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Christmas in B.C. under COVID-19 will be different, but Santa ‘probably has immunity’ – Global News



It’s no surprise that many people across B.C. are now turning their attention to Christmas and the questions surrounding Christmas during a COVID-19 pandemic.

Can families get together to celebrate Christmas?

Can kids have photos with Santa’s helpers at the mall or at an event?

B.C. health officials say while Christmas will look different this year, some details are yet to be determined.

“There’s not going to be a vaccine here that’s going to save the day by Christmas,” B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

With parts of B.C. under strict new measures until Nov. 23, Henry said it will depend on how much spread of the virus officials are still seeing as we end November and head into December.

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“We can find ways to celebrate, to have family come together in a way that’s safe for everybody,” she added.

When it comes to Santa however, Henry is sure he “probably has immunity” from the coronavirus.

“We’ll look at how we can facilitate him. I think he’ll be washing his hands a lot and he probably won’t be eating cookies and milk in every house this year, but we’ll find ways of making it work.”

It has not yet been announced if Santa’s helpers in malls across B.C. will be able to go ahead and visit with children.

Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd. announced Friday that it is cancelling in-person Santa Claus visits across Canada, which does affect the Pacific Centre Mall in Vancouver and Richmond Centre Mall.

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Some malls have announced they are holding in-person visits with Santa — with safety protocols in place.

Coronavirus: Trudeau says what’s done now will determine Christmas get-togethers

Coronavirus: Trudeau says what’s done now will determine Christmas get-togethers

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said action needs to be taken immediately to preserve any chance Canadians will be able to gather over the holidays, “even in a restrained way.”

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Trudeau told Global News that, as he said in September, “we still have a shot at Christmas.” However, time is running out.

“It depends on what people do right now. We’re seeing those numbers spike in the wrong direction and if people act now, we can stop that,” he said on The Morning Show with Devon Peacock on Global News Radio 980 CFPL in London, Ont.

Read more:
Trudeau says holiday gatherings are on the line unless people act now

Back in B.C., Health Minister Adrian Dix said what they do know about the upcoming holidays is there won’t be any indoor parties in common rooms or buildings to celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year’s.

“So, every single person, I’m asking every single person to reflect on ways that we can make this the best Diwali, the best Christmas, the best New Year’s, the best Hanukkah, the best whichever day is of significance to you, without coming together in the ways we have before, but appreciating what these events can mean to us in our lives,” Dix said.

Fraser Health is asking everyone to celebrate any milestones at home and only with the members of their immediate household, including outdoor gatherings.

They are encouraging everyone to wear a mask when shopping and to stay home if they are feeling unwell.

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Click to play video 'B.C. sets another one-day record for new COVID-19 cases'

B.C. sets another one-day record for new COVID-19 cases

B.C. sets another one-day record for new COVID-19 cases

More British Columbians are now hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any time in the pandemic so far.

At her Thursday briefing, Henry said 155 people were in hospital with the virus. The previous record of 149 was recorded in the first week of April.

The province added 1,130 cases over two days, 536 on Wednesday and 594 on Thursday — the latter also an all-time record.

According to the latest modelling numbers, the province could see more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19  every day over the next two weeks if people don’t cut down on contacts now.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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SHA activating COVID-19 surge plan – Prince Albert Daily Herald



Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone. (Brandon Harder/Regina Leader-Post)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced plans on Thursday to slow down specific services in order to respond to a surge in COVID-19 patients.

There are currently 128 people in hospital. 104 people are receiving inpatient care and 24 people are intensive care in hospitals across the province.

Services that will be slowed down include some primary health care services, elective surgeries in urban centres, endoscopy/cystoscopy procedures, women and children’s programming, diagnostics, therapies, ambulatory care, registrations resources, environmental and food and nutrition services, rehab services, and home care services.

These services will still be available just at reduced volumes or levels.

There are also limited exceptions where services will be temporarily paused in highly localized programs such as dental programs, therapeutic and rehabilitation programs and active living programs.

Derek Miller, executive director of infrastructure management at the SHA said decisions were not made lightly about what services could be slowed down.

