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Confronting COVID-19

Fall Convocation to be hosted virtually

Queen’s University will celebrate its newest graduates during Fall Convocation 2020, being held Nov. 10-13.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these will be the first virtual ceremonies for Queen’s. However, the ceremonies will follow the same structure with special efforts being made to maintain the community feel as well as the university’s traditions.

HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENT – BRUCE MITCHELL
A noted businessman, Bruce Mitchell (Sc’68) is the founder and CEO of Permian Industries, a management and holding company. He has acquired over 30 businesses, diversifying Permian’s investments across a number of industries. Today, Mitchell’s holding company’s subsidiaries generate annual sales in excess of $2 billion and employ more than 4,000 across North America. He has been active on a number of public company, private corporation, and not-for-profit boards, and was a trustee and councillor of Queen’s, serving as vice-chair of the Board of Trustees. He has also established The Bruce H. Mitchell Foundation and works with his wife Vladka on various philanthropic initiatives.
Mitchell whole-heartedly accepted the invitation to receive his honorary degree virtually, and is honored to address all graduates at Fall 2020 convocation.

“These are extraordinary times, and the limits on how many people can gather together remain in place, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of convocation for our graduates and their family, friends, and supports,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “This is a time to celebrate each graduate’s achievement, and to mark this special occasion as we always have – as a community.”

Each ceremony will be hosted at Grant Hall with university officials conducting the events as they have for nearly 180 years. The podium party of Chancellor Jim Leech, Principal  Deane, and Rector Sam Hiemstra, will speak to each graduating group, as will the deans of each faculty and a representative from the Queen’s University Alumni Association.

Also speaking will be honorary degree recipient Bruce Mitchell (Sc’68), the lead donor for Mitchell Hall, which opened in March 2019.

Following the conferral of student degrees, each student name will be presented by program/plan. A total of 2,351 graduates will be recognized over eight ceremonies.

Each faculty will host its own ceremony, while another for PhD and Master’s degree recipients will be hosted by the School of Graduate Studies.

Several faculties will also be hosting post-ceremony online celebrations.

FALL CONVOCATION SCHEDULE

Tuesday, Nov. 10, 10 am
School of Graduate Studies (Doctor of Philosophy)
School of Graduate Studies (Master’s and Diploma)

Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2:30 pm
Smith School of Business

Tuesday, Nov. 10, 3:30 pm
Faculty of Health Sciences

Thursday, Nov. 12, 10 am
Faculty of Arts and Science

Thursday, Nov. 12, 2:30 pm
Faculty of Education

Friday, Nov. 13, 10 am
Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

Friday, Nov. 13, 2:30 pm
Faculty of Law

Recordings of each ceremony can be found and viewed at the Office of the University Registrar website.

 

5 failings of the Great Barrington Declaration

Some women wear a mask while other do not while waiting for a traffic light
Facing the threat of COVID-19, we have never been in more need of coherent and consistent messaging from the medical professionals, scientists, public health agencies and the government. (Unsplash / Kate Trifo)

Good science and sound public health policy are needed to guide us through a pandemic that will likely continue throughout 2021. Public buy-in is essential for long-term adherence to effective public health measures such as wearing masks in indoor spaces, hand washing, maintaining physical distancing and staying home when sick.

These measures can control case spread but, let’s face it, they are no fun. Even harder to weather are the intermittent closures of businesses and schools in response to local pandemic spikes.

We have never been in more need of coherent and consistent messaging from the medical professionals, scientists, public health agencies and the government. Unfortunately, reckless messaging by some doctors and scientists is feeding mistrust of public health policies.

Infectious bad ideas called cognogens readily spread in our stressed pandemic environment. One such cognogen, the Great Barrington Declaration , is causing harm. The declaration takes its name from Great Barrington, a Massachusetts resort town. This declaration, signed by 12,000 people, is sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think-tank.

