it capable of surviving in other host organisms such as humans.

From 2011 to 2018, the PNAS researchers collected nearly 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs and identified over 100 strains of swine influenza. Their work demonstrated that, starting in 2016, a modified form of H1N1 — named “G4 EA H1N1”  — became the dominant strain in these pigs. This is potentially troubling, the researchers argued, because the so-called “G4 genotype” of H1N1 is capable of binding “to human-type receptors,” can replicate easily in human airway cells, and can be transferred via the air.

Indeed, the researchers found that 10 percent of individuals (of 338 sampled) who work close to pigs tested positive for G4 EA H1N1, indicating that the virus “has acquired increased human infectivity.” This is evidence that this new swine flu can jump between pig and human, but it is not evidence of transfer between humans.

Will This New Swine Flu Become the Next Pandemic?

Because the virus can readily transfer itself from pig to human, according to the PNAS researchers, the fear is that the virus has had, and will continue to have, repeated opportunities to adapt while harbored within the body of an infected human. Such adaptations could lead to the ability for human-to-human transfer of the virus either through direct contact or airborne transmission. If that did occur, the risk of a pandemic, according to the authors, is further enhanced by the fact that the world population has very low natural immunity to G4-type influenza viruses.

The CDC’s Fauci, in a U.S. Senate hearing on the COVID-19 epidemic, told lawmakers that “the possibility that you might have another swine flu-type outbreak as we had in 2009” is real, but that “It’s something that still is in the stage of examination” and “not an immediate threat.” In a statement given to outlets including CNN and the BBC, a World Health Organization spokesperson said:

Eurasian avian-like swine influenza virus are known to be circulating in the swine population in Asia and to be able to infect humans sporadically. Twice a year during the influenza vaccine composition meetings, all information on the viruses is reviewed and the need for new candidate vaccine viruses is discussed. We will carefully read the [PNAS] paper to understand what is new.

So what’s next? According to the PNAS team, measures exist that could greatly reduce the chance of a pandemic. “Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in [the] swine industry,” they wrote, “should be urgently implemented.”


Facebook’s newest proof-of-concept VR headset looks like a pair of sunglasses – The Verge

June 30th, 2020

Protests probably didn’t lead to coronavirus spikes, but it’s hard to know for sure – The Washington Post

June 30th, 2020

But after Floyd’s death, the streets filled with people shouting and yelling in proximity — sparking concerns among public health experts and local officials who had been urging people during the pandemic to stay at home or to engage in social distancing.

Now, some public health officials and disease trackers say there appears to be scant evidence the protests sparked widespread outbreaks. Others say that because many states reopened about the same time as the protests, and because of the limits of contact tracing, they simply can’t say for sure.

“I’m about to do a podcast laying out all I don’t know,” Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said last week. “And it’s a hell of a lot more than I know.”

As protests were building across the nation, hundreds of public health experts signed a letter arguing systemic racism is a public health crisis, too, and that protests were therefore worth the risk — even as many of them warned that protests could spread the virus. Cities hurried to set up testing facilities near protest sites to identify cases early.

The number of positive coronavirus tests in recent weeks have grown almost unchecked in many parts of the country. Hospitals in Arizona, California and Texas are stretched to the breaking point. Governors are resorting to the once politically unthinkable measure of shutting businesses again. But most experts say the protests are probably not to blame, or almost certainly not the only thing to blame in places where cases are soaring.

Absent a few positive tests among protesters announced here and there, the only major outbreak tied to protests happened in South Carolina, where organizers postponed demonstrations or moved them online after at least 13 people who took part in previous protests tested positive.

Organizer Lawrence Nathaniel posted a video to Facebook saying those testing positive marched in Columbia, S.C., between May 30 and June 17, including six protesters. four organizers of the demonstration and three photographers. According to South Carolina’s Joint Information Center, the state has not tracked data about whether new cases there are tied to the protests.

Meanwhile, data from other cities suggests protests have not been followed by an increase in cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed and where the protests began, has registered a steady decrease in case numbers this month.

According to Minneapolis Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz, more than 15,000 people were tested at centers the city set up in communities affected by the protests, and 1.7 percent of tests came back positive — below the statewide average of about 3.6 percent. Health systems in the area that tested thousands of people who attended the demonstrations returned positivity rates of less than 1 percent.

Schultz said officials believe the low infection rates reflect that the protests were outside, that most people wore masks and that people spent most of their time in motion, circulating through the crowd.

