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COVID-19: B.C. brings in new mask enforcement policy as cases spike – Peace River Record Gazette

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Masks are required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older, in most indoor places

Update: On Nov. 25, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province had reported incorrect COVID-19 case totals from Nov. 17 to 24 due to “data transfer errors” within the Fraser Health Region.

After reviewing the data, the province now says the total number of new cases from Monday to Tuesday was actually 695 and not 941, the number originally reported by Henry.


Original story: British Columbia set a single-day high of 941 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and recorded 10 additional deaths from the respiratory disease.

According to the B.C. Centre of Disease Control, the vast majority of the new cases are in the Fraser Health region which reported 678 cases between noon Monday and noon Tuesday, while a further 174 were recorded in Vancouver Coastal Health.

The provincial total of those who have tested positive now stands at 28,348, with 7,732 active cases.

The dramatic jump in cases comes less than a week after the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, tightened restrictions on social gatherings and introduced a mandatory mask policy for indoor public settings.

On Tuesday, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth introduced new enforcement measures within the Emergency Program Act that will give law enforcement officers the power to issue $230 fines to anyone not wearing a mask in an indoor public place.

“This new order … will ensure we have the tools necessary to enforce the mask mandate as recommended by (Henry),” said Farnworth, who also further extended the provincial state of emergency until Dec. 8.

Masks are required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older, in most indoor places including malls, drug stores, restaurants (except when seated and eating), public facilities and post-secondary institutions. The province says masks are encouraged for younger children, age two to 12, in public settings but they are not mandatory.

There are also medical exemptions for people unable to wear a mask due to psychological, behavioural or health conditions or physical, cognitive or mental impairments. Those incapable of putting on or removing a mask are also exempt.

The mask order also does not extend to schools which is something that the B.C. Teachers Federation continues to demand.

BCTF president Terry Mooring asked parents in an open letter on Tuesday to encourage their children to wear masks in school.

“By talking to your children about wearing their masks in school, you can help us create that respectful culture of mask wearing,” said Mooring, who conceded that there are some staff and students who, for various reasons, can’t wear masks and some learning situations where masks are inappropriate.

Henry said Monday that students are in schools with a group of people they see day-to-day, unlike businesses where people interact with others they don’t know, necessitating wearing a mask. She did say she supports mask wearing in common areas and by adults at schools.

B.C. health officials say there are currently 10,283 people who are under public health monitoring as a result of exposure to known cases. A further 19,605 people who tested positive have recovered.

A total of 358 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began, while 284 people are currently being treated in hospital, including 61 who are in critical care.

The province announced two new health care facility outbreaks at Valley Haven Care Home in Chilliwack and Little Mountain Place care home in Vancouver, while outbreaks at Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge in Richmond and Agassiz Seniors Community have been declared over.

Fraser Health said Tuesday that 55 patients and 40 staff members have tested positive at Burnaby Hospital where a COVID-19 outbreak was first declared on Nov. 9. There have been five patient deaths linked to the outbreak.

“All patients, staff, support staff and medical staff are tested for COVID-19. As a precaution, the hospital is not accepting new admissions at this time, with the exception of the intensive care unit (ICU), maternity, and community palliative care,” Fraser Health said.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health has issued a COVID-19 exposure alert for a popular downtown Vancouver pub. The health agency says anyone who visited The Morrissey at 1227 Granville Street on either Nov. 12 or 13, between 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on both days, may have been exposed to the virus and should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms.

With a file from The Canadian Press

sbrown@postmedia.com

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Provinces set back COVID-19 vaccinations as deliveries grind to halt – Campbell River Mirror

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Some provinces were forced to push back vaccination for health-care workers and vulnerable seniors on Monday as deliveries from a major manufacturer ground to a temporary halt.

Canada is not due to receive any Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week as the company revamps its operations, and deliveries are expected to be slow for the next few weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stressed that the delay is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March.

As Parliament resumed Monday, Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.

Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots.

Trudeau added that the country is still receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine.

READ MORE: B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.

“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.

Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations.

Ontario reported fewer than 2,000 cases, as well as fewer people in hospital. It was a similar story in Quebec, where hospitalizations dropped for a sixth straight day.

Newfoundland and Labrador also reported no new cases of COVID-19 for a third straight day.

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Canadian provinces push back vaccination plans as Pfizer deliveries grind to a halt – Red Deer Advocate

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Some provinces were forced to push back vaccination for health-care workers and vulnerable seniors on Monday as deliveries from a major manufacturer ground to a temporary halt.

Canada is not due to receive any Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week as the company revamps its operations, and deliveries are expected to be slow for the next few weeks.

Ontario announced Monday that it was pausing COVID-19 vaccinations of long-term care staff and essential caregivers so that it can focus on giving the shots to all nursing home residents.

