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B.C.'s COVID-19 surge continues, with 800 new cases and 5 more deaths – CBC.ca

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B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload continues to spike, as health officials announced 800 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths on Thursday.

It’s the highest single-day total for cases so far this year — B.C. hasn’t seen numbers above 800 since Dec. 2. The rolling seven-day average of new cases is now up 25 per cent over the last eight days.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 306 people, 79 of whom are in intensive care.

There are currently 5,856 active cases of coronavirus in the province, the highest total since Jan. 8.

The news comes just hours after provincial officials loosened restrictions for visitors to long-term care homes and made temporary allowances for indoor religious services.

“While this is encouraging news, in parallel we have also seen a notable spike in the number of new cases, especially amongst those 19 to 39 years of age. This tells us some people are taking on more risk for themselves and their loved ones than what is safe right now,” Henry and Dix said in the written statement.

“We remind everyone that although some outside activities are allowed, we must keep going with our protective layers.”

The vast majority of the new cases announced Thursday are located in the Lower Mainland — about 80 per cent were in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions.

Another 191 cases of variants of concern have been identified, bringing the total in B.C. to date to 1,772 cases. That includes 1,549 cases of the variant first seen in the U.K., 176 cases of the variant first seen in Brazil and 47 of the variant first seen in South Africa.

Public health monitoring is now monitoring 9,964 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation because of COVID-19 exposure.

A total of 87,351 people who tested positive for the virus have recovered, while 1,446 people in B.C. have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

B.C. recorded one new outbreak at Chilliwack General Hospital.

So far, 610,671 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 87,212 of those being second doses. Vaccine appointments are now being booked for those over the age of 75, as well as Indigenous people over the age of 55.

Watch: Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about why B.C. is easing restrictions

Dr. Bonnie Henry says this is one of the questions she is asked most often. 1:06

Restrictions eased for long-term care visits, religious services

Earlier Thursday, the province announced residents in B.C.’s long-term care facilities will soon be allowed more visitors and will be given the freedom to hug their loved ones.

New guidelines, which take effect April 1, will eliminate the requirement for a resident to have a single designated social visitor. Residents will be allowed up to two visitors at a time, as well as a child. 

The province also announced it will allow a limited number of indoor religious services over a six-week period this spring.

Private indoor gatherings are still banned under public health guidelines. Effective immediately, the B.C. government has more than doubled the fine from $230 to $575 for promoting or attending a non-compliant gathering or event.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the Interior Health authority said it’s planning to vaccinate all adults across 61 rural communities within its jurisdiction by the end of July. 

Tap the link below to hear Interior Health chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers’s interview on Daybreak South:  

Daybreak South8:51Interior Health has announced small communities will see community wide Covid-19 vaccination programs next month.

Interior Health has announced small communities will see community wide Covid-19 vaccination programs next month. 8:51

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Transplant programs reviewing policy on recipients being vaccinated against COVID-19 – Squamish Chief

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Transplant centres in Western Canada have stopped short of requiring organ recipients to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but they say conversations about such a policy are ongoing.

Some centres in other parts of the country, including Ontario, are requiring proof of vaccination before a patient is approved for the life-saving surgery.

BC Transplant, located in Vancouver, said COVID-19 vaccination is not required to be eligible for a transplant, but programs in the province are actively reviewing it.

“The transplant programs are strongly encouraging all pre-transplant patients to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as they do with many other vaccine-preventable infections,” the agency said in a statement.

Similarly, Alberta Health Services told The Canadian Press it has long been a requirement that patients preparing for transplant have all vaccines to help maximize their chances of success post-transplant. It notes, however, it’s only a practice guideline at this point.

Saskatchewan has also not made any changes.

“Saskatchewan’s organ transplant teams are strongly supportive of all recipients and donors having COVID vaccinations, and the issue of requiring these vaccinations in recipients is actively being discussed,” Lisa Thomson, a spokeswoman for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said in a statement. 

The Ajmera Transplant Centre at Toronto’s University Health Network recently announced its decision to implement a policy that requires patients who may benefit from receiving a transplant be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they are listed for solid organ transplant.

However, there may be exemptions for medical reasons or in cases of urgent need of a transplant.

“We all recognize that (COVID-19) is a massive, massive risk factor. The prudent and ethical thing to do to protect patients and to protect each other, and show fidelity and respect to those organ donors, is to require this (policy) to be a price of pass and go,” UHN president and chief executive officer Kevin Smith said in an interview. 

The decision to enact the policy is based on a few factors, according to the organization. 

It said transplant patients are severely immunocompromised because of lifelong treatment to prevent rejection of a new organ. If someone who is immunocompromised gets COVID-19, they are at a very high risk of being hospitalized or placed on ventilation.