The declaration begins with the false premise that governments intend to lock down society, and cherry-picks facts (for example, that COVID-19 infections are mild in healthy people). It states:

“Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”

The 5 flaws

1. It creates a false dichotomy. The declaration rhetoric offers a false choice between a wholesale return to our pre-pandemic lives (which is objectively dangerous) versus a total lockdown (which no one advocates). Across Canada, schools, daycares and businesses are open and we are providing health care for patients who suffer from non-COVID-19 diseases. Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy, notes that it’s not a binary choice between the Barrington perspective and full lockdown, and that governments are striving to balance public health with economic recovery.

This is true in Ontario where, after the first COVID-19 peak, the province reopened in three stages, guided by epidemiology.

2. The Barrington declaration gives oxygen to fringe groups. The signatories did not intend to support such fringe groups, but their rhetoric invalidates public health policy and feeds the 19 per cent of North Americans who don’t trust public health officials.

When physicians and scientists sign on to the declaration they support the fears of an increasingly anxious public and fuel conspiracy theories. This is even more dangerous in America with a president that many people view as divisive, and fringe groups such as the paramilitary Oath Keepers and QAnon.

3. The Barrington declaration puts individual preference far above public good. The declaration advocates that, “individual people, based upon their own perception of their risk of dying from COVID-19 and other personal circumstances, personally choose the risks, activities and restrictions they prefer.”

If these views were applied to traffic safety, chaos would ensue as we each chose our own speed limit and which side of the road to drive on. Public health matters, and the approach of the declaration to place ideology over facts helps fuel the pandemic.

4. The declaration misunderstands herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large enough proportion of the population has immunity, usually more than 70 per cent. Viral spread is then slowed because the virus largely encounters immune people. Herd immunity can be safely achieved by vaccines, but in order to “naturally” develop herd immunity, people must first survive the infection.

Despite more than 9 million cases in the United States, less than 10 per cent of Americans have COVID-19 antibodies. Even if true caseloads were 10-fold greater than recognized, 94 per cent of people remain susceptible and, if rapidly infected, would swamp the health-care system and lead to many avoidable deaths.

The declaration’s approach amounts to a global chickenpox party, a historical means of generating immunity to the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. Healthy children were put in close contact with an infected child so that all became infected with chickenpox.

Unfortunately, even some healthy children suffered severe complications and unintended people were often infected. At least with chickenpox there was no risk of epidemic spread because society had herd immunity (which we lack for COVID-19).

5. The declaration offers no details on how it would protect the vulnerable. In Ontario, more than 60 per cent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in residents of nursing homes and long-term care (LTC) facilities. COVID-19 is imported into LTCs from the community by relatives and health-care workers, so we must prevent viral spread in the community to keep these vulnerable people safe.

A pair of men, wearing masks, take a break during an outdoor workout (Unsplash / Kate Trifo)

The experts have spoken: Experts view the Barrington declaration as wrong-minded and dangerous. Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed the idea, calling it dangerous.

The declaration is also rebutted by the 6,400 vetted signatories of the John Snow Memorandum, named for the 19th-century pioneer of epidemiology.

The Snow memorandum cites clear evidence that the virus is highly contagious, several times more lethal than influenza and can have lasting consequences, even in healthy people. It affirms that COVID-19 can be constrained by good public health measures, and warns that herd immunity may be hard to achieve. It concludes:

“… controlling community spread of COVID-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive within the coming months.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America’s 12,000 front-line infectious diseases scientists, physicians and public health experts strongly denounce the Barrington declaration.

Finally, Wisconsin’s epidemic exemplifies the failure of Barrington declaration’s ideology. Its Republican-controlled legislature has supported legal challenges to the governor’s mask mandate even as the state’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests spiked to nearly 30 per cent and hospitalizations skyrocketed.

