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What we know today, Wednesday July 14

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NSW has recorded 97 new local COVID-19 cases, prompting the government to extend a lockdown in Greater Sydney and its surrounds by at least two more weeks.

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NSW records 97 cases, lockdown extended two weeks

NSW has recorded 97 new local COVID-19 cases, prompting the government to extend a lockdown in Greater Sydney and its surrounds by at least two more weeks.

The stay-at-home provisions, which were scheduled to end on Friday, will now remain in place until at least July 30.

The state’s schools will also continue with online learning.

Of the 97 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, at least 31 were in the community during part or all of their infectious period.

“(That’s) what we need to get down to as close to zero as possible,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Wednesday.

Berejiklian said an extension to lockdown provisions was inevitable given the extent of COVID-19 spread in the community.

She said the government would continue to prioritise aged care workers and teachers in southwest Sydney for vaccination.

“Of course we want to see this lockdown end in a timely way … (but) we’ll have that support for businesses,” Ms Berejiklian said.

There are currently 20 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with four ventilated.

Seven new COVID cases in Victoria

Victoria has recorded seven additional locally acquired coronavirus cases, six of which are linked to NSW removalists and one to a family who returned from Sydney.

Four of the new cases are residents on the third floor of the Ariele Apartments in Maribyrnong, which has been in lockdown since Monday evening.

Among them is a man in his 60s who subsequently infected his parents, who are aged in their 80s and live in Craigieburn.

The man attended an AFL match between Carlton and Geelong on Saturday and was seated in level two of the MCC section of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

He also visited Highpoint shopping centre.

Some 200 residents of the Ariele Apartments were forced into 14 days of quarantine after a group of removalists from NSW conducted a pick up at the complex on Thursday while infectious.

The trio of removalists, two of whom have tested positive, did a drop off at a Craigieburn home the same day, as well as visited several petrol stations and fast-food restaurants, which have been listed as tier-one exposure sites.

The remaining new case is a man in his 30s who attended Coles Craigieburn on Saturday at the same time as a member of a family who recently returned from Sydney while infected with COVID-19.

Authorities said three members of the family flew into Melbourne on July 4, while a fourth drove back on Thursday.

The family, who live in the local government area of Hume, tested negative shortly after arrival but two became symptomatic and were swabbed again on Sunday, returning positive results on Monday morning.

A third family member tested positive on Tuesday, while the fourth tested positive on Wednesday.

The seven new cases will be included in Thursday’s daily figures.

Miami condo collapse death toll reaches 95

Exhausted crews are nearing the end of their search for victims of a Miami-area condominium tower collapse as the death toll reached 95 with just a handful of people still unaccounted for.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference the number of people considered missing has dwindled as authorities work to identify everyone connected to the building.

The mayor said 14 people remain unaccounted for, which includes 10 victims whose bodies have been recovered but not yet identified – leaving potentially four more victims to be found.

Of the 14 people considered not accounted for, Mayor Levine Cava said 12 are the subject of missing persons reports and detectives are trying to verify information about the other two.

Twenty days after the disaster, the mayor said crews had removed eight million kilograms of rubble from the site. Search crews were taking great care to identify and preserve any personal property recovered, the mayor added.

It will take much longer for experts to figure out what caused the 12-storey Champlain Towers South condominium to fall into a tangled heap of concrete and steel on June 24. The building was set for its four-decade recertification review when it collapsed.

Tailem Bend exposure sites grow

South Australian authorities continue to check potential exposure sites in Tailem Bend linked to a COVID-positive group of removalists from NSW, with some residents facing quarantine after a café and a service station were identified as venues of concern and a third under investigation.

SA Health on Tuesday morning confirmed the three NSW removalists, two of whom later tested positive, visited the Shell service station in Tailem Bend on Friday, July 9 on their way back to NSW.

Anyone who visited the site between 5.20pm and 7pm on Friday must get tested and isolate with other members of their household immediately.

The same test and isolate order applies for the Coolabah Tree Café, adjacent to the service station, which health authorities late on Tuesday listed as a second potential exposure site for the same time period on Friday.

