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B.C.’s top doctor hints at gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions in coming weeks – Global News

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B.C.’s top doctor says the province may be easing COVID-19 restrictions in the weeks ahead, but that some measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus will be around for some time.

In a press briefing held Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said as more people are immunized and the weather gets warmer, her team is looking at how to “safely ease restrictions” designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Henry said any changes to COVID-19 rules would be gradual, akin to “slowly turning up the dial rather than flipping a switch.”


Click to play video 'Seniors over 80 can book vaccines in some B.C. communities this week'



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Seniors over 80 can book vaccines in some B.C. communities this week


Seniors over 80 can book vaccines in some B.C. communities this week

“We’re not going to rush to get things open, but we will take a thoughtful, careful and phased approach over the next few weeks,” Henry said.

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Henry noted measures such as social distancing, and wearing masks will remain important. She also reiterated that “outside is better than inside” as the virus is less transmissible outdoors.

Read more:
B.C. reports 1,462 new COVID-19 cases over three days, 11 deaths

Henry raised the prospect of a return to “activities outside that we can do in groups with precautions in place, small groups that we can do for games and summer camps or spring camps, and safe, small groups with masks and safety precautions in place.”


Click to play video 'Outreach efforts look to overcome language and cultural barriers as B.C. begins mass vaccinations'



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Outreach efforts look to overcome language and cultural barriers as B.C. begins mass vaccinations


Outreach efforts look to overcome language and cultural barriers as B.C. begins mass vaccinations

“As well, we’ll be looking at how we can travel and explore during March break, as a family or a small group together with our household, exploring our own region.”

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She also said there have been discussions with community faith leaders about a gradual return to in-person services.

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Read more:
No masks, no distancing: U.S. CDC says fully vaccinated people can gather indoors

The US CDC released guidelines that said fully-vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.

Henry said the CDC guidelines looked “fairly reasonable” and something similar could be implemented in B.C. at some point in the future.

Read more:
No masks, no distancing: U.S. CDC says fully vaccinated people can gather indoors

“Right now, we’re not at that point where we have enough of the people who are at risk immunized that we can have overall guidance,” she said.

“But I think that’s a very good example of what we can look forward to as more people are protected, particularly more of our seniors and elders, in the coming months.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix urged caution, noting that about 15 per cent of B.C.’s eligible residents are expected to be immunized by the end of the month, which is “nothing like herd immunity.”

Read more:
Alberta opens rest of Step 2 relaunch as 278 new COVID-19 cases confirmed

“The future is bright, but we can’t live the future right now. We’ve got to live the now right now.”

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On Monday, Alberta lifted more COVID-19 public health restrictions, including allowing more people to shop in retail stores and malls.

— With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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FDA vote expected on Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster shots – CNN

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13 more die of COVID-19 in B.C. as 667 new cases confirmed – CBC.ca

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British Columbia announced 667 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths on Friday, the most deaths in one day since Feb. 3.

In a written statement, the provincial government said there are currently 5,128 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A total of 367 people are in hospital, with 152 in intensive care.

Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by 1.9 per cent from last Friday, when 360 people were in hospital with the disease and about 27 per cent from a month ago when 288 people were in hospital.

The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 11 per cent from 137 a week ago and by the same percentage from a month ago when 137 people were also in the ICU.

The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,055 lives lost out of 196,433 confirmed cases to date.

As of Friday, 89 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83 per cent a second dose.

So far, eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 3.8 million second doses.

There are a total of 19 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term and acute care. There has been one new outbreak at GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel. The outbreak at Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre has been declared over.

The acute care hospitals currently affected by COVID outbreaks are Mission Memorial Hospital, University Hospital of Northern B.C., GR Baker Memorial Hospital, and Tofino General Hospital. 

More than 90 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and three people have died as a result of an outbreak at a care home in Burnaby, and officials say the death toll is expected to grow. 

The majority of cases at the Willingdon Care Centre are among residents, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday he expects the number of deaths will rise to 10 over the next several days due to a delay in data reporting.

New northern restrictions

More restrictions for the northern part of the province came into effect Thursday at midnight and will last until at least Nov. 19 in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

Restrictions in the region now include limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to fully vaccinated people only, capping the number of people who can gather in any setting, moving worship services online, cutting off alcohol sales earlier at night and mandating masks and safety plans at organized events.

Health officials are strongly recommending people stay in their community unless it is essential for work or medical reasons. 

Restrictions are also in place in the Interior Health region and communities in the eastern Fraser Valley.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry continues to reiterate the importance of immunization to reduce the risk of illness and death due to COVID-19.

From Oct. 7 to 13, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 68.3 per cent of cases and from Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, they accounted for 76.3 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province. 

Anyone who has not yet received a shot is encouraged to do so immediately. Appointments can be made online through the Get Vaccinated portal, by calling 1-833-838-2323, or in-person at any Service B.C. location. 

People can also be immunized at walk-in clinics throughout the province.

B.C. health officials are awaiting a federal review of COVID-19 vaccines for five- to 11-year-olds and are encouraging families to register their children now as they anticipate doses being available for this group by early November.

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U.S. border town welcomes back fully vaccinated B.C. visitors, but travel hurdles remain – CBC.ca

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Businesses in northern Washington state are welcoming back Canadian customers once the United States reopens its land borders, but a B.C. mayor says travellers may face hurdles.

The U.S. is allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada to enter the United States by air, land and ferry for non-essential travel starting Nov. 8.

Those entering the U.S. at a land border will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent. Land travellers do not need to show a negative COVID-19 test, a requirement for air travellers. 

Karen Frisbie, Chamber of Commerce president in Oroville, Wash. — a town of more than 19,000 residents bordering Osoyoos in B.C.’s South Okanagan — says her community has been quiet without Canadians travelling south to shop during the pandemic.

“We definitely miss our Canadian neighbours and look forward to having them back,” Frisbie said Friday to host Chris Walker on CBC’s Daybreak South.

Many border towns in Washington state struggled due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing Canadians from travelling across the border. The city of Blaine, for instance, said last August their finances were hit hard after several months without Canadian visitors.

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff says she can feel the happiness of Canadians who know they’ll be able to visit Oroville.

“A lot of the people in Osoyoos love to go to Oroville — they have their special places [and] restaurants [in Oroville], and they love to go down there for American milk and cheese and beer, and gas sometimes,” McKortoff said on Daybreak South.

But the mayor also strikes a cautious note.

“You still need a PCR test to come back to Canada,” she said, referring to a type of molecular testing. Molecular COVID-19 tests involve methods such a nose swab, or providing a saliva sample.

“You’re not going to go down there for a day, and [you] have to worry about having a PCR test in order to get back through the border.”

Canada still requires arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their entry to Canada, regardless of their point of entry — but labs could take more than 72 hours to issue a test result.

“We need to wait until all of those things have been solved a little bit better before people will even take the chance to go across,” McKortoff said.

LISTEN |  Karen Frisbie and Sue McKortoff share their hopes and concerns about U.S. border reopening to Canadians:

Daybreak South5:24What will opening the U.S. border to Canadians mean to border communities? We go to Oroville, Washington and Osoyoos to hear more about the impacts on those cities.

What will opening the U.S. border to Canadians mean to border communities? We go to Oroville, Washington and Osoyoos to hear more about the impacts on those cities. 5:24

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