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B.C. sets record for number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 – Bowen Island Undercurrent

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The number of British Columbians with serious enough COVID-19-related illnesses to be in hospital has been soaring in tandem with the rise of variants of the virus that are believed to spread more easily. 

There are now a record 96 people in B.C. hospitals’ intensive care units (ICU). That is up by six from April 3, and by 17 from April 1. 

In total, 318 British Columbians are in hospital with ailments related to the virus that has spawned a global pandemic. That is the highest number since January 25.

The rise in serious cases of COVID-19 illness comes as the province recorded 23 more virus-related deaths in the past four days. That raises the death toll from COVID-19 in B.C. to 1,486.

New daily COVID-19 case counts continue to be elevated. 

Health officials detected 890 new cases in the past 24 hours, and 999 cases in the day before that. B.C. set a record by identifying 1,072 new cases on April 1. In total, 104,061 infections have been identified since the first case was discovered in January, 2020. Of those, more than 91.1%, or 94,806 people have recovered. 

The rise in the number of cases and serious infections comes as mutant strains of the virus are exploding, particularly the P.1 strain first discovered in Brazil.

B.C. has now detected 737 people infected with the P.1 variant. That number is more than 94% higher than the 379 people known to have been infected by that strain four days ago. Rumours have swirled that the Vancouver Canucks’ recent outbreak of COVID-19 illnesses is from the P.1 variant. 

Health officials are particularly concerned about the P.1 variant not only because it is believed to transmit more easily than the main COVID-19 strain, but also because there is some evidence that it may be resistant to vaccines. 

Health officials detected 916 additional cases of the so-called “variants of concern” in the past four days. That includes 557 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the U.K., 358 new cases of the P.1 strain, and one case of the B.1.351 strain first detected in South Africa.

So far no one in B.C. is known to have died from an infection with a mutant COVID-19 strain, but 588 people are actively battling infections with the others considered by the province to have recovered. 

The number of daily vaccinations had been at a record high on April 3, with an average of 34,545.5 people per day on April 2 and 3. In the past couple days, however, only 36,772 new people have been vaccinated, or an average of 18,386 people in each of the past two days. Health officials also provided needed second doses to 17 people in the past two days. 

In total, the province has administered 893,590 doses of vaccine to 806,118 people, with 87,472 individuals getting needed second doses. 

Health officials are monitoring 11,989 people for symptoms because they have had known exposure to individuals identified as carrying the virus. That is the highest number since December 11, when 12,008 people were being monitored.  A record 12,016 people were being monitored for symptoms on November 13. 

The rise in the number of variant cases, serious infections and overall spread of COVID-19 prompted provincial health officer Bonnie Henry on March 29 to launch what she called a “circuit breaker,” by enacting new health orders, such as banning in-restaurant dining. 

Since then, proprietors at restaurants, such as Gusto, and Corduroy, flouted those health orders and allowed customers to eat meals or snacks inside. This prompted a stern rebuke last night from the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“The BCRFA urges the immediate closure, fining and business license revocation of any business who elects to defy health orders,” the association said in a statement. 

Today, the City of Vancouver followed up with the scofflaws by suspending their business licenses until at least April 20. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a mid-afternoon interview that the remarkable thing is really the adherence by restaurants to the health orders. 

“The real thing that we should all be appreciative of, and recognize, is all of the other restaurants, which are in the thousands, in the tens of thousands, perhaps, across B.C., who are following the rules,” Dix said. “We need to support them – those that are providing takeout – by getting takeout, if we can, and recognizing the impact on them. The way bigger story, it seems to me, is the 99.8% or 99% of restaurants that are following the rules.”

There remain three outbreaks active at B.C. seniors’ homes. They are:
• Fleetwood Place in Surrey;
• Longlake Chateau in Nanaimo; and
• Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna.

The nine hospitals in B.C. with active outbreaks are:
• Abbotsford Regional Hospital in Abbotsford;
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody;
• Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna;
• Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge;
• Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in Prince Rupert;
• UBC Hospital in Vancouver;
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver; and 
• Vernon Jubilee Hospital in Vernon.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom

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Canada will not restrict AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, says benefits outweigh risk

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada‘s health ministry said on Wednesday it would not restrict use of AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine after a review showed the benefits outweighed the very rare risk of blood clots.

A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. The panel is now reviewing that advice, the health ministry said in a statement.

Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to stop using the vaccine altogether over a potential link to the rare blood clots. Other nations have imposed limits on its use.

But Health Canada, the federal health ministry, said in a statement that a review of data from Europe, Britain and AstraZeneca had not identified specific risk factors.

“Therefore, Health Canada is not restricting the use of the vaccine in any specific populations at this time … The potential risk of these events is very rare, and the benefits of the vaccine in protecting against COVID-19 outweigh its potential risks,” it said.

Canada on Tuesday said it had recorded its first case of blood clotting with low platelets after someone received the AstraZeneca shot. The patient in question, a woman from Quebec, is recovering. (Graphic on vaccines: https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta)

COVID-19 cases are surging in Canada with the country reporting a near-record number of new cases recently. (Graphic on cases: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Factbox-Some countries limit AstraZeneca vaccine use, US pauses J&J shot

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(Reuters) -Some countries are restricting use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to certain age groups or suspending use after European and British regulators confirmed possible links to rare blood clots.

