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Where did Victoria go so wrong with contact tracing and have they fixed it?

Victoria’s contact tracing system has faced criticism in the past for being inefficient, with officials flying to New South Wales in September to learn from that state.



a person in a car: Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Comparisons are difficult in a pandemic because each outbreak has its own unique characteristics. That said, there are some key features that underpin the differing responses of NSW and Victoria when it comes to contact tracing.

Fundamentally, NSW’s system of decentralised local area health districts meant when the second wave hit, that state was able to draw on teams embedded in their local communities to manage contact tracing. These teams worked independently but also in concert under the mothership of NSW Health.



a person in a car: ‘NSW’s system of decentralised local area health districts meant when the second wave hit, that state was able to draw on teams embedded in their local communities to manage contact tracing.’


© Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
‘NSW’s system of decentralised local area health districts meant when the second wave hit, that state was able to draw on teams embedded in their local communities to manage contact tracing.’

Related: Sun, sand and coronavirus: Australia aims to enforce a Covid-safe summer

In Victoria, a legacy of cuts left the Department of Health and Human Services under-resourced and highly centralised, meaning there was a smaller base upon which to build the surge contact tracing capacity (with some contact tracers coming from interstate).

This was further challenged with the rapid rise in daily new cases, from 65 to 288 in one week alone in July. Systems had to be developed quickly to manage large quantities of data and feed it back to a central hub. The state had to “build the aeroplane while flying”.

Much has changed since then, and for the better. Some hard lessons have been learned along the way but the contact tracing system in Victoria is now very comprehensive and increasingly robust.

Community engagement, local knowledge

Community engagement and local knowledge might seem like buzzwords but in a pandemic, they’re vital to ring-fencing a cluster.

NSW’s system of devolved public health units and teams meant when local outbreaks occurred, locally embedded health workers were at an advantage. They’re already linked with local area health providers for testing, they already have relationships with community members and community leaders, and they know the physical layout of the area.

If you’re doing a contact tracing interview with someone and they’re talking about a key landmark at a certain time of day, you can visualise it and understand what it means in terms of risk.

What’s crucial is a nuanced understanding of local, social, and cultural factors that may facilitate spread or affect how people understand self-isolation and what’s being asked of them. It can also make a critical difference in encouraging people to come forward for testing.

It’s not just about making sure you have materials

Dentist reveals how much toothpaste you should REALLY be using based on your age & you’re definitely getting it wrong

ANY parent will know getting kids to brush their teeth can be an ordeal, but it turns out you’ve probably been giving them way too much toothpaste. 

A dentist, Dr Gao, has gone viral on TikTok after sharing a video outlining how much toothpaste we should be using – according to our age. 

A dentist claimed the amount of toothpaste used in adverts is way too much

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A dentist claimed the amount of toothpaste used in adverts is way too muchCredit: Tik Tok

Dr Gao’s clip has racked up more than six million views, as he pointed out the lashings of toothpaste used in adverts was excessive. 

He said: “The amount used in commercials is way too much. 

“For ages three and below, all a smear is all you need.”

He demonstrated with a tiny amount spread on a brush, before saying: “For anyone older, a pea size amount is plenty.” 

Dr Gao shared a clip on TikTok explaining the right amounts to use which quickly went viral

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Dr Gao shared a clip on TikTok explaining the right amounts to use which quickly went viralCredit: Tik Tok

Dr Gao explained why you shouldn’t squeeze loads on your brush, saying: “Trust me it doesn’t make your teeth any cleaner.”

And it can lead to dental problems, particularly for children. 

In a separate video, he said: “Not only is it a waste for children whose adult teeth are still developing, swallowing too much toothpaste that contains fluoride can cause dental fluorosis. 

He claimed a smear is all you need for kids under the age of three

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He claimed a smear is all you need for kids under the age of threeCredit: Tik Tok

“Dental fluorosis is a cosmetic condition that causes a change in the appearance in the tooth and enamel.

“The appearance can range from brown and light discoloration,to brown strains and even obvious pits.”

While it can be ‘cosmetically treated’, Dr Gao warned the damage was permanent. 

Parents will know the battle of getting children to brush their teeth

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Parents will know the battle of getting children to brush their teethCredit: Tik Tok

Thousands of people commented on the clip in shock, admitting they’ve been getting it wrong their whole life. 

One person said: “Thinking of all the toothpaste I’ve wasted.”

Another wrote: “That’s why electric brushes can only hold pea size toothpaste.” 

Anyone older than that should use a pea-sized amount - and no more

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Anyone older than that should use a pea-sized amount – and no more Credit: Tik Tok

A third commented: “My friends were surprised when I only used that much. I was right all along.” 

Someone else thought: “We’ve been mislead by advertisement all these years.” 

While another said: “Finally! I’ve been trying to tell my husband for ages.”

