Nine people died from COVID-19 in British Columbia over the weekend as the province broke several more records related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Another 1,959 new COVID-19 cases were also identified from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced at her first briefing of the week. That puts the total number of infections identified in B.C. since the start of the pandemic at 22,944.
The province’s active caseload reached a new record of 6,279, and the number of coronavirus patients in hospital climbed to a new high of 181, including 57 people in intensive care.
Of the nearly 2,000 new infections, 654 were identified from Friday to Saturday, followed by 659 from Saturday to Sunday and 646 from Sunday to Monday. Each day surpassed the province’s previous record of 617 cases identified over 24 hours, which was set just last week.
“As the number of cases and outbreaks is showing, we are in the most challenging of times,” Henry said. “The virus is not stopping.”
Another 11 outbreaks were also declared in B.C.’s health-care system over the weekend, at long-term care homes, assisted living facilities and one hospital. Most were detected in the Lower Mainland, but some were in the Interior Health region as well.
The alarming numbers came a week after Henry announced strict-but-temporary new restrictions around socializing in the province’s Lower Mainland, a measure intended to curb the caseload before it spirals out of control.
She said if hospitals, schools and workplaces are to remain open, it’s crucial that people follow the precautions that officials have hammered for weeks.
“It is the small yet essential efforts that all of us do that have a big collective impact,” Henry said. “We need to say no to social gatherings right now. We also need to minimize our travel, maintain our safe distances as best we can at all times, and use masks.”
The challenges facing B.C. are also being seen in several other provinces, where rising case numbers helped push Canada past 300,000 total COVID-19 cases on Monday.
Henry reiterated the need to follow her latest public health order, which is scheduled to expire on Nov. 23. That order requires that people in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley only socialize with people in their “core bubble,” which for most means others in their household, and to avoid travelling between health authority regions except for essential purposes.
But Henry also went a step further on Monday, asking people across the province to “limit your travel as much as possible.”
“We know that the virus comes with us, and when we travel, we bring that risk with us and we take home the risk from where we’ve been,” she said.
“Now is not the time to travel for recreation or non-essential purposes.”
Because of the coronavirus’s incubation period, which can last up to two weeks, people’s behaviour now could impact how families across B.C. are permitted to observe the upcoming holidays. Celebrations of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, were severely curtailed over the weekend as a result of Henry’s public health order.
Henry said it’s too soon to determine how Christmas will look in the province.
With temperatures dropping, much of the recent surge in cases has been linked to private gatherings inside people’s homes and in businesses where workers aren’t maintaining proper distance from one another.
Last week, health officials shared updated modelling data that highlights the need for everyone in B.C. to be on their best behaviour. The numbers indicate the province has been doubling its number of daily cases every 13 days, which could send numbers skyrocketing to upwards of 1,000 new infections per day soon if B.C. can’t buck the trend.
COVID-19 case investigations continue to lag days behind case identification in Manitoba – CBC.ca
COVID-19 case investigations in Winnipeg are lagging days behind positive test results, contrary to the premier’s claim Manitoba has no more contact-tracing delays.
On Friday, Premier Brian Pallister said tracing delays are a thing of the past in this province.
“There’s zero backlogs on tracking and tracing right now in our province,” Pallister said during an interview that aired on Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday.
Backlogs, however, remain. CBC News has learned public health nurses in the Winnipeg health region started investigating COVID-19 cases on Monday that were identified as positive on Nov. 19 — a delay of four days — and are still working overtime to catch up on caseloads.
This four-day delay represents a vast improvement from October, when COVID-19 patients reported contact-tracing investigations lagging behind positive test results by as much as a week.
It nonetheless remains well behind the 24-hour timeframe epidemiologists have recommended for starting contact-tracing investigations in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“A twenty-four hour delay in getting a hold of somebody in a shelter, that’s a disaster,” said a public health nurse who CBC News is not identifying due to fears of repercussions.
WATCH | Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister insists his province’s restrictions are the most stringent in the country:
Delays are particularly important to avoid in Winnipeg, where people living in homeless shelters are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the nurse said.
“When you get somebody on the phone that’s living on the street and you’re telling them they have COVID, it’s a lot different than calling somebody who’s living at home and have three people in their house.”
Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said the four-day lag reported by the public health nurse is in line with what she’s hearing from her members.
“We’re hearing that there is a lag — anywhere from a couple of days, to five days,” said Jackson, adding some public health nurses are required to work evenings and weekends in order to catch up on caseloads.
“We know that public health nurses are still working excessive amounts of overtime. They’re being mandated frequently. They’re working through weekends. They’re not allowed to go home until they finish contact tracing on cases. It’s been it’s been months like this, with no end in sight,” Jackson said.
“I just find it very frustrating. We’re already eight months into a pandemic and it just feels like we’re just trying to get caught up now.”
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, made it clear on Monday the lag involves the time between the identification of a positive case in a laboratory and the handover of information about that case to public health.
“Almost all cases are reached within 24 hours of the report being reported to public health,” said Roussin, adding some case investigations do not begin until the next day after that.