The Great Barrington Declaration, supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, is naive and dangerous. Physicians and scientists must be responsible in our pronouncements and not sow mistrust of effective public health measures.The Conversation

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Stephen Archer, Professor, Head of Department of Medicine, Queen's University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A different view of COVID-19

Queen’s University researcher Mona Kanso develops new way of looking at novel coronavirus that could help uncover treatments

Queen’s University researcher Mona Kanso has developed a new and unique way of looking at viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. By sculpting the coronavirus particle from tiny beads, and then applying the laws of fluid physics to each and every bead, Kanso calculates the properties of the coronavirus from its shape. While the full potential of this new method is still being realized, researchers expect it will accelerate the path to developing a treatment and, eventually, finding a cure. 

“We know of no other way to calculate the transport properties of a virus from its shape,” Kanso says. 

SARS-CoV-2 is a spherical shell covered with spikes called peplomers, which the virus uses to attach itself to the cells it infects. Since the virus cannot move itself, it relies on the random thermal motion of its fluid surroundings, to rotate, to align its spikes with its target on a cell. Once attached, the virus can infect the cell and then spread. 

“Think of it like a jittery spaceship docking with a space station,” explains Kanso, (PhD chemical engineering candidate, Vanier Canada Research Scholar). “The jittery virus must align two of its adjacent spikes, just so, with the binding sites so it can attach to the cell. It relies on kinetic molecular energy from the fluid to rotate itself into position.” 

This research opens the door to understanding drugs that might prevent cell binding by interfering with virus rotational diffusion. It also deepens scientists’ understanding of viral cellular infection. 

Kanso collaborated with her Queen’s summer trainee, Jourdain Piette, along with their Queen’s advisor, Professor Jeffrey Giacomin, sheltered in place on his sabbatical leave on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, and with Dr. Giacomin’s UNR host, Professor James Hanna. 

“In this work, we uncover a better way of looking at viruses,” says Kanso. “Like any engineering problem, trying to solve it without understanding it, takes forever. This coronavirus is spiked for more than one reason. There is the obvious mechanical function of target attachment. But its spikes are also controlling its own jitter, by receiving energy from the fluid, to help it dock with its targets. This coronavirus is a far more formidable adversary than it looks.” 

The next step is to explore how the triangular bulb on the tip of each coronavirus spike affects infection. Also, under the microscope, not all of the coronaviruses are spherical. Called pleomorphism, no one knows how this affects the alignment and attachment probability.  

The research is published, and freely available, in Physics of Fluids

Course takes a closer look at COVID-19

A mask sits on top of a computer keyboard
Students in Samantha King's HLTH 334 The Politics of Health and Illness course are taking a closer look at COVID-19 and its wide-ranging affects while it is still happening. (Unsplash/Dmitri Karastelev)

As the pandemic began to spread around the world earlier this year, Samantha King, a professor at Queen’s University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, saw an opportunity to elevate her course HLTH 334 The Politics of Health and Illness – taking a closer look at COVID-19 and its wide-ranging affects while it is still happening.

Previous iterations of the course also addressed viruses, vaccines, and epidemics but COVID-19 is current and front-of-mind for practically everyone. New information is constantly coming in but the focus of the course hasn’t changed – teaching students how health and illness are not simply biological individual experiences but collective social phenomena with political implications.

New textbook looks at bioethics and COVID-19
Staying current is an important aspect of creating a textbook for post-secondary education.
The newly-published This Is Bioethics, co-authored by Udo Schuklenk, Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics, and Ruth Chadwick, Professor Emerita of Cardiff University, addresses some of the ethical questions surrounding COVID-19 as well as many other fundamental questions, concepts, and issues within the rapidly-evolving area of study.
Within the chapter on public health, the authors approach the ethical implications of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The section looks at topics like triage decision-making, whether health care professionals have a duty to treat if PPE is absent or suboptimal, as well as the ethics of flattening the curve given such a policy’s harmful economic impact on people’s lives, and whether vaccines for this virus should be mandatory.
“Ruth Chadwick and I were fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to put the finishing touches on this book when COVID-19 turned into a pandemic,” Dr. Schuklenk says. “We quickly decided to add relevant content in the public (and global) health ethics chapter so that students reading the book would find content that already responds to our current life situation. Unsurprisingly, many student questions and discussion contributions are COVID19 related.”
Dr. Schuklenk also produced video lectures for each chapter which are currently being used in a Queen’s Arts and Science Online course.