“A potential third exposure site is currently being investigated,” SA Health said in a statement.

One of two service station employees who was working during the at-risk period is currently symptomatic but both have tested negative after undergoing rapid gene-expert testing on Tuesday morning.

SA Health says they will remain in home quarantine for 14 days.

The three removalists had travelled from Sydney through Victoria to McLaren Vale, where they unloaded furniture for a relocating family.

They stopped in Tailem Bend on their way back to NSW.

SA Health has so far identified 18 close contacts who checked-in to the service station using QR codes during the at-risk period.

However, authorities are still unsure how many people visited the service station without checking-in.

Authorities are reviewing CCTV footage to determine whether the removalists made any other stops in SA on their return trip.

“We are still stepping through and mapping out a clear timeline of the driver’s movements within SA,” deputy chief public health officer Emily Kirkpatrick said.

The family members who moved to SA have all tested negative so far and are in quarantine as close contacts of a confirmed virus case.

Cardiologist accuses SA Health of derailing research, planning new cuts for QEH

Outspoken former Queen Elizabeth Hospital cardiology chief John Horowitz has accusing SA Health of preventing him and colleagues from undertaking research at the hospital and claims it has plans to downgrade services there.

Horowitz, who was Director of Cardiology at the QEH for 30 years, says that after being dumped from the position in 2018, he was offered a 12-month Emeritus position by SA Health’s Central Adelaide Local Health Network but on the basis that he couldn’t apply for new research grants.

“I refused this offer, and have been prevented from conducting research at TQEH since then, undertaking my work from the Basil Hetzel Institute instead,” he said in an open letter to Premier Steven Marshall.

“Furthermore, internal funding, which covered the salaries of four of my colleagues, was withdrawn, resulting in an irresponsible ‘brain drain’.’

“Four of my younger colleagues, all very promising, took up senior appointments interstate. When, in 2020, I was named a Senior Investigator on two Heart Foundation research grants, CALHN/TQEH bureaucracy took more than six months to consider my application for hospital access to run the projects, and then refused.”

Horowitz has been a thorn in the side of successive governments. He was a trenchant critic of the previous Labor Government’s “Transforming Health” agenda, and fought a plan to centralising some cardiac services at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Also in the last term of the Labor Government, he was suspended from duty for seven months after being accused of alleged bullying, but says that accusation was later downgraded.

He said in his open letter that elements of Transforming Health remain in place and accuses the Marshall Government of planning to close other services at TQEH – a claim not ruled out by SA Health.

“You have not advertised this, but it is planned that Gynaecology services at TQEH will close. As for Cardiology, our staffing numbers have been seriously cut, and we will only have one cath lab in the new building, seriously limiting our range of on-site treatment. Does the public know about this planned further erosion of health services in the Western suburbs?”

In a statement, CALHN confirmed some of Horowitz’s claims about services, arguing that its planning indicated one cardiac catheter lab and one procedure room at TQEH was sufficient for clinical needs.

SA Health also indicated no decisions had been made about gynaecology services at TQEH.

For more of their responses, and the full story, go here.

-David Washington

Elective surgeries rescheduled amid ‘major incident’ declaration at metro hospitals

Elective surgeries have been rescheduled across Adelaide’s central health network after internal emergencies were declared at the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth hospitals due to emergency department blockages.

“Major incidents” were declared at the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth hospitals late on Monday after a surge in acute presentations left more than 100 people in emergency departments waiting for a hospital bed.

It is the second time a “code yellow” alert has been issued at the Royal Adelaide Hospital since June.

A major incident alert was also declared at the Flinders Medical Centre in May.

The Central Adelaide Local Health Network said a number of actions had been taken improve bed availability on Tuesday, including delaying elective surgery appointments.

“Rescheduling elective surgery is always a last resort and is done to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our patients,” the CALHN spokesperson said.

“We will work to rearrange all surgeries over the coming days.

“As always, we must prioritise our patients with the most urgent needs and we apologise to anyone who has been affected by the measures currently in place.”

The spokesperson said the major incident declaration was expected to be stood down within 24 hours.