Officials in New York and Philadelphia have drawn similar conclusions and say they see no evidence of cases accumulating because of the protests.

In Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Oakland, Calif. — cities experiencing a coronavirus resurgence — officials have asked people testing positive whether they attended protests, and few said they had. Neetu Balram, a spokeswoman for Alameda County, which includes Oakland, said officials there figured they would have identified signs of a demonstration-related outbreak by now but haven’t.

The same is true in Seattle. Out of more than 1,000 positive tests in recent weeks, 34 of the people testing positive said they attended a protest or mass gathering since late May, according to King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin. Nearly 3,000 people who said they were at protests have been tested by the city, and fewer than 1 percent were positive, Duchin said.

“The data may be imperfect, but we certainly don’t have any evidence that those gatherings outdoors are triggering this increase we’re seeing,” Duchin said.

In other places, the impact of the protests is less clear. Brent Andrew, spokesman for San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, said the city is still monitoring potential ties between a recent surge in cases and protests. In Houston, at the epicenter of a covid-19 crisis in Texas, officials attribute rising case loads to a variety of factors — and say protests could be one.

Houston Health Department spokesman Porfirio Villarreal said rising cases there could also reflect infections spread at Memorial Day gatherings and other family events, such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; graduations; bars where people failed to wear masks; and “people interpreting reopening as back to normal.”

Many states moved forward with reopening bars, restaurants, gyms and hair salons about the time the protests began. Some states — including Arizona, Florida and Texas — reopened as early as mid-May and were already seeing ominous trends before protests began. Surges in other states have also emerged 10 to 14 days after reopening — roughly the same time it can take someone who has been exposed to the virus to develop symptoms and undergo testing.

“You have many other things happening in states opening up. Really the only way, in my view, you can get a sense of where people get infected is through contact tracing,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, who added it is far easier to conduct contact tracing for a small gathering or family party than when tens of thousands of people pour into the streets.

Many of those participating in the protests were relatively young, Nuzzo said, and younger people are less likely to experience severe cases of covid-19 and therefore might be less likely to have symptoms that would prompt them to seek a test.

Many epidemiologists and virologists suggest being outside allows coronavirus-infected particles to disperse more easily, making outdoor gatherings — such as protests — less dangerous than those inside.

Angela L. Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, said the difference in risk between indoor and outdoor settings can be explained by the way water moves through a fish tank as opposed to the open ocean.

In an indoor space, where air circulates through a limited area, people can be exposed to a higher concentration of respiratory droplets that may contain the virus. The more time people spend in that space, the more they will be exposed. Outside, while those droplets could reach others in the vicinity, they can also dissipate into the open air.

“While outdoor transmission is certainly possible, it does seem like it happens less frequently and that’s one of the reasons why: Your exposure is going to be higher indoors,” Rasmussen said.

Still, the relationship between being outside and exposure to the virus remains murky. Reports have surfaced of family barbecues or high school pool parties leading to major outbreaks, although it is unclear how much time people at those events might also have spent inside. Rasmussen said a variety of factors could explain why a small outdoor gathering spawns more covid-19 cases than a massive protest.

“If people are at a backyard barbecue, were they hanging out in the house together also? Were they in close proximity with each other? That would have an impact,” Rasmussen said. “I’d want to know if they were distancing, wearing masks, all of that.”

Economists from the Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies recently used anonymous cellphone data from the company Safeguard and covid-19 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to determine whether the protests spread the coronavirus.

The paper found “no evidence that net COVID-19 case growth differentially rose following the onset of Black Lives Matter protests.”

The paper also concluded that, based on cellphone data, social distancing increased overall in cities that were home to protests — meaning so many more people stayed home in cities with protests that it canceled out the lack of social distancing by protesters.

But according to Dhaval Dave of Bentley University, an author of the paper, one shortcoming of the study is that it tracks covid-19 prevalence in a city’s entire population. In other words, the protests might have contributed to a rise in cases among certain demographic groups that didn’t manifest in broader data — once again blurring evidence and dulling the conclusions that can be drawn from it.

“Unfortunately, we live with the elephant sign philosophy,” Osterholm said. “I put a sign up in my front lawn three years ago to say ‘no elephants allowed.’ I have not had an elephant on my lawn in three years. So you think, see, it works!

“Epidemiology requires we think about much more than that.”