testing

medicine

UChicago Medicine and UIC researchers to study expanded access to rapid COVID-19 testing

Researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) are launching an investigational study to determine the effects of increased education and access to rapid, FDA-approved COVID-19 testing on community perceptions, access, and use of COVID-19 testing resources.

The study will be funded by $2M in support from the National Institutes for Health RADx-UP program. A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program supports research that aims to better understand COVID-19 testing patterns among underserved and vulnerable populations; strengthen the data on disparities in infection rates, disease progression and outcomes; and develop strategies to reduce the disparities in COVID-19 testing.

The research will be led by Ayman Al-Hendy, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UChicago Medicine, and Renee Taylor, PhD, professor of occupational therapy and Nahed Ismail MD, PhD, D(ABMM), D(ABMLI), professor of pathology and medical director of clinical microbiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The investigators plan to leverage existing university-community partnerships and expertise in clinical microbiology, community engagement, and epidemiological infrastructures to expand access to rapid COVID-19 testing.

“There are testing deserts in Chicago, where many people don’t have easy or affordable access to testing,” said Taylor. “We can reach individuals who maybe don’t have health insurance or are concerned about having a COVID-19 test on their medical record and provide them with an easy and private opportunity to get tested.”

The project includes collaboration with community members to co-create advertisements to recruit other participants into the trial as well as a mobile health web app, called the mHealth Literacy and Outreach Suite, that will allow individuals to not only privately order testing, but also learn how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and care for themselves if they fall ill.

Investigators are also sending out kits so participants can collect their own samples and send them to be tested at UIC. Sample collection can be performed rapidly at home with a nasal swab, without the discomfort of the typical nasopharyngeal swab, before sending the sample to the central lab for testing.

The team hopes that the privacy offered by these options, as well as the community advocacy, will help improve the public perception of receiving a COVID-19 test.

“Many people don’t trust the test, are concerned about the expense, or are worried that they’ll be forced out of work or forced to isolate if they have a positive test, which is creating a lot of stigma,” said Ismail. “We need to expand our testing in a community setting where people have some privacy, and the mHealth Suite provides that, as well as overcoming issues of cost.”

Al-Hendy credits the skills of the interdisciplinary team and their pooled community networks for making this collaborative effort possible. “The collaboration between UIC and UChicago Medicine will allow this project to reach many underserved populations,” he said. “Our two institutions already both have robust relationships within our local communities, which will help expand the

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fitness

Vehicle fitness: lack of testing pollutes Punjab


LAHORE:

Fitness checking and certification of vehicles running in Punjab could not be done for the last eight months.

A foreign company responsible for vehicle inspection in the province could not open after the coronavirus lockdown imposed in March this year.

As per details available with The Express Tribune, The Vehicle Inspection and Certification System (VICS) had been closed since the first lockdown was enforced in March due to the coronavirus pandemic in Punjab.

The Punjab Transport Department had extended the fitness certificates of thousands of vehicles without checking for six months. Due to inactivity of fitness checking centres, vehicles had become a major source of smog by emitting smoke on the roads.

The Punjab government had abolished the system of Motor Vehicle Examiner in 2015 and contracted a Swedish firm for fitness and inspection of vehicles which was supposed to set up VICS centres for vehicle inspection across the province. As per the agreement, the company’s commercial vehicles were to be inspected and certificates were to be issued to them for which data was provided to the company by the government.

In case of inspection and certification of less than 50% of the provided vehicles, Punjab government will pay compensation to the company. Under the agreement, the company must first complete its network of centres across the province for which the government land was to be provided on lease to the company.

However, the company failed to complete its network even after five years since the abolishment of motor vehicle examiner system. The foreign company’s system had not been able to achieve significant success in vehicle inspection and certification in the province. The company had now closed its centres since March 2020 which had stopped the work of inspection and certification of vehicles.

In such a situation, there was no system for fitness and inspection of vehicles in the province for eight months. In such a situation, Punjab Transport Department had adopted a unique formula of extending the fitness certificates of the vehicles for six months without inspecting them. Under this formula, the officials of said department were looking at the old certificates of the vehicles and affixing a sixmonth extension stamp on them.

The vehicles were not being inspected but an affidavit was being taken from the owner of the vehicle that they were responsible for the fitness of their vehicle. The provincial transport department officials stated in addition to the inspection fee ranging from Rs1,300 to Rs4,000, a fine of Rs6 per day was being received from vehicle owners and their fitness certificates were being extended for six months.