Unvaccinated recipients could also pose a risk to other patients post-surgery. Transplant recipients have high health needs after their transplants and require frequent visits to a hospital. These individuals may pose a greater risk of spreading illness, should they get infected, to other immunocompromised patients in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

“Thinking about an outbreak in an environment like that would be just a massacre,” Smith said. 

Infectious disease experts noted this type of policy isn’t new.

“There’s just requirements pre-transplant in order to be eligible for listing. Some of it is complying with some of the medical measures to see if patients would be eligible,” said Dr. Dima Kabbani, an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta. 

Kabbani added pre-transplant vaccine recommendations are already in place for hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and influenza. 

Manitoba’s Shared Health said there is no requirement for Manitobans awaiting a transplant to be vaccinated for COVID-19, but noted patients may be required to show proof of vaccinationif there are requirements elsewhere.Kidney transplants are performed in the province while all other organ transplants take place in other provinces. 

Jessica Bailey, 35, is living with stage five kidney disease and awaiting a transplant in Saskatoon. 

The government has postponed surgeries as the province deals with a devastating fourth wave of COVID-19.

Bailey said she is not in favour of requiring recipients to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said she is double vaccinated but believes recipients should still have the choice on whether they want the vaccine. 

She does encourage patients who may be on the fence to look at the bigger picture.

“If you can get a transplant just by getting the vaccine, go and do it. Pick and choose your battles,” Bailey said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 15, 2021.

— 

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Health Unit Gearing Up For Flu Shot Program – ckdr.net

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With the colder months not far away, the Northwestern Health Unit is preparing for their annual flu shot program.

“The Northwestern Health Unit will begin to offer the flu vaccine in November and we will inform the public when they can start booking appointments,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young Hoon. “As always the influenza vaccine will also be available at many pharmacies and from other health care providers.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada only reported 79 lab confirmed cases of influenza in 2020 compared to 54-thousand cases just the year before.

The drop is largely attributed to strong public health measures and lockdowns due to COVID-19, but officials say there could be more documented cases this year.

“Influenza vaccination were relatively high last year so we’re working off a similar assumption for this year that they will be high,” says Dr. Young Hoon. “I believe we will have enough vaccine to provide to whoever wants to be vaccinated and we’re prepping to have a relatively high rate this year.”

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U.S. to lift curbs from Nov. 8 for vaccinated foreign travelers – White House

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The White House on Friday said it will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals effective Nov. 8, ending historic restrictions that barred much of the world from the United States.

 Restrictions on non-U.S. citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear metrics for how and when to lift them.

Curbs on non-essential travelers at land borders with Mexico and Canada have been in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reuters first reported Friday’s announcement of the Nov. 8 starting date earlier in the day.

U.S. airline, hotel and cruise industry stocks rose on the news, including American Airlines, up 1.9%; Marriott International Inc, up 2.2%; and Carnival Corp, up 1.3%.

The United States had lagged many other countries in lifting such restrictions, and allies welcomed the move. The U.S. restrictions have barred travelers from most of the world, including tens of thousands of foreign nationals with relatives or business links in the United States.

The White House on Tuesday announced it would lift restrictions at its land borders and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. They are similar but not identical to requirements announced last month for international air travelers.

Unvaccinated visitors will still be barred from entering the United States from Canada or Mexico at land borders.

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Reuters last week the United States will accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.

The White House, which held a meeting late Thursday to finalize the Nov. 8 date, still faces some remaining questions, including how and what exemptions the Biden administration will grant to the vaccine requirements. Children under 18, for example, are largely expected to be exempt from the requirements, an official said.

U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow said in a statement that the Nov. 8 date “is critically important for planning – for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again.”

The White House announced on Sept. 20 that the United States would lift restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries in early November. It did not specify the date at the time.

Starting Nov. 8, the United States will admit fully vaccinated foreign air travelers from the 26 so-called Schengen countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The unprecedented U.S. restrictions have barred non-U.S. citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.

The United States has allowed foreign air travelers from more than 150 countries throughout the pandemic, a policy that critics said made little sense because some countries with high COVID-19 rates were not on the restricted list, while some on the list had the pandemic more under control.

The White House said last month it would apply vaccine requirements to foreign nationals traveling from all other countries.

Non-U.S. air travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, and will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Foreign visitors crossing a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

The new rules do not require foreign visitors or Americans entering the country to go into quarantine.

Americans traveling overseas must still show proof of a recent negative COVID-19, and unvaccinated Americans will face stricter COVID-19 testing requirements. They will also be subject to restrictions in the countries they plan to visit, which may include quarantines.

The CDC plans to soon issue new rules on contact tracing for international air travelers.

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by John Stonestreet, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)

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