“We asked our frontline clinical leaders and operational leaders to review each service line and assess it with a lens of what is the impact on patient care by reducing and slowing down that service and also what are the resources that become available by doing that in terms of numbers and also skill set,” Miller explained.

He added this is how the SHA identified what services could be slowed down with minimal impact on patient care.

“This is not a broad reduction of services like what was undertaken in the spring slowdown but rather much more finely tuned adjustments in multiple areas that allow us to achieve the capacity and resources that we need.”

The slowdown in services will result in the redeployment of 588 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions across the province. This number includes 175 registered nurses, 74 licensed practical nurses, and 15 continuing care assistants.

The SHA is also obtaining additional resources through supplementary workforces provided by provincial government staff, federal government staff, and Statistics Canada staff.

The nearly 600 FTE staff will be redeployed to contact tracing and hospitals to address a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

As to where those staff will be deployed, Miller explained that if a hospital unit is converted to a COVID unit, the staff would continue to work in that unit as COVID support staff. Some new spaces are also being created in hospitals where beds didn’t exist before and will need to be staffed.

“They’re being matched based on their skill sets and what training they have as to where we can best deploy them as part of the response,” Miller said.

The need to slow down services and redeploy staff is due to a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations and overall capacity.

In the last month there has been a 400 per cent increase in the hospitalizations, and 31 per cent of ICU capacity is being used for COVID-19 patients.

Considering the potential lab confirmed cases in the current timeline, Miller says we could see over 500 cases a day. Hospital census and ICU census will continue to rise over the next week as well.

“We are moving forward to immediately create capacity and resources that allow us to meet the demand,” Miller said.

The SHA is planning for up to 250 COVID patients in hospitals within the next two week period. This represents a capacity equivalent to the Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current and the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, combined.

They are also planning for 64 potential COVID patients in the ICU, which is equivalent to about 28 per cent more ICU bed capacity that currently exists in Saskatoon and Regina combined.

The SHA will be meeting this demand by creating additional spaces in hospitals to care for ventilated patients and surging resources like staff and physicians to care for patients.

Miller explained that capacity needs to be a step ahead of current demands.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where we’re riding the demand curve and where we’re at risk of quickly becoming overwhelmed by COVID demand,” he said.

When asked why the slowdowns are only occurring now even though cases and hospitalizations have gone up over the last two weeks, SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said existing resources have been used to deal with contact tracing.

Livingstone added that during the pandemic, and particularly in the summer, the SHA added 627 FTE to support COVID response.

“You’ve seen our testing capacity expand, you’ve seen our contact tracing expand, but we are pushing our teams to the limit,” Livingstone said on Thursday.

“We need to act now to not only strengthen their response both on the offensive and defensive strategy, but to build a labour pool that gives us more flexibility to deal with outbreaks that we can’t predict in long-term care facilities and hospitals where we’re required to immediately replace staff, because the only other option is to reduce services immediately if we can’t replace them.”

Livingstone also addressed the rising case numbers in northern Indigenous communities in Thursday’s press conference.

He said the SHA has been working with the federal government and First Nations leadership since the beginning of the pandemic to determine what supports they need.

Livingstone said a liaison was added to First Nations and Métis communities in the beginning of the pandemic to identify their needs and the SHA responds the best they can.

SHA officials were also asked how testing was going, particularly how busy it is and how people without transportation are accessing test centres.

Livingstone said the SHA is continuing to expand testing with drive-thrus in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert. They are looking at expanding hours, particularly in Saskatoon and Regina, putting more staff in place, and adding second drive-thru testing locations in both cities because of popularity.

“In the most extreme examples of the things that we’ve done to bring testing to people, in La Loche and in other communities, with communal living settings in the summer, we went door-to-door with testing to try to get as many people tested as we could.”

SHA official also said that they have plans in place to open field hospitals if required.

“I’ll just confirm at this point in time we are not in the process of opening the field hospitals, but we are preparing teams,” Livingstone said.

He added that as hospitalizations and specifically ICU numbers go up, the SHA will continue to use a stepwise approach and forecasting models in determining when to escalate services, including opening field hospitals.