With a new plan, Dr. King quickly got to work identifying source material while utilizing a similar theoretical framework used in the course previously. She also had to develop the course for a remote learning model, with Queen’s moving most of its program online due to the pandemic.

“This course is really about trying to understand that the way we organize our society impacts how people experience health and illness,” Dr. King explains, adding that students generally enter kinesiology and health studies programs with an interest in improving the community’s overall health. “I am trying to get students to think about the relationship between their own experiences of the pandemic and larger social patterns and relations of power, and to understand that the virus didn’t come out of nowhere, that it came out of a particular context and that how we respond to it is not inevitable.”

Finding relevant and quality material for the course wasn’t a problem. More time-consuming was sifting through the massive amount of information regarding the latest developments that is constantly being put out and updated. But, with a lot of reading, Dr. King was able to select meaningful, interesting and accessible articles, academic and popular, for the students.

In moving the course to a remote learning model Dr. King has employed both synchronous and asynchronous components. Students also have an opportunity to meet with her at least once a week and also participate in smaller groups with a TA.

“The structure is working out well and that is as much about the small class size as it is about the remote learning,” she says. “I might continue to divide their tutorials into smaller groups once we return to face-to-face learning. Students are talking more and the conversation is more organic even though they are in little boxes on the screen. In the bigger lectures I have to work harder to get them to participate, but putting them into breakout rooms, then asking them to report back, helps with that.”

One of the areas of particular interest within the course are masks and why some people are open to wearing them while others are extremely opposed. This is where politics have played a major role.

“We are doing a semester-long project on masks and I am trying to help students understand how decisions about masking are not only about public health but connected to bigger political ideologies.,” he says. “Studying masks and people’s attitudes to them offers a powerful lens into what’s happening in the world right now, politically, economically, and socially.”

The findings are then being shared through a blog being created by the students themselves. The hope is that the material being posted will benefit those that access it.

“I haven’t done a blog as part of a course before,” Dr. King says. “I decided to do it this time because I thought if we are doing all this work to learn about COVID-19 and explain it to each other, we really should share it with the public too.”

Government of Canada eases restrictions for international student arrivals

The Government of Canada has announced that as of Oct. 20 it is easing travel restrictions for international students at select learning institutions whose COVID-19 readiness plan has been approved by their provincial or territorial government. Queen’s is among the initial list of designated learning institutions that can now welcome international students to Canada.

In order to have its COVID-19 readiness plan approved, Queen’s engaged in a rigorous process of consultation and assessment with the federal and provincial governments as well as local public health officials. This process has ensured that the plan meets all federal, provincial, and local public health standards.

The Queen’s COVID-19 readiness plan addresses many different aspects in meticulous detail, including outlining all transportation and quarantine requirements. For instance, the university will provide chartered coaches to transport arriving students from the airport to their quarantine location in Kinston. Queen’s has also arranged with local hotels to make quarantine accommodation packages available to arriving international students.

The university is communicating directly with international students to ensure that they understand the public health requirements and protocols for entering Canada, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival. All international students must arrange quarantine plans and discuss them with the university before travelling. They must also provide a negative COVID-19 test at the end of the quarantine period before entering the community. Queen’s will help facilitate the COVID-19 test near the end of the 14 days.

While students are in quarantine, Queen’s staff members will be in touch with them daily via phone or email to check in on their physical and mental wellbeing. Students will also have access to remote wellness services and virtual social engagement opportunities while they complete their quarantine.

International students are not required to travel to Kingston, and they can still make progress toward their degrees if they remain outside Canada.

The university is expecting a limited number of students to travel to Canada in the short term. To establish more precise numbers, the Queen’s University International Centre will be conducting a survey of all international students in the coming weeks.

This development does not affect the university’s return-to-campus plans, as the majority of operations will continue to be conducted remotely.

Learn more about the support Queen’s offers for international students considering travel on the Queen’s University International Centre website.

