Canada’s Ontario province issues stay-at-home order

covid-19

Canada’s Ontario province, the country’s most populous and its economic engine, on Tuesday ordered residents to stay home as projections showed the number of COVID-19 cases could soon explode, overwhelming hospitals.

“Our province is in crisis,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a news conference, at which he declared a month-long state of emergency.

“The (health care) system is on the brink of collapse. It’s on the brink of being overwhelmed,” he said.

Effective Thursday at 12:01 am, Ontario residents will be required to remain at home except for essential activities such as shopping for groceries or seeing a doctor.

People also may go out to exercise or walk their dog, but outdoor gatherings will be limited to five individuals—a rule that authorities say will be strictly enforced.

All businesses will also be required to ensure that employees who can work at home do so. And schools will delay in-person classes for students in hot spots in the Toronto area until early February.

Ford said law enforcement will be empowered to “disperse people, and issue tickets to bad actors.”

Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones added: “Let me be clear: if people are found not complying with these orders, they will be subject to fines and prosecution.”

Penalties, she said, include up to a year in jail.

“We are taking the current situation very seriously. And we ask that all Ontarians do the same,” she said.

The new measures represent a tightening of a provincial lockdown ordered last month—which forced most stores to close—in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus amid a second wave that saw a spike in infections.

In a similar crackdown, neighboring Quebec province last week ordered the first pandemic curfew in Canada, which is to last four weeks.

According to public health officials, Ontario could see as many as 40,000 new virus cases a day by the middle of next month, unless there is a significant reduction in contact between residents.

Ontario reported 2,903 new cases and 41 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus on Tuesday.

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COVID-19 anxiety linked to body image issues

A new study has found that anxiety and stress directly linked to COVID-19 could be causing a number of body image issues amongst women and men.

The research, led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, involved 506 UK adults with an average age of 34.

Amongst women, the study found that feelings of anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19 were associated with a greater desire for thinness. It also found that anxiety was significantly associated with body dissatisfaction.

Amongst the male participants, the study found that COVID-19-related anxiety and stress was associated with greater desire for muscularity, with anxiety also associated with body fat dissatisfaction.

Negative body image is one of the main causes of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, and this new study adds to recent research indicating that fears around COVID-19, and the consequences of the restrictions introduced to help tackle it, could be contributing to a number of serious mental health issues.

Lead author Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “In addition to the impact of the virus itself, our results suggest the pandemic could also be leading to a rise in body image issues. In some cases, these issues can have very serious repercussions, including triggering eating disorders.

“Certainly during the initial spring lockdown period, our screen time increased, meaning that we were more likely to be exposed to thin or athletic ideals through the media, while decreased physical activity may have heightened negative thoughts about weight or shape. At the same time, it is possible that the additional anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19 may have diminished the coping mechanisms we typically use to help manage negative thoughts

“Our study also found that when stressed or anxious, our pre-occupations tend to follow gender-typical lines. During lockdown, women may have felt under greater pressure to conform to traditionally feminine roles and norms, and messaging about self-improvement may have led to women feeling dissatisfied with their bodies and having a greater desire for thinness.

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Mental Health Issues Double the Odds of Dying With COVID-19, Study Finds

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30, 2020 — People suffering from a psychiatric disorder could be more than twice as likely to die if they become infected with COVID-19, a new study suggests.

Folks diagnosed with any type of psychiatric problem — anxiety or depression, dementia, psychosis — were up to 2.3 times more likely to die in the hospital from COVID-19, researchers found.

“Those who had COVID who had a prior psychiatric diagnosis had a higher mortality,” said lead researcher Dr. Luming Li. She’s an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and medical director of clinical operations at the Yale New Haven Health System.

Li and her colleagues tracked the health of 1,685 patients hospitalized at Yale New Haven Health, a five-hospital system in Connecticut, between February and April. Of those patients, 28% had received a psychiatric diagnosis prior to hospitalization.

People who’d struggled with a mental problem were more likely to die, particularly early in their illness:

  • 36% of COVID-19 patients with a psychiatric diagnosis died within two weeks of hospitalization, compared with 15% of those with no such diagnosis.
  • 41% of patients with mental illness died within three weeks, compared with 22% of those without.
  • The four-week mortality rate was 45% for those with a diagnosed psychiatric condition and 32% for those without.

The findings were published online Sept. 30 in JAMA Network Open.

These results are “not entirely surprising, because we know individuals with psychiatric illness have shorter life expectancy and are more prone to illness in general,” said Brittany LeMonda, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Potential explanations for this difference include both the biological and the behavioral.

People with psychiatric problems have basic differences in their brain chemicals that can alter the way their bodies respond to an infection, Li said.

For example, they tend to have higher levels of stress hormones that promote inflammation and weaken the immune system.

“If there’s already differences in your biology because of the prior psychiatric diagnosis, that might make you more vulnerable to respond to the stress that’s being caused by COVID on multiple body organs,” Li said.

However, LeMonda added, it’s also true that people struggling with a mood disorder, Alzheimer’s or psychosis are less able to care for their health properly.

“Individuals with psychiatric illness tend to make poorer health decisions,” LeMonda said. “They’re more likely to have a poor diet, not exercise, have interrupted sleep. They’re more likely to engage in negative coping strategies like smoking cigarettes or consuming alcohol, using drugs. All these things can not only increase inflammation, but also reduce our immune system and make us more prone to illness in general.”

The mentally ill are also more likely to be homeless or living in a shelter, which increases their risk of contracting COVID-19, LeMonda added.

When the researchers controlled for other factors that influence COVID’s death risk — health problems like obesity or diabetes, hospital location, and demographics — people with psychiatric problems still had a 50% increased risk of dying from their coronavirus infection.

Because people with mental illness don’t care for themselves in normal times, it’s also much less likely that they will adhere to practices like wearing masks and social distancing in the age of COVID-19, LeMonda noted.

Public health officials face a dual challenge with these folks — both treating their mental illness and impressing upon them the need to avoid COVID-19 infection.

“It’s a larger public health issue to try not only to educate, but also provide mental health treatment that would theoretically help to reduce the rate of illness,” LeMonda said.

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