Miller added that over the past few weeks the SHA has worked to reduce the amount of time it would take to activate field hospitals by ensuring equipment and oxygen systems are set up.

“We’re as close as we possibly can without actually pulling the trigger on activation,” Miller said.

The type of patient that would be admitted into the field hospital would be individuals who require care but not necessarily at the level received in acute care, Miller said.

Livingstone started his remarks on Thursday by asking the public to reach out to health care workers they know and thank them for the work they do every day.

SHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said the biggest emotion she and her co-workers are feeling now is concern.


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COVID-19 vaccine for B.C. expected to roll out in 1st week of January, provincial health officer says –



If everything goes according to plan, everyone in B.C. who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will be immunized by next September, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

The provincial health officer explained that a more detailed plan for vaccine rollout will be available early next week, but the first shots should be available early in the new year.

“We’re going to make sure we are absolutely ready by then,” Henry said. “We are planning to be able to put vaccine into arms in the first week of January.”

She expects that two vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna will begin arriving in B.C. early in the new year but only about six million doses will be available across Canada.

“That’s not enough for everybody,” Henry said.

The first priority will likely be to immunize the most vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care homes, as well as health-care workers.

Two other vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Janssen are anticipated in the second quarter of 2021.

“By the time we get into April of 2021, we’re expecting increased numbers of all the vaccines to be available and that’s when we can start offering it to more people across British Columbia,” Henry said.

It won’t be possible to reach everyone at once, so there will have to be a strategy for sequencing who receives it.

“As long as the vaccine continues to come in, as long as the safety and the effectiveness is good … we hope to have everybody done by September of next year,” Henry said.

She has repeatedly said the vaccine will not be mandatory.

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Dr. Henry explains why she banned both indoor and outdoor team sports | Offside – Daily Hive



A day after hinting that new restrictions would be coming for indoor team sports for adults, today the province announced that both indoor and outdoor team sports are now suspended for adults in BC.

While outdoor activities are typically safer than those happening indoors, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry clarified why sweeping restrictions have been put in place.

“What we have found… is that a number of these adult team sports are really very much social gatherings, as well as sport,” said Dr. Henry. “And unfortunately, those types of gatherings are leading to transmission events that are happening.”

It seems that the problem with beer league hockey is the beer, more than the hockey.

“It’s the locker room. It’s the before, it’s the after,” she said. “It’s the going for a coffee or a beer after a game that has been the most source of transmission. Sometimes it’s very difficult, because much of that is built into the culture of many of the adult team sports.”

Henry told a “cautionary tale” about a hockey team from the interior of BC that travelled to Alberta and brought COVID-19 back to their community, infecting “dozens” of people, including family members and coworkers.

“I mentioned hockey yesterday. We’ve seen transmission events in curling, we’ve seen it with a number of adult team sports. Now’s our time, we need to step back from those, take that temptation, unfortunately, away, and make sure that we’re not giving those opportunities for the virus to take hold, and travel between the different communities as we have seen happen in the last few weeks, unfortunately.

“It was the advice of the team from around the province that this was an important thing that we felt we needed to do now. So that is an additional restriction.”

Dr. Henry said that supervised sports for children have not been the source for the same type of risk and transmission. That’s why kids sports have been allowed to continue for individual drills and training, while maintaining physical distance. But games, tournaments, and competitions have been temporarily suspended for youth sports.

“We recognize, of course, the importance for young people of having these opportunities to participate in sport, and how important it is,” said Dr. Henry, who added that she recognizes that sports are important for adults also.

Dr. Henry said that in the past few weeks and months, about 10-15% of cases have been related to physical and sport activities.

“That’s an underestimate,” she cautioned. “Those are [just] the ones that we know that we have linked.”

Among those cases, “very intense transmission” has been seen in things like spin classes, high-intensity interval training, and hot yoga. Post-game beverages haven’t been the main issue for these activities, but rather heavy breathing and poor ventilation has.

“These are areas where you have groups of people that are close together, very high breathing, high intensity, or lack of ventilation,” she said.

So what can we do to stay active?

Henry mentioned online classes from your local gym as an option. She also encouraged adults to stay active by going for a run or a walk, or playing sports like tennis, golf, and swimming.

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