In a letter sent to all network staff on Monday night, CAHLN Executive Director of Operations Brendan Docherty said a major incident was called due to “major demand pressure across the network”.

He said patients were presenting with “increasing complexity and acuity” and the Network Incident Command Centre would be meeting every two hours to find ways to ensure emergency patients get access to beds.

Chaos and queues in Sydney as workers await COVID test

The NSW government is expected to extend a lockdown for Greater Sydney as thousands of essential workers in the city’s southwest struggle to get tested for COVID-19, with some waiting up to six hours.

People in the Fairfield local government area, which is the new epicentre of the outbreak, were waiting in their cars in queues stretching for kilometres to get tested at a showground.

The rush came after the state government on Tuesday announced new restrictions for essential workers who must now get tested every three days if they work outside the area.

Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone says the new rules have created bedlam at testing sites in the area due to the sudden influx.

“Well, it’s chaos,” he told the Nine Network this morning.

“These are people that want to get tested, these are doctors and nurses, people that help our community, they work far and wide and these are essential workers.

“The mandated plan, where people need to get tested two times a week, once every three days, was very badly thought out.”

The local community had already responded to the government’s calls to get tested.

But now people who wanted to get tested but who could not afford to wait six hours in a queue and had gone home, Mr Carbone added.

“It’s unfortunate that the government has done this. I don’t think they understood the magnitude of it and I don’t think they understood the amount of essential workers we have in Fairfield,” he said.

Anyone from Greater Sydney travelling to the regions for work must be tested weekly, but these workers have until Saturday until the order is policed.

Meanwhile, NSW Health has flagged 30 more venues of concern visited by people with COVID-19.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is expected to announce the lockdown for Greater Sydney and surrounding regions, currently in its third week, will drag on for weeks after Friday, after more financial support for workers and businesses was announced on Tuesday.

Delta variant prompts US case rise

The COVID-19 curve in the US is rising again after months of decline, with the number of new cases per day doubling over the past three weeks, driven by the fast-spreading delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and Fourth of July gatherings.

Confirmed infections climbed to an average of about 23,600 a day on Monday, up from 11,300 on June 23, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

And all but two states – Maine and South Dakota – reported that case numbers have gone up over the past two weeks.

At the same time, parts of the US are running up against deep vaccine resistance while the highly contagious mutant version of the coronavirus that was first detected in India is accounting for an ever-larger share of infections.

About 55.6 per cent of people in the country have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The five states with the biggest two-week jump in cases per capita all had lower vaccination rates: Missouri, 45.9 per cent; Arkansas, 43 per cent; Nevada, 50.9 per cent; Louisiana, 39.2 per cent; and Utah, 49.5 per cent.

Crows backman out for the season

Adelaide defender Luke Brown is being sent for Achilles surgery which will end his AFL season.

Brown, who has missed five games this season, attempted playing through pain until medicos recommended surgery after the injury again flared.

“While it’s disappointing for Luke to have his season end prematurely, this will put him in the best position to be able to attack the next pre-season,” Adelaide’s head of football Adam Kelly said on Tuesday.

“He has scar tissue around the Achilles which can be attributed to an old ankle injury.”

The Crows will also be without backman Tom Doedee for Sunday’s home fixture against West Coast.

Doedee was concussed during Adelaide’s horror loss to Essendon last Friday night when the Crows kicked just 2.9 – the club’s lowest-ever score.

Key forward Taylor Walker must train on Thursday to be considered for a return from a neck strain which forced him out of the defeat to the Bombers.

“The plan will be for him to train again on Thursday but it will be dependent on how he continues to recover,” Kelly said.

Meanwhile, the AFL has unveiled its fixture for rounds 19 and 20, with the Crows to face the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat on Sunday, July 25 at 12:40pm (AEST) followed by the Hawks at Adelaide Oval the following Saturday, July 31 at 7:10pm (ACST).

Port Adelaide has been given a Friday night home clash with Collingwood in Round 19 although the start time has been moved forward to 6:45pm (ACST) to accommodate the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23.

The Power will then face the Giants the following Sunday, August 1 at a venue yet to be determined due to NSW’s COVID situation.

-With AAP and Reuters

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