A local food diet can make you and your community healthier during COVID-19

The Conversation: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased interest in local food. This demand could be leveraged to help develop community resilience and encourage healthier diets.

Farmer's market
In this photo from before the pandemic, people purchase produce at a farmer's market. (Unsplash/Megan Markham)

This past summer, many students were not able to fill the suggested 700 farming jobs funded by the federal government due to geographical or transportation barriers, limited positions or career irrelevance. At the same time, there was a larger demand for food grown locally in response to initial concerns about international imports during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

News stories from earlier this year covered farm problems such as milk dumping, produce dumping, an anticipated rise in meat prices and concern about a lack of agricultural production to feed the country.

Since March, farmers have continued selling at farmers markets, have sold out of community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares and responded to an increased demand as more people have taken up homesteading activities such as home cooking, gardening and canning.

This turn to local food, a more plant-based diet and home-based food production has been recommended by health professionals, climate scientists and community resilience builders alike. As graduate and medical student researchers, we see that the potential silver lining of COVID-19 health measures may be the fostering of a healthier lifestyle and building community resilience.

A pile of garlic by a road.
A pile of fresh garlic in bunches ready for pickup and market delivery. Ontario garlic prices have risen this summer as a response to rising demand in local foods and fears that imports will be affected. (Kimberly Hill-Tout), Author provided

Health benefits

The most recent version of Canada’s Food Guide was released in March 2020. There was a stark contrast — the new guide was a move away from its lobbyist-informed predecessor. It recommended daily foods comprising half vegetables and fruit, and in the protein section there was reference to alternative protein sources such as beans, nuts, legumes and tofu.

Plant-based diets have for years now been the recommendation for maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. These diets can also lower cholesterol, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, help with digestion by increasing fibre intake and reduce the risk of developing hypertension .

Eating locally also means that there are fewer chances for food-borne contamination, and better contact tracing within local systems. For example, red onions imported from the United States were the cause of a salmonella outbreak in Canada, infecting 457 people.

Community benefits

Community resilience is the ability of a community to survive and recover from adverse situations and events. Essentially, the resources that a community has — like food — can be affected by an event, and then adapt and grow in a way that will be more effective to withstanding future adverse events.

Social networks can be a crucial part of building community resiliency. The growing interest in local food as a reaction to COVID-19 can ultimately build social networks through farmer and non-farmer interactions as people seek out local farms and attend farmers markets.

An additional factor that builds community resilience is the increased interest in home skills. During quarantine, there was a surge of people taking up home cooking both as a necessary action as well as for stress relief. People also took up baking, preserving foods, gardening and crafting.

This skill building creates community resilience because people learn to manipulate their resources. Whether it be in the form of stress relief or becoming less dependent on outsourced labour, people “bounced forward,” developing and adapting new methods and skills to mitigate future adversities.

Barriers to access

There are also limitations to the surge of interest in local food and skill-based activities. Similar to the inaccessibility of organic foods to households without disposable income, the affordability of local foods and access to farmers markets during COVID-19 can be a challenge to individuals without transportation or financial means.

An example is Knuckle Down Farm in Stirling, Ont. A small share costs $20 per week, while a large share costs $35 per week, which works out to be between $400 and $700 for a 20-week commitment. These need to be picked up weekly at the farm itself, which is inaccessible by transit. The price increases by $5 per week for delivery to the Toronto region, where it would still need to be picked up from an east-end address.

Encouraging healthy diets during a pandemic

The federal government needs to consider both larger social factors involved in overcoming adverse conditions and support communities that are in need of assistance. CERB financial relief can help cover a few monthly costs, but may not help everyone in taking up healthier diets or fostering community resilience.

To increase access and participation in local food markets, governments need to subsidise local food and deter the dumping of agricultural goods. Community resilience can also be encouraged by offering courses in skills-based activities like food prep and preserving.