Denmark became the first country to stop using the vaccine altogether, as it said results of investigations showed “real and serious side-effects”.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine has also been hit by concerns over blood clots, with European regulators reviewing such cases and U.S. federal health agencies recommending pausing its use for a few days. J&J noted no clear causal relationship had been established between the clots and its vaccine.

The developments pose a risk to vaccination plans in Europe.

Regulators have said the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh risks.

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca said it was working with regulators to list the possible brain blood clots as “an extremely rare potential side effect” on the vaccines labels.

As of April 4, the European Medicines Agency had received reports of 169 cases of a rare brain blood clot known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), after 34 million doses had been administered in the European Economic Area. Most cases were in women under 60 years of age.

ASTRAZENECA VACCINE BEING USED, WITH OR WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS

AUSTRALIA

Said on April 8 it recommends people under 50 should get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in preference to AstraZeneca’s shot.

AUSTRIA

Has resumed use.

BRAZIL

Authorities said they would not limit use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying benefits outweigh risks.

BRITAIN

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said an alternative to the vaccine should be given for people under 30 where possible, but people should continue to have a second shot if they have received a first dose.

BULGARIA

Resumed inoculations from March 19.

CYPRUS

Resumed inoculations on March 19.

CANADA

Authorities said in early April they would pause offering the vaccine to people under 55 and require a new analysis of the shot’s benefits and risks based on age and gender. On April 13, the country said it had recorded its first case of blood clotting with low platelets.

ESTONIA

Suspended use of the vaccine for people under 60 on April 7.

FRANCE

Approved resumption of the vaccine on March 19 but said it should be given only to people aged 55 and over. On April 9, recommended that recipients of a first dose of the AstraZeneca shot who are under 55 should receive a second dose with a messenger RNA vaccine.

FINLAND

Resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine from March 29, but only for people aged 65 and over.

GEORGIA

Has limited use of the vaccine following the death of a nurse from anaphylactic shock, and vaccinations will continue only in full-fledged medical centres, Russian news agency TASS reported on March 19.

GERMANY

Sticking to its guidance from March 31 to limit use of the vaccine to those aged over 60. On April 1, Germany’s vaccine commission recommended people under 60 who have had a first shot of the vaccine should receive a different product for their second dose.

HUNGARY

Continuing the vaccine’s rollout.

ICELAND

Resumed use on March 25 after suspending it on March 11.

INDONESIA

Resumed using the vaccine on March 22 but warned against its use in people with a low blood platelet count.

IRELAND

On April 12, the country said it was restricting use of the vaccine to those over 60.

ITALY

Has recommended the vaccine be used only for people over 60, the country’s top health adviser said.

LATVIA

Announced it was restarting administering the shots from March 19.

LITHUANIA

Restarted use on March 19.

MEXICO

Drug regulator Cofepris said on April 7 it did not “at this time” plan to limit the vaccine’s use but was investigating the information raised by Britain.

NETHERLANDS

Limited use of the vaccine to people over 60, the Dutch government said on April 8.

NORTH MACEDONIA

Health minister said on March 31 the vaccine would be limited to people aged over 60 as a precautionary measure.

PHILIPPINES

Suspended use of the vaccine for people under 60 on April 8.

ROMANIA

Has resumed use of the vaccine after temporarily stopping vaccinating people with one batch of the vaccine on March 11.

SOUTH KOREA

Resumed use of the shot for people aged 30 or older on April 12. On April 7, it had suspended providing the AstraZeneca shot to people under 60.

SPAIN

From April 8, it was giving the vaccine only to people over 60.

SWEDEN

Resumed use of the vaccine on March 25 for people aged 65 and older.

THAILAND

Began use on March 15 after delaying rollout the week before.

COUNTRIES WHERE ASTRAZENECA VACCINE USE SUSPENDED

CAMEROON

Suspended administration of the vaccine it was scheduled to receive on March 20 as part of the global vaccines sharing scheme COVAX, the health ministry said.

DENMARK

In a world first, Denmark decided to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether after initially suspending use of the shot.

NORWAY

Authorities said on March 26 Norway would delay a decision on use of the vaccine, with a decision expected by April 15.

J&J VACCINE DELAYS AND RESTRICTIONS

UNITED STATES

On April 13, U.S. federal health agencies recommended pausing use of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine for at least a few days after six women under the age of 50 developed rare blood clots after receiving the shot.

EUROPEAN UNION

The company said it would delay the rollout of the vaccine to Europe, after regulators said they were reviewing rare blood clots.

Widespread use in the EU had not yet started after the company began delivering the doses in the week beginning April 12. The European drug regulator recommended storing doses already received until its safety committee issues an expedited recommendation

SOUTH AFRICA

Suspended use of J&J’s vaccine on April 13.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka, Yadarisa Shabong, Manas Mishra, Vishwadha Chander, Amruta Khandekar and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; editing by Josephine Mason, Alison Williams, Timothy Heritage, Larry King, Barbara Lewis)

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Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

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By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

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