Province adding contact tracers
Case investigations are one aspect of contact-tracing in Manitoba. The province employs an average of 170 people per day — public health nurses and contractors with the Canadian Red Cross — to conduct these investigations.
The province also pays for an average of 80 people a day to notify contacts of known COVID-19 cases. Statistics Canada has been enlisted for this task.
The third aspect of contact tracing involves follow-up calls to infected patients. These are conducted by 43 staff and volunteers at the COVID-19 Contact Centre, jointly run out of the Deer Lodge Centre by Shared Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
On Monday, Health Minister Cameron Friesen promised to bolster these 203 positions with 143 more workers.
The public health nurse who spoke to CBC News said that won’t help unless the reinforcements have specialized training.
“We need people who have the knowledge and the education to do proper contact-case investigations. It’s more than just calling people and telling them they have COVID,” the nurse said.
“We’re doing health assessments and directing people where to go if their symptoms exacerbate. We’re dealing with people who are structurally disadvantaged, who don’t have home. I mean, those are things that public health nurses know, not somebody answering the phone at a call centre.”
Contact tracers not allowed to work from home
The Manitoba Nurses Union also chastised the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority for not allowing COVID-19 case investigators to work from home.
Public health nurses are being subjected to unnecessary risks at the office — while some are unable to work because they are sick, isolating or caring for children, the union said.
“I do not understand why public health nurses are not allowed to access their files that they need at home and to work from home,” Jackson said.
Roussin, who has urged all employers to allow employees to work remotely, encouraged the WRHA to consider doing the same.
“If you can make it feasible, if you can get the work done by being at home, then I would encourage all employers to to look at that,” he said.
Confusion remains in B.C. on who can gather in restaurants under COVID-19 restrictions – Global News
The B.C. Restaurant and Food Association says a new set of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the provincial government has customers struggling to understand who they are allowed to dine with.
The association’s president Ian Tostenson says restaurants are trying to tell customers to use common sense and follow advice from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, but he says that advice has been unclear.
“There is a lot of confusion as to who can dine out as a result of the last couple of weeks with Dr. Henry,” Tostenson said Monday.
“The spirit of what Dr. Henry is saying is eat with people you trust, eat with people in your bubble. But if you try to define that too much it gets too hard.”
The provincial orders issued last week require diners to only eat with someone from their own household. If someone is single, they can eat with one or two other people who make up their pandemic bubble.
For example, three friends who are also married cannot all eat together at a restaurant. Another common mistake is parents cannot take their adult child and spouse for a meal at a restaurant if they live in separate households.
“For these two weeks we’re saying stick with your household bubble, and for some people that may mean one or two people who they have close contact with their pandemic bubble,” Henry said Monday.
The biggest challenge to uphold the order is enforcement.
Restaurants are being told not to ask diners whether they are following the rules. Instead, Henry is asking diners to know the rules themselves.
Christmas events put ‘on hold’ by pandemic
“It is not the restaurant’s responsibility to ask people who they live with, or where they are from,” Tostenson said.
“The more that we increase confusion and uncertainty in the marketplace the harder it is.”
There is growing concern from the province that British Columbians are trying to exploit loopholes in the order. The priority for the government is to crack down of social gatherings if that is in someone’s home or in a restaurant.
One thing enforcement can do is crack down on organized events in a restaurant like live music.
“There is a tendency to … see these like a speed limit and it says 80 (km/h), and maybe I can go 86. That’s not what these are,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday.
“These are provincial health orders to help us stop the spread of a virus that is harming our loved ones in long-term care and causing great disruption in our society, and these are the things we’re doing together to stop that.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
'We are on the verge of significant bankruptcies': Restaurants and pubs struggle under B.C.'s new restrictions – CTV News Vancouver
New measures introduced last Thursday by Dr. Bonnie Henry meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 by limiting social interactions appear to be having the desired effect, to the detriment of businesses.
At a news conference on Nov. 19, Henry ordered B.C. residents to limit social gatherings to their immediate household, or a small pandemic bubble for those living alone.
“This applies in our homes, vacation rentals and in the community and in public venues, including those with less than 50 people in controlled settings,” Henry said.
She made no specific mention of restaurants or pubs, and Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association said there has been confusion about who can dine out.
“We haven’t seen the latest health order, it hasn’t been written from last week, so as far as we’re concerned, we’re telling people go to a restaurant but go to a restaurant in the spirit of hanging with people you trust in a small bubble,” Tostenson said.
Tostenson estimates over the last 10 days, restaurants have lost about 30-40 per cent of their pandemic sales as those who were confused by the orders chose to stay home.
Henry’s order was an expansion of a previous regional order that only applied in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. During prior news conferences, Henry made clear that while dining out was encouraged, people should only do it with their households.
On Monday, Henry clarified again that she wants British Columbians to spend the next two weeks only socializing in person with others from their household, or a bubble of one or two designated people for those who live alone. That applies to going to restaurants.
The restrictions are also hitting bars and pubs hard. Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees estimated business dropped by 50 per cent of pandemic levels.
“So you have people who are down to 25 per cent of where they were in 2019 and that’s just not sustainable. We’re on the verge of significant bankruptcies right now,” he said.
Restrictions are scheduled tin place until Dec. 7.
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