COVID-19 has disrupted and changed the way we live our lives. Food can provide a means to encourage healthy diets, improve community relationships and address social inequalities as a way to enhance community resilience.The Conversation

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Kimberly Hill-Tout, Ph.D. Student, Geography and Planning, Queen's University and William Tyler Hartwig, M.D. Student, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Make your whole day matter

Queen’s University researchers contribute to new health guidelines that recommend moving more, sleeping well, and cutting down sedentary time.

With COVID-19 posing many challenges to overall physical and mental health, it is more important than ever for people to have a clear understanding of what they can do throughout the day to stay healthy.  

Robert Ross

Queen’s University researchers Robert Ross and Jennifer Tomasone have helped develop the first ever 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults that show what a healthy use of 24 hours looks like. The guidelines are unique because they integrate the three movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary, and sleep behaviours) for those aged 18-64 and 65 and older. They also feature new recommendations on light physical activity including standing. 

“These guidelines pull together the best available evidence from across the globe to show Canadians how to make their whole day matter when it comes to movement behaviour,” says Dr. Ross (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Chair, Guideline Development Panel. “They are arriving at a critical juncture in the country’s overall health. It’s important that Canadians understand that while it may feel challenging at times, some activity is always better than none and progressing towards any of the guideline targets will result in important health benefits.” 

Jennifer Tomasone

The guidelines were developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), the Public Health Agency of Canada, Queen’s University, ParticipACTION, and a network of researchers and stakeholders from across Canada. 

Even before COVID-19, Canadian adults received a grade of “D” for overall physical activity according to the ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults. The Report Card also showed 29 per cent of adults in Canada fall within the “low active” lifestyle category and adults 18 to 79 years old are sedentary for almost 10 hours per day. 

“To increase Canadians’ awareness of the new guidelines, our knowledge translation team has created a suite of evidence-based public-facing materials,” says Dr. Tomasone (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Chair, Knowledge Translation Team. “These materials are designed to highlight that by moving more, reducing sedentary time, and sleeping well, we can make our whole day matter for our health. The materials are freely and openly available for sharing at csepguidelines.ca and ParticipACTION.com” 

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines focus on three core recommendations for adults: 

  • Move More: Add movement throughout your day, including a variety of types and intensities.  Aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity, muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week, and several hours of light physical activities, including standing. Those 65+ should also include physical activities that challenge balance.
  • Reduce Sedentary Time: Limit sedentary time to eight hours or less per day including no more than three hours of recreational screen time and breaking up long periods of sitting where possible. 
  • Sleep Well: For those aged 18-64 set yourself up for seven to nine hours of good quality sleep on a regular basis, and seven to eight hours for those 65+ years.  Consistent bed and wake up times are also key. 

According to the research, adults following the guidelines can achieve health benefits including a lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, weight gain, several cancers, and improved bone health. Specific to psychosocial health, participation in optimal levels of movement behaviours has been linked to improved anxiety, depression, dementia, cognition and quality of life. For adults 65+, they can also see a lower risk of falls and fall-related injuries. 

To learn more about the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults, visit csepGuidelines.ca. For ideas and resources on how to get more active, visit ParticipACTION.com and download the ParticipACTION app.  

A direct peer-to-peer message

Queen’s students collaborate on two new videos urging their peers to follow public health guidelines.

Queen’s students are sharing public health messages with their peers in two new videos urging students to “mask up or pack up” and “space out or move out.” Inspired by similar videos at U.S. universities, the students partnered with Queen’s staff members to produce the messages about the importance of physical distancing and wearing masks.

“We are pleased to support our students in delivering such powerful peer-to-peer messages," says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “The majority of our students are taking all the recommended precautions and are following public health guidelines. Our students want everyone to stay safe and have a positive experience and these videos help to emphasize these goals.”

Leaders from the student community are amongst those featured in the videos. Queen’s Rector Sam Hiemstra wears a mask and asks his peers to take precautions.

“It is easy to forget that you're a part of a larger community when you are sitting inside at your desk all day. These videos highlight that we need to be a community now more than ever to fight this pandemic. We cannot hope to end this as individuals; we need come together and be united in our efforts," says Hiemstra.

Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) President Justine Aman takes part as well.

"It has been incredibly inspiring to see so many Queen's students coming together to protect our community. Following public health guidelines is as important as ever and it is our hope that this video will reflect that. Working together we can ensure our community stays safe and thriving," says Aman.

The videos started circulating social media on Oct. 2, and they can be found on the Queen’s COVID-19 information website.

Health Canada green lights ventilator project

The Mechanical Ventilator Milano project, with a Canadian team led by Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald, reaches critical milestone with Health Canada approval

The Canadian members of the Mechanical Ventilator Milano (MVM) consortium, including Queen’s University researcher and Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald, have announced Health Canada has given Vexos Inc. authorization for the MVM ventilator to be manufactured in Canada. 

This paves the way for Vexos to manufacture and supply 10,000 ventilators as part of a national effort to treat patients most severely affected by the COVID-19 virus. 

“We are very pleased to receive authorization from Health Canada that will enable manufacturing to begin by Vexos for our order from the federal government for 10,000 ventilators,” says Dr. McDonald. “It has been wonderful to be part of this important humanitarian process where such a dedicated international group, including people from Queen's and the McDonald Institute who have contributed substantially to our team’s efforts and generous donors who have supported us at a critical time in the project.” 

The team of Canadian physicists and engineers played a significant role in the international initiative led by Professor Cristiano Galbiati to create an easy-to-build ventilator that can help treat COVID-19 patients. Their efforts, led in Canada by Dr. McDonald, harnessed the broad talents of the team, many of whom would normally be spending their time working on experiments to solve the mysteries of dark matter. 

The project gained public attention in early April after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the project as one of the key examples of how Canadian researchers were working together to provide effective and creative solutions to supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The team received continuing participation from the lab directors and teams at: 

  • The McDonald Institute - The Canadian hub for astroparticle physics research, uniting researchers, theorists, and technical experts across the country with a central organization based at Queen’s University. 
  • Canadian Nuclear Laboratories - A world leader in developing peaceful and innovative applications from nuclear technology through its expertise in physics, metallurgy, chemistry, biology, safety and engineering. 
  • SNOLAB - A leading underground science facility focused on discovery research in sub-atomic physics, largely neutrino and dark matter physics, but also other interdisciplinary fields using high sensitivity radioisotope assay.   
  • TRIUMF - Canada's national particle accelerator centre. It is one of Canada's premier multidisciplinary big-science laboratories, and is a leading subatomic physics research center internationally.   

“Canada appears to be in the early stages of the predicted second wave of COVID-19 and there is concern this second wave could be more severe,” says Dr. McDonald. “The pandemic has highlighted the need for a stockpile that could become important during a future outbreak, to be deployed where most needed.” 

Learn more about the project on the Research at Queen’s website. 

Digital technologies will help build resilient communities after the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in increased adoption of communication and network technologies. (Shutterstock)

Amid the horrific public health and economic fallout from a fast-moving pandemic, a more positive phenomenon is playing out: COVID-19 has provided opportunities to businesses, universities and communities to become hothouses of innovation.

Around the world, digital technologies are driving high-impact interventions. Community and public health leaders are handling time-sensitive tasks and meeting pressing needs with technologies that are affordable and inclusive, and don’t require much technical knowledge.

Our research reveals the outsized impact of inexpensive, readily available digital technologies. In the midst of a maelstrom, these technologies — among them social media, mobile apps, analytics and cloud computing — help communities cope with the pandemic and learn crucial lessons.

To gauge how this potential is playing out, our research team looked at how communities incorporate readily available digital technologies in their responses to disasters.

Community potential

As a starting point, we used a model of crisis management developed in 1988 by organizational theorist Ian Mitroff. The model has five phases:

  • signal detection to identify warning signs
  • probing and prevention to actively search and reduce risk factors
  • damage containment to limit its spread
  • recovery to normal operations
  • learning to glean actionable insights to apply to the next incident

Although this model was developed for organizations dealing with crises, it is applicable to communities under duress and has been used to analyze organizational responses to the current pandemic.