Premier Doug Ford said the delay has taught the province that it can’t take vaccine shipments for granted.

“I want to be clear: we’re using every single vaccine we can to protect our most vulnerable,” Ford told a news conference. “But delivery delays are forcing us to be careful and cautious as we plan, to ensure we’re able to offer second doses.”

The news came as more cases of the more contagious U.K. variant of COVID-19 were detected across Ontario, including in at least one long-term care home.

Some provinces have used up nearly all their vaccine supply and have been forced to push back their vaccination schedules.

Saskatchewan announced Sunday that it had exhausted all the doses it received. However, even after technically running out, the province still managed to vaccinate another 304 people as it continued to draw extra doses from the vials it received. It had administered 102 per cent of its allotted doses by Monday, and it expected the remaining excess doses to be gone this week.

Quebec has used up more than 90 per cent of its supply. It confirmed that the delivery delay would force it to postpone its vaccination rollout in private seniors’ residences, which had been scheduled to start Monday.

“Let’s be realistic: our vaccination momentum will be reduced as of this week,” Marjaurie Cote-Boileau, press secretary to Health Minister Christian Dube, said in a text message.

“Given the important reduction of Pfizer doses we’ll receive in the next two weeks, we have had to review our vaccination calendar.”

Quebec finished giving first doses to long-term care residents last week and has vaccinated some 9,000 seniors in private homes by using leftover doses. The province gave less than 2,000 shots Sunday, compared to an average of more than 9,600 a day over the previous week.

In British Columbia, the provincial health officer said the government is extending the interval between the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Bonnie Henry said further delays in the production and delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks caused the time period between the shots to be extended from 35 days to 42.

She said about about 60 per cent of more than 119,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in the province so far have gone to protecting residents of long-term care homes.

The Manitoba government also said it may soon have to put off some second-dose vaccine appointments as a result of the disruptions to the supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stressed that the delay is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March.

As Parliament resumed Monday, Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.

Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots.

Trudeau added that the country is still receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine.

Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.

“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.

Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations. Ontario reported fewer than 2,000 cases, as well as fewer people in hospital. It was a similar story in Quebec, where hospitalizations dropped for a sixth straight day.

Newfoundland and Labrador also reported no new cases of COVID-19 for a third straight day.

Alberta reported only 362 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, compared with daily numbers peaking as high as 1,800 in mid-December. But the big concern for health officials was a case of the U.K. variant that could not be directly traced to international travel.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that while it is one case, the variant could quickly overwhelm hospitals if not checked.

“There’s no question that this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink,” Shandro told a news conference. “It would significantly impact the health care and the services available to all Albertans.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.

— With files from Shawn Jeffords, Jordan Press, Dean Bennett and Stephanie Levitz.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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B.C. could relax restrictions this summer if COVID cases curtailed: Dr. Henry – cheknews.ca

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British Columbians may be able to remove their masks and rejoin family and friends for outings this spring and summer if they can hold the line on COVID-19 cases until then, says Dr. Bonnie Henry.

In an interview with CHEK News on Monday, Henry said she’s hopeful that if people rally to lower B.C.’s daily case count, and the province does not see a large-scale outbreak of the U.K. or South African variant of the virus, that we can enjoy a summer with more freedoms than we saw last year.

“Once we get enough vaccine into people, we’re going to see a dramatic drop-off in the virus,” said Henry. “We also know it doesn’t seem to spread as easily in the spring and summer months. So we’ve got a lot of things on our side.

“If we can just get through this next few months and get to that place, we’ll be able to do a lot more this summer than we ever did last summer. And we’ll be able to get to that point where we can get back to not wearing masks again, where we can get back to being together in that way we all so want to.

“But we have to have that patience and resilience and determination to get us through these new few weeks.”

Not having to wear masks in certain situations is a possibility, she said.

“I absolutely think by summer we’re going to be in a very different situation. As long as we can hold our line right now. Because if we start to see things take off again it’s going to be that much longer before we can ease back on things again.”

But the path to get to the summer won’t be easy.

Henry on Monday called on British Columbians to buckle down, follow restrictions and try to reduce B.C.’s daily new COVID-19 case counts from current levels. She said the province is a critical point, especially with delays in vaccine supply from the federal government disrupting the planned vaccination schedule for long-term care homes. She also on Monday pushed back the length of time to get a second dose of vaccine to 42 days.

Of particular concern is the threat of variant versions of COVID-19, which are more contagious and easily transmissible. Vancouver Island saw three cases of the U.K. variant this month, but they were contained before spreading, said Henry.

“Probably a little more concerning is we’ve had three of what we call the South African variant, which is slightly different but also worrisome about it being more easily transmitted between people,” said Henry.

“And all three of these have been in the Lower Mainland but none of them we can find