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Are we close to antibody testing? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday online, and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.

From antibody testing to safely removing rubber gloves, here's what you’re asking us today

Rapid antibody blood tests are being made in Canada, but Health Canada has yet to approve them for use. (Bebeto Matthews/The Associated Press)

We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday online, and put some of your questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.  

We've received more than 20,000 emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking.

How close are we to being able to test for antibodies? 

Many Canadians, including Jeff T.,  wonder if we are able to test for the novel coronavirus antibodies, and how long this will take.

Antibody tests look for evidence of an immune response to the virus in the blood. When someone becomes infected with the coronavirus, the body produces specific antibodies to fight the infection. A rapid antibody blood test could also reveal who has been infected, even in asymptomatic cases.

Experts believe anyone who's been infected will have at least some immunity from becoming reinfected, at least in the short term.

Rapid antibody blood tests are being made in Canada, but Health Canada has yet to approve them for use during this pandemic. Health Canada told CBC News it is following the guidelines of the World Health Organization, "which does not currently recommend serological [blood] tests for clinical diagnosis." 

At least two Canadian companies are selling these types of tests outside the country.

Some experts warn that antibody tests aren't perfect and just because someone tests positive for the antibodies doesn't necessarily mean they have immunity. Learn more about that here.

Do we wait 4 weeks after our initial CERB application or do it now?

We've received dozens of questions about Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) applications, including this email from Jim in Toronto.

The short answer is, if you're eligible, you can apply for a second CERB instalment as of this past weekend and don't need to wait four weeks from the time you initially applied. But going forward, a four-week window will apply automatically.

The first window to apply for the CERB was backdated to March 15, which is why the second feels like it came so quickly. But going forward it will be a full four weeks in between each application window.

It's important to remember that while the CERB will be open until Oct. 3, applicants can only be paid for four benefit periods, to a maximum of $8,000 (each instalment in $2,000). But you will not be granted the $2,000 if you apply every month until October. 

Kelley Keehn, a personal finance educator in Edmonton, said CERB is "there to support" your income. "Maybe you lost your income one month, you had some income another month." 

The federal government on Wednesday loosened its restrictions on who qualifies to now include part-time, contract and seasonal workers

You can stay up to date on all COVID-19 emergency response benefits here.   

Should you disinfect your hands if you are wearing surgical gloves?

This one comes from Ron K. 

Experts warn disposable gloves, like those made of latex or vinyl, could provide a false sense of security. And if you touch your face with them, you're still at risk

But if you are going to wear them, this is how respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta uses them when he sees patients. 

"I'll start by washing my hands, and then I'll put on my gear, including my gloves," he said.

After, Gupta says he takes off his gear, including his gloves, and washes his hands again.

The gloves, he said, are really meant for a single use, not for prolonged or daily use.

"The bottom line is, you want to stop touching your face," said Gupta, "and because we all tend to slip up, it's a good idea to just keep washing your hands. 

"You can think of it as each time you wash your hands you're putting on a fresh pair of gloves." 

WATCH | Dr. Samir Gupta on gloves, soap and water: 

Dr. Samir Gupta explains why most people are better off washing their hands with soap and water than wearing gloves for protection against COVID-19. 1:54

Will there be nationwide relief for renters? If so, when?

CBC's senior business correspondent Peter Armstrong said this is one of the questions he gets asked the most. 

Right now, there isn't a nationwide program for renters, but just about all the provinces have introduced some kind of an eviction freeze to make sure people don't get kicked out for not paying rent. 

"It's a bit of a patchwork, so it depends on where you are," said Armstrong. "Some [provinces] have come up with one-time payments or some kind of rental subsidies."

For those who are worried and struggling to pay the bills, "the main thing to do is get yourself informed," he said. 

"Find the local renters advocacy group, talk to your MP, your MPP, your local councillor and make sure you know what your rights are."   

Small-scale landlords who have tenants who can't pay full rent should also be proactive and reach out, says personal finance commentator Preet Banerjee.  

"Have a talk, communicate, see if you can work out a plan," said Banerjee. "We're all in this together."

Tuesday we answered questions about false negatives to washing your produce properly. Read here.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

With files from Michelle Song, Saman Malik and Cheryl Brown

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