People feel COVID-19 truths hidden and rhino baby on hold; In The News for May 26

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 26 ...

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COVID-19 in Canada ...

The federal government will update Canadians today on the results of the mad scramble to procure personal protective equipment — just as demand is poised to skyrocket with more people returning to work and public health officials preparing for a potential second wave of COVID-19 infections.

As of May 19, data posted by Public Services and Procurement Canada showed only a fraction of the millions of gloves, masks, face shields, ventilators and litres of hand sanitizer ordered by the federal government had so far been received.

For example, of 29,570 ventilators ordered, only 203 had been received.

When it comes to the coveted N95 respirator mask that's the standard-issue covering for the heath-care profession, upwards of 104 million have been ordered but just less than 12 million received and, of those, 9.8 million didn't meet Canadian standards.

The equipment has been in high demand worldwide, with every country competing for scarce supplies from a limited number of suppliers, mostly in China. In what's been described as a "wild west" battle, some confirmed orders have been snatched out from under Canada's nose by other countries willing to pay more.

Even so, officials argue that the federal government has so far been able to deliver everything that the provinces and territories have requested.

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Also this ...

Half of Canadians believe they're not getting the whole truth from their governments about COVID-19, a new poll suggests, and some also believe conspiracy theories about where the novel coronavirus began.

The most recent survey from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 50 per cent of respondents felt governments were deliberately withholding information about the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, which has killed thousands and ground the economy to a halt.

"It's staggering, in a period where I believe trust has never been as high," said Leger vice-president Christian Bourque.

The poll also asked respondents about their satisfaction with the measures governments were putting in place to fight COVID-19. Sixty-eight per cent said they were satisfied with what their local government is doing, 74 per cent with the federal government's actions and 78 per cent with their provincial government.

Bourque found those numbers quite high, considering the results suggest people also seem to believe they are not getting the full picture.

The misgivings were greatest in Quebec, where 60 per cent of those polled believe governments are keeping secrets about the virus.

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COVID-19 in the U.S. ...

Nearly two weeks ago the White House urged governors to ensure that every nursing home resident and staff member be tested for the coronavirus within 14 days.

It's not going to happen.

A review by The Associated Press found that at least half of the states are not going to meet White House's deadline and some aren't even bothering to try.

Only a handful of states, including West Virginia and Rhode Island, have said they've already tested every nursing home resident.

Many states said the logistics, costs and manpower needs are too great to test all residents and staff in a two-week window. Some say they need another week or so, while others say they need much more time. California, the most populous state, said it is still working to release a plan that would ensure testing capacity for all residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities statewide.

And still other states are questioning whether testing every nursing home resident and staff, regardless of any other factors, is a good use of time and money.

"At this time it would be fairly useless to do that," said Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone, adding that the state would have to repeat the tests almost daily to get more than a snapshot in time, and the state doesn't have the capacity when there are others who need to be tested.

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COVID-19 around the world ...

British leader Boris Johnson's powerful chief aide insisted that he wouldn't resign for driving the length of England while the country was under strict lockdown — a trip he made without informing the prime minister first.

The government is facing a tide of anger from politicians and the public over the revelation that Dominic Cummings travelled more than 250 miles (400 kilometres) from London to his parents' home in Durham, northeast England at the end of March.

Cummings says he travelled so that extended family could care for his 4-year-old son if he and his wife, who were infected with the coronavirus, both fell ill.

His trip came after the government imposed a strict "stay home" order, and Cummings is being accused of flouting the rules he expected the rest of the country to follow. Many Britons have taken to social media and radio phone-ins to recount how the lockdown had prevented them from visiting elderly relatives, comforting dying friends or attending the funerals of loved ones.

In a televised news conference in the garden of 10 Downing St. — all but unheard of for an unelected adviser — Cummings tried to quash the controversy with a detailed but unrepentant account of his movements.

Cummings insisted that "the rules ... allowed me to exercise my judgment" and that his need to ensure childcare for his son was an "exceptional situation."

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COVID-19 in wildlife ...

It's not quite a case of coitus interruptus, but efforts to create a very special baby are definitely on hold. Blame the pandemic.

Groundbreaking work to keep alive the nearly extinct northern white rhino subspecies — population, two — by in-vitro fertilization has been stalled by travel restrictions. And time is running out.

The two northern white rhinos are female. The goal is to create viable embryos in a lab by inseminating their eggs with frozen sperm from dead males, then transfer them into a surrogate mother, a more common southern white rhino.

As of January, three embryos had been created and stored in liquid nitrogen. But further key steps now have to wait.

"It has been disrupted by COVID-19, like everything else," said Richard Vigne, managing director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, home of the two remaining rhinos. "That is, the process of collecting more eggs from the females as well as the process of developing the technique to introduce the northern white rhino embryo into the southern white rhino females."

It's an international effort that includes conservationists from Kenya, the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy — many affected by closed borders or restricted travel.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2020

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