Thousands of people commented on the post in shock as they realised they've been getting their amounts wrong

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Thousands of people commented on the post in shock as they realised they’ve been getting their amounts wrong

When will things go back to normal? Experts say that’s the wrong question amid COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and left countless people longing for a pre-pandemic way of life.



a man riding on the back of a bicycle:  Abdul Djiguiba, of Milwaukee, wears a mask as he gets gas at a fueling station on the corner of Green Tree Road and North 76th Street in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. Gov. Tony Evers issued a new public health emergency on Tuesday to extend the statewide mask mandate until late November as cases of coronavirus accelerate around the state. - Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


© Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journa
 Abdul Djiguiba, of Milwaukee, wears a mask as he gets gas at a fueling station on the corner of Green Tree Road and North 76th Street in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. Gov. Tony Evers issued a new public health emergency on Tuesday to extend the statewide mask mandate until late November as cases of coronavirus accelerate around the state. – Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

That desire is likely only further straining our mental health.

“Our brains really are very eager to get back to normal, to get back to January 2020,” Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts and author of a book about adapting to “the new abnormal” of COVID-19, told USA TODAY.

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But that’s simply not possible, Tsipursky said. Some losses in recent months are permanent. The dark cloud of coronavirus risk, meanwhile, will continue to linger – possibly for years. 

“Normality” means different things for different people. Tragically, for hundreds of thousands of Americans, a pre-pandemic life would include a loved one who has died of COVID-19 this year. 

For some Americans, a return to normal would mean restored health and financial stability. To others, it’s a world with concerts and gatherings, hugs and handshakes. 

There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a better, more stable future, New York University psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen told USA TODAY. But it’s important to realize that is likely a long-term fantasy, she said. 

Hope isn’t a luxury: It’s essential for mental health.

Is 6 feet really a safe distance?  There are still many questions about COVID-19. We asked experts for the answers.

A lingering threat

The fight against this highly contagious virus continues to define daily life: Cases are rising; the president was diagnosed with COVID-19; Disneyland is still closed and the death toll is comparable to some of our most tragic wars.

That won’t always be the case. Tsipursky described a scenario in which increasingly effective vaccines and treatments will slowly reduce the spread of the virus over the course of years – a gradual process, rather than a quick return to what life was like in January 2020.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has hinted at a similar future, warning that approval of a vaccine would not be an “overnight event” that quickly returns the nation to a normal way of life. Even “getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to COVID” might not arrive until late 2021, he said in early September.

As long as the virus continues to spread, previously normal activities such as going to a bar, attending a crowded concert, or even hosting a family gathering over the holidays will continue to come with significant risks. And those risks aren’t only

As virus fills French ICUs anew, doctors ask what went wrong

PARIS (AP) — Over the course of a single overnight shift this week, three new COVID-19 patients were rushed into Dr. Karim Debbat’s small intensive care ward in the southern French city of Arles. His service now has more virus patients than during the pandemic’s first wave, and is scrambling to create new ICU beds elsewhere in the hospital to accommodate the sick.

Similar scenes are playing out across France. COVID-19 patients now occupy 40% of ICU beds in the Paris region, and nearly a quarter in ICUs nationwide, as several weeks of growing infections among young people spread to vulnerable populations.

Despite being one of the world’s richest nations — and one of those hardest hit when the pandemic first washed over the world — France hasn’t added significant ICU capacity or the staff needed to manage extra beds, according to national health agency figures and doctors at multiple hospitals. Like in many countries facing resurgent infections, critics say France’s leaders haven’t learned their lessons from the first wave.

“It’s very tense, we don’t have any more places,” Dr. Debbat told The Associated Press. His hospital is converting recovery rooms into ICUs, delaying non-urgent surgery and directing more and more of his staff to high-maintenance COVID patients. Asked about extra medics to help with the new cases, he said simply, “We don’t have them. That’s the problem.”

When protesting Paris public hospital workers confronted French President Emmanuel Macron this week to demand more government investment, he said: “It’s no longer a question of resources, it’s a question of organization.”

He defended his government’s handling of the crisis, and noted 8.5 billion euros in investment promised in July for the hospital system. The protesting medics said the funds are too little and too slow in coming, after years of cost cuts that left France with half the number of ICU beds in 2020 that it had in 2010.


ICU occupancy rates are considered an important indicator of how saturated the hospital system is and how effective health authorities have been at protecting at-risk populations.

And France’s numbers aren’t looking good.

It reported more than 18,000 new daily cases Thursday, and virus patients now occupy 1,427 ICU beds nationwide — a figure that has doubled in less than a month. France’s overall ICU capacity is 6,000, roughly the same as in March, according to national health agency figures provided to the AP.

For comparison, Germany entered the pandemic with about five times as many intensive care beds as France, which has a similarly well-developed health care system and slightly smaller population. To date, Germany’s confirmed virus-related death toll is 9,584 compared to 32,521 in France.