Our research showed that readily available digital technologies can be deployed effectively during each phase of a crisis.

Phase 1: Signal detection

Being able to identify potential threats from rivers of data is no easy task. Readily available digital technologies such as social media and mobile apps are useful for signal detection. They offer connectivity any time and anywhere, and allow for rapid sharing and transmission of information.

New Zealand, for example, has been exploring an early warning system for landslides based on both internet-of-things sensors and digital transmission through social media channels such as Twitter.

Phase 2: Prevention and preparation

Readily available digital technologies such as cloud computing and analytics enable remote and decentralized activities to support training and simulations that heighten community preparedness. The federal government, for example, has developed the COVID Alert app for mobile devices that will tell users whether they have been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 during the previous two weeks.

Phase 3: Containment

Although crises cannot always be averted, they can be contained. Big data analytics can isolate hot spots and “superspreaders,” limiting exposure of larger populations to the virus. Taiwan implemented active surveillance and screening systems to quickly react to COVID-19 cases and implement measures to control its spread.

A Taiwanese postal worker holding a thermometer.
A woman checks temperatures at the entrance to a post office in Taipei, Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock)

Phase 4: Recovery

Social capital, personal and community networks and shared post-crisis communication are essential factors for the recovery process. Readily available digital technologies can help a community get back on its feet by enabling people to share experiences and resource information.

For example, residents of Fort McMurray, Alta., have experienced the pandemic, flooding and the threat of wildfires. As part of the response, the provincial government offers northern Alberta residents virtual addiction treatment support via Zoom videoconferencing.

During recovery, it is also important to foster equity to avoid a privileged set of community members receiving preferential services. To address this need, anti-hoarding apps for personal protective equipment and apps that promote volunteerism can prove useful.

Phase 5: Learning

It is usually difficult for communities to gather knowledge on recovery and renewal from multiple sources. Readily available digital technologies can be used to provide local and remote computing power, enable information retrieval and analysis and disseminate emergent knowledge. The global learning platform launched by UNICEF and Microsoft helps youth affected by COVID-19.

A sixth phase

Our research suggests a sixth phase of crisis management: community resilience, which is the sustained ability of communities to withstand, adapt to and recover from adversity. Communities must develop the capacity to absorb the impact of pandemics and other disasters.

When face-to-face interactions are limited — like in a pandemic — readily available digital technologies can enable community participation through social media groups, virtual meeting software and cloud- and mobile-driven engagement and decision-making platforms.

Technologies that provide transparent information services such as analytics-based dashboards and real-time updates can create a sense of equity and caring. Apps and portals can connect vulnerable populations to critical care, resources and infrastructure services.

For example, the government of Karnataka, India, partnered with local vendors and hyper-local food delivery services for home delivery of groceries and other essential materials for households quarantined because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Readily available digital technologies help remote communities develop a sense of belonging, sharing and self-efficacy while incrementally building shared knowledge over multiple crises.

Moving forward

The 2003 SARS epidemic taught us valuable lessons about the use of technology during a pandemic. At the time, readily available digital technologies were largely overlooked, because bigger and more expensive solutions were the focus.

In responding to the present circumstances, it is time we explore the benefit of common technologies. The federal government’s recent announcement of funding to support the use of digital solutions in community responses to COVID-19 is a promising step.

Investing in resilient infrastructure is also important, since communities depend on public digital infrastructure for access to the internet and other telecommunication networks. This infrastructure must be affordable, sustainable and inclusive.

But we should not lose sight of the need to support communities in developing their own resiliency — to help them envision their own solutions using readily available digital technologies.The Conversation

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Yolande E. Chan, Associate Dean (Research & PhD/MSc Programs) and E. Marie Shantz Professor of Information Technology Management, Smith School of Business at Queen's University; Arman Sadreddin, Assistant Professor, Business Technology Management, Concordia University, and Suchit Ahuja, Assistant Professor, Business Technology Management, Concordia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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