Due to this, the smoke-emitting vehicles across the province were openly circulating because they had an extended fitness certificate from the transport department which was causing a terrible increase in environmental pollution. Thus, there was practically no system of vehicle inspection and fitness in Punjab for the last eight months. In this regard, Punjab Transport Minister Jahanzeb Khan Khichi said the purpose of establishing VICS was to make

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health

UK to roll out rapid COVID-19 testing in Liverpool

LONDON (AP) — A half-million people in the English city of Liverpool will be regularly tested for COVID-19 in Britain’s first citywide trial of widespread, rapid testing that the government hopes will be a new weapon in combating the pandemic.

Testing will begin later this week at sites throughout the city using a variety of technologies, including new methods that can provide results in an hour or less, the government said in a statement Tuesday. Everyone who lives or works in the city in northwestern England will be offered the test, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes mass testing will provide a way out of the coronavirus crisis, which has killed more than 46,000 people across the U.K. in Europe’s deadliest outbreak. England is scheduled to go into a second national lockdown on Thursday as the government struggles to control a second wave of infections that risks swamping hospitals and emergency rooms.

“These tests will help identify the many thousands of people in the city who don’t have symptoms but can still infect others without knowing,″ Johnson said. “Dependent on their success in Liverpool, we will aim to distribute millions of these new rapid tests between now and Christmas and empower local communities to use them to drive down transmission in their areas.”

Liverpool has one of the highest infection rates in England, with more than 410 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 225 per 100,000 for the nation as a whole.


Mayor Joe Anderson said he expects the program to last six to eight weeks as authorities work to bring the local outbreak under control. Rapid testing for health-care workers, teachers and students will be particularly useful in helping the city return to normal after the national lockdown ends, he said.

About 2,000 military personnel will help the National Health Service and independent contractors deliver the tests.

“This first deployment of whole city testing in Liverpool is a really important step forward and is thanks to the big increase in testing capacity and our investment in new testing technologies,” said Dido Harding, the head of the Test and Trace program.

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Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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health

New Russian infections soar; UK, Germany widen testing

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Coronavirus infections hit a new high this week in Russia, while Germany and the U.K. announced plans to expand virus testing as European nations battled rapidly increasing infections and hospitalizations that strained health care systems.

Across Europe, countries have been re-introducing restrictions to get ahead of a virus that has rampaged across the globe, causing more than 1.2 million deaths — over 270,000 of them in Europe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

New coronavirus restrictions took effect Tuesday in Austria and Greece, following a partial coronavirus shutdown in Germany on Monday and tighter rules in Italy, France, Kosovo and Croatia. Residents in England also face a near-total lockdown beginning Thursday, although schools and universities will stay open.

Infections have spiked in Russia, where authorities on Tuesday reported 18.648 new infections, bringing their total to over 18,000 daily cases for the fifth straight day, much higher than the record of over 11,000 daily infections in the spring.


Russia has the world’s fourth-highest coronavirus caseload of more than 1.6 million and has reported over 28,000 deaths in the pandemic.

The country lifted most virus-related restrictions this summer and officials have said the health care system is able to cope. However, alarming reports have surfaced in recent weeks about overwhelmed Russian hospitals, drug shortages and inundated medical workers.

In Britain, the government plans a new COVID-19 testing program in Liverpool, offering regular testing to anyone living and working in the city of 500,000 in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“These more advanced tests will help identify infectious individuals who are not displaying symptoms … so they can self-isolate and prevent the virus from spreading,” the Department of Health said.

The trial in Liverpool, which has one of the highest infection rates in England with more than 410 cases per 100,000 people, is seen as a test of how Britain might roll out mass testing across the country.

Germany said it is bulk-buying millions of antigen tests, which produce rapid results, to avoid banning visitors to nursing homes and preventing the anguish to residents and their relatives that such isolation caused in the spring. Nursing homes will receive up to 20 free monthly tests per resident, which can be used to test patients, staff and visiting relatives who might be unwitting carriers of COVID-19.

The antigen tests look for specific protein on the virus, but experts have said they were less accurate than the standard PCR test, which can detect even traces of the virus.

France reported 410 virus-related deaths in hospitals on Monday, the highest single-day rise since April. The country is reporting tens of thousands of new infections per day and COVID-19 patients now occupy 73% of France’s intensive care beds, a rapidly rising number that prompted the government to impose a new month-long lockdown.

New restrictions came into effect in Austria, hours after an attack in Vienna on people enjoying the last few hours before bars and restaurants closed left

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health

Britain to trial citywide testing in Liverpool

LONDON — The British government plans to trial a new citywide coronavirus testing program in Liverpool, offering regular testing to everyone who lives and works in the city of 500,000 in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Testing will take place throughout the city using a variety of technologies, including new methods that can provide results in an hour or less.

The Department of Health says, “these more advanced tests will help identify infectious individuals who are not displaying symptoms … so they can self-isolate and prevent the virus from spreading.”

The Liverpool trial is seen as a test of how Britain might be able to roll out mass testing across the country, which is battling a surge in coronavirus infections. England is scheduled to begin a second national lockdown on Thursday.

Liverpool has one of the highest infection rates in England, with more than 410 cases per 100,000 people.


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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Huge voter turnout expected in U.S. despite virus, political rancor

— ‘Raw exposed nerves’: Anxious nation awaits Election Day

— U.S. hospitals are scrambling to hire more nurses as the coronavirus pandemic surges, leading to stiff competition and increased costs

— Widely shared photo of Biden without mask was taken in 2019

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— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka have extended the school holidays for two more weeks, postponing the opening of classes amid a surge of COVID-19 patients from two clusters in Colombo and the capital’s suburbs.

Schools had been scheduled to reopen Nov. 9, but the government announced Tuesday that classes would not resume until Nov. 23.

Schools were suddenly closed last month as a precautionary measure after a new cluster of coronavirus infections centered on a garment factory erupted in the densely populated Western province, where the capital is. Another cluster centered on the country’s main fish market arose later.

The two clusters have now grown to 7,856 confirmed cases, with 275 in the previous 24 hours. The total caseload for the pandemic stands at 11,335 with 21 deaths from COVID-19.

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NEW DELHI, India — India has registered 38,310 confirmed coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, maintaining an overall downturn even as fresh infections continue to appear in its capital, New Delhi.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported 490 more fatalities from COVID-19, raising the overall death toll to 1,23,097.

With a total of 8.2 million coronavirus cases during the pandemic, India is the second worst-hit country behind the United States. But it has been witnessing a steady fall in daily cases.

Still, health officials say New Delhi remains in the grip of its third and worst wave of infections yet. In the past week, there were more than 5,200 cases on average every day. The Health Ministry attributes the city’s surge to the festival season, with people crowding markets for

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health

Frozen Food Packages in China Keep Testing Positive For Coronavirus. Here’s Why Health Experts Aren’t Worried

They’ve reportedly found it on packages of Ecuadorian shrimp, squid from Russia and Norwegian seafood.



a man preparing food in a room: Medical workers wearing protective suits collect samples from imported frozen beef for COVID-19 tests at a food factory in Shanghai, China on August 18, 2020.


© Yin Liqin—China News Service/Getty Images
Medical workers wearing protective suits collect samples from imported frozen beef for COVID-19 tests at a food factory in Shanghai, China on August 18, 2020.

Since June, Chinese health authorities have been detecting genetic traces of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on refrigerated and frozen foods from around the world. Then, on Oct. 17, the Chinese Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced it had isolated active SARS-CoV-2 on packs of imported fish. The agency says this world-first discovery, made while tracing a recent outbreak in Qingdao to two dock workers, shows contaminated food packaging can cause infections.

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While it remains unclear if the dock workers actually contracted COVID-19 from the seafood they were handling, the government is stepping up precautions. Qingdao will now scrutinize all incoming frozen food (after testing all 9 million residents), while the Beijing city government has urged companies to avoid importing frozen foods from countries badly hit by the pandemic — though it did not specify which ones.

Concern over possible transmission through imported food is running high in China, which has nearly stamped out domestic transmission of the pathogen. It is one of the only countries to impose wide-scale coronavirus inspections on incoming shipments.

Elsewhere, health authorities have been more skeptical. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says there is “no evidence” to suggest food is associated with spreading the virus, while the World Health Organization (WHO) says it’s not necessary to disinfect food packaging. New Zealand meanwhile ruled out a theory that an August outbreak was connected to a cold-chain storage facility.

Read more: Wuhan Strives to Return to Normal, But Scars From the Pandemic Run

China’s CDC says 670,000 samples from frozen foods and packaging had been tested for COVID-19 as of Sept. 15. Reportedly, only 22 of them were positive (and prior to the Qingdao case it was not clear if any of the detected coronavirus was still active when thawed).

In recent months, the world’s second-largest economy has nevertheless temporarily suspended a slew of fish and meat imports, disrupting trade with several countries and reportedly causing shipping bottlenecks.

Several health experts have disputed the necessity of such precautions. While cold temperatures can preserve coronaviruses, they remain doubtful food and its packaging pose a major threat.

“It’s theoretically plausible, but the risk is much lower than the other more established routes of transmission for this virus,” says Siddharth Sridhar, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

What has China found?

China stepped up monitoring of imported foods after a second wave in June that infected 335 people was linked to Beijing’s sprawling Xinfadi market. The outbreak, which broke the capital’s run of 56 consecutive days without any new local infections, prompted a partial shutdown of the city and a probe into the origins.

Authorities suggested supplies of salmon from Europe may have been the source after

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health

Montgomery County testing mosquitoes for West Nile virus after death

Following the confirmation of a West Nile virus related death and Montgomery County’s second possible case, the Precinct 3 Mosquito Abatement Team is on high alert as they continue to test mosquito samples.

On Friday, the Montgomery County Public Health District announced the death of a man in his 70s who lived in the 77381 ZIP code. While the man did have other medical conditions but the death was classified as a probable West Nile virus case. A woman in her 60s who lives in the 77382 ZIP code has been confirmed as the second case.

At this time in 2019, the county had no cases of West Nile virus, health officials said.


Cody Grimes, manager of projects and logistics for the Precinct 3 office, said the announcement of the death and second case did not prompt spraying in those ZIP codes. Grimes explained that due to the time to get the confirmation on the cases, crews had already responded to those ZIP codes when the mosquito sample returned positive.

He noted currently there are no West Nile positive samples in South County.

“We do spray when we get positive mosquito samples,” Grimes said, adding mosquito season is winding down. “There hasn’t been anything abnormal this year.”

West Nile virus can cause serious disease and is commonly spread by infected mosquitoes, according to MCPHD. People typically develop symptoms between three and 14 days after they are bitten. According to the CDC, approximately 80 percent of people who are infected will not show any symptoms at all.

Milder symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and, sometimes, swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. These symptoms can last up to several weeks. Serious symptoms that account for less than 1 percent of those infected can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis. These symptoms can last for several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent.

Anyone who develops symptoms of severe West Nile virus illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, should seek medical attention immediately. However, the majority of milder illnesses improve on their own.

According to the CDC, the most effective way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Avoid bites by using insect repellants, wearing protective clothing when outdoors and emptying standing water outside of your home.

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health

Bay Area gets aggressive, state doubles testing

With U.S. infection rates spiking and a far more modest uptick in California, the Bay Area on Friday enacted additional, hard-charging measures to corral COVID-19: San Francisco hit the brakes on reopening, and Santa Clara County sought a legal order against a church that has been flouting restrictions on indoor gatherings.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, state officials unveiled a swiftly built lab that officials say will double the state’s already substantial coronavirus-testing capacity by spring.

Taken together, the day’s actions underscored California’s resolve to manage the pandemic aggressively, even as other states loosen restrictions and struggle with viral transmission.

San Francisco, which has the lowest positivity rate of any major metropolitan area in the country, announced its rollback of some recent reopening moves amid worrisome indicators, including increases in hospitalizations and infections. Just two weeks ago, the city had moved into the yellow tier on the state’s reopening matrix, the least restrictive level.

Friday’s pivot means that restaurants previously approved to expand to 50% indoor capacity will have to stick to the current 25% occupancy, as will indoor places of worship, museums, zoos, aquariums and movie theaters. Plans to allow indoor pools and bowling alleys have been removed from the city’s reopening trajectory for now.

“The last thing we want to do is go backward,” Mayor London Breed said in a news conference Friday. “The last thing we want to do is tell a business or a school that they can open, then tell them they have to close. So we’re proceeding with caution.”

In the South Bay, Santa Clara County officials announced that they had filed suit in Superior Court to stop Calvary Chapel San Jose from holding indoor services. The church had signaled early on during the pandemic that it was not going to abide county restrictions, instead taking guidance from President Donald Trump’s declarations that in-church worship was an essential function.

In a similar clash with North Valley Baptist in Santa Clara, piles of fines and the threat of a court injunction prompted the church to back down and switch to outdoor services. For Calvary Chapel, fines that reached $350,000 did not deter the services, prompting county officials to ask a judge to make them change their ways.

The church has deemed the move “a request to crush the Church’s constitutional rights” while acknowledging many of the allegations regarding its flouting of the rules. In a legal filing, the defendants argued that their activities are not a genuine threat because they have not been linked to an outbreak. They also noted that crowded police-brutality protests over the summer got no such enforcement scrutiny.

But Dr. Arthur Reingold, division head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, wrote in a declaration supporting the county’s court filing that a church outbreak could just be a matter of time without compliance to health protocols.

Reingold wrote that the risks of COVID-19 transmission from large indoor gatherings are already high and that “adding activities like singing,

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health

Ontario coronavirus models reveal cases growth is much ‘slower’ than anticipated; Alberta changing testing guidelines for children

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Ontario premier’s constituency closed after COVID-19 outbreak

A statement from the office of Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirms that his constituency office in Etobicoke North has been closed after COVID-19 cases were detected.

“Toronto Public Health has confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff members of Premier Ford’s constituency office,” the statement reads. “The Premier has not visited the office in the past two weeks and has had no exposure.”

The Etobicoke office is expected to be closed “for the foreseeable future” to allow for deep cleaning of the space.

This comes as Ontario reported 896 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 314 cases in Toronto, 173 in Peel, 115 in York Region and 92 in Ottawa.

The province confirmed nine more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 3,127.

A total of 41,008 tests were completed in the last day, with 41,063 tests under investigation.

There are currently 314 people with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, including 75 in ICU.

Across the province, 78 long-term care homes have an active outbreak with 421 active cases in residents and 280 staff cases.

Ontario reported 61 new school-related COVID-19 cases, including 40 student cases, four staff cases and 17 cases that haven’t been identified.

Quebec reports more than 950 new cases, 18 new confirmed deaths

Quebec reported 952 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 195 cases in Montreal, 151 in Montérégie and 109 in Lanaudière.

The province also confirmed 18 new deaths with four of them occurring in the last 24 hours.

There are currently 515 people with COVID-19 in Quebec hospital, including 81 people in intensive care.

Check out our COVID-19 in Canada topic page for latest news, tips, health updates, cases and more.

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health

SF stops Google-affiliated testing after results take 10 days

San Francisco has stopped partnering with Google-affiliated Verily at its community COVID-19 test sites after the the state of California announced $55 million in contracts with the firm in March.

San Francisco’s first Verily testing site was set up in the Tenderloin in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Glide Memorial Church. The pop-up was initially located next to Glide and later St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“We stopped utilizing the Verily asset in August when the turnaround time for testing results were 10-plus days,” the city said in a statement. “Upon resolution of the results reporting, we reached out to the state to deploy the asset to a new site but California Department of Public Health decided that the testing asset was needed elsewhere, a county that had higher infection rates. It was deemed at that point that San Francisco already had high testing rate and low infection rate and the asset was needed elsewhere.”

Pop-up testing led by the Department of Public Health and the genetic-testing company Color now operates in the Tenderloin twice a week in coordination with Glide.


Verily, the life sciences arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is one of many vendors the state has contracted with to provide testing. The state’s contract with the company based in South San Francisco was much hailed by state officials, as it offered a platform that screens potential patients and connects them with testing. The intention was to use the platform to bring testing to those neighborhoods most impacted by the virus or those with hard-to-reach populations.

In an April 29 press briefing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the company was “focusing on expanding their testing with a socioeconomic lens to diverse communities, not just in rural California but inner city California.”

Trump even touted Verily, announcing on March 13 that Google was building a site to help Americans locate COVID-19 testing, misleading people to believe the Northern California effort was geared to the entire country.

While Verily was meant to help reach underserved communities in San Francisco, Kenneth Kim, clinical director of Glide, told Kaiser Health News that the platform presented many hurdles for the homeless population it was meant to serve. Verily requires users to have a Google account and Kim said many homeless residents getting tested had the accounts but they couldn’t remember passwords.

Alameda County also partnered with Verily to open two testing sites. The first one closed by May, and the second, at an Oakland Church, closed in August, according to Kaiser Health News. A June letter to California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other members of the county’s COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force noted many of the problems with the platform, including the inability for users to make an appointment over the phone and the requirement to have a Google account.

Kathleen Parkes told Kaiser Health News Gmail accounts are required to register with Verily’s platform because Google’s authentication procedures safeguard

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