Getting ICU capacity right is a challenge. Spain was caught short in the spring, and has expanded its permanent ICU capacity by about 1,000 beds. Britain expanded ICU capacity by building emergency field hospitals. Because they were barely used, the so-called Nightingale hospitals have been mothballed. However, the British government says they can be utilized again

What Many People Get Wrong About Getting the Flu in Your 60s

Photo credit: Cecilie_Arcurs - Getty Images
Photo credit: Cecilie_Arcurs – Getty Images

From Prevention

It’s easy to write an illness off as no biggie when it’s been widely circulating your whole life, but the flu is and can be deadly. That’s especially true as you get older. “As you age, your immune system weakens, and it becomes harder to fight off illnesses, including those caused by flu-related complications,” says Angela Patterson, DNP, FNP-BC, chief nurse practitioner officer at MinuteClinic and vice president at CVS Health.

Severe flu complications like pneumonia and sepsis—which disproportionately affect older adults—usually lead to hospitalizations, Patterson says. This is of particular concern this year because of the ongoing pandemic. “America’s ERs and critical care units are already stressed with caring for COVID-19 patients, and that’s likely to get worse as we head into the winter months,” Patterson says. She stresses that it’s vital we all take steps to stay healthy in an effort to reduce the number of flu cases and related hospitalizations, which can help preserve our health care resources for coronavirus patients.

So we’re debunking four myths about how adults 60+ can protect themselves during flu season. Despite how common the flu is, there are still plenty of misconceptions floating around. Here are the biggies you need to be aware of so you can take steps to remain healthy.

Myth No.1: It’s no big deal to skip the flu vaccine.

Photo credit: XtockImages - Getty Images
Photo credit: XtockImages – Getty Images

For everyone able, it’s vital to vaccinated against the flu, Patterson says. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses that flu vaccination is especially important for adults 65 years and older. Why? They make up most hospitalizations and deaths from flu and from COVID-19.

The flu vaccine works in two ways. It helps ward off the flu. But it also lowers the odds that if you happen to get sick, you’ll have a severe case and need to be hospitalized. According to one study published in 2018, flu vaccination among adults from 2012 to 2015 reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) with the flu by 82%.

Myth No.2: A past history with the flu means you’ll be okay now if you get it.

Photo credit: PORNCHAI SODA - Getty Images
Photo credit: PORNCHAI SODA – Getty Images

If you’ve had the flu in the past and done relatively OK, it’s easy to assume you’ll have the same outcome in the future. But the flu becomes more dangerous as you age, due to your weakening immune system. Between 70% and 90% of flu-related deaths are in people 65 and up, and up to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations are in people 65 and older, the CDC says.

“Seniors 65+ are at greatest risk for the flu, especially those who are immunocompromised—cancer patients, for instance—or those who have chronic health conditions,” Patterson says. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obstructive pulmonary disease. “Many have co-morbidity issues—two or even more chronic

Olivia Newton-John tearfully talks breast cancer diagnosis: ‘I knew immediately something was wrong’

Olivia Newton-John opened up about the first time she was diagnosed with breast cancer in a tearful video shared on Monday.

The “A Little More Love” singer was first diagnosed with the disease in 1992, had a secret battle with cancer in 2013 and her most recent diagnosis in 2017.

Newton-John, 72, currently has stage four metastatic breast cancer.

JOHN TRAVOLTA PRAISES ‘GREASE’ CO-STAR OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN AMID HER CANCER BATTLE: ‘I’M VERY PROUD OF HER’

The “Grease” actress announced a new foundation in her name to help other cancer survivors.

Olivia Newton-John attends 2018 G'Day USA Los Angeles Black Tie Gala 

Olivia Newton-John attends 2018 G’Day USA Los Angeles Black Tie Gala 
(Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

“I am probably one of those people who’s living beyond cancer, living beyond probably what people expected to happen,” the Australian singer said in her video.

She then got tearful recalling her 1992 diagnosis and said, “I knew immediately something was wrong.

“I had a mammogram. The mammogram was benign and I had a needle biopsy that was also benign,” Newton-John said. But she persisted and got a surgical biopsy, which then led to her breast cancer diagnosis.

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN GIVES HEALTH UPDATE ON BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS

The singer added: “I don’t say this to scare women, but you have to just trust your instincts.

“All this was overwhelming. It was a feeling of dread, terror, the unknown,” she said of that time.

Newton-John then added she chose to be strong moving forward for the sake of her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi.

“I made the decision that I was going to be okay. I had to believe I was going to be okay, that my daughter was the most important thing in my life and I would be okay for her,” the Grammy winner said.

KELLY PRESTON: JOHN TRAVOLTA’S ‘GREASE’ CO-STAR OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN SAYS HER ‘HEART BREAKS’ OVER THE LOSS

She also discussed her combination of cancer treatments ranging from chemotherapy, meditation, acupuncture, massage, and plant medicine to help her manage her pain.

Newton-John has long been an advocate for medicinal marijuana.

“Plant medicine has played an amazing role in my life. I have seen the incredible beauty of the plants and their healing abilities,” the actress said. “I know it sounds strange but if I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you about kinder therapies.”

She added: “Your body wants to heal itself. That’s why I’m excited to start this foundation.”

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The Olivia Newton-John foundation notes on their website, “We will fund the discovery of kinder therapies and advocate for more effective ways to prevent, treat and cure all cancers.”

In January, the actress gave a positive health update and revealed her tumors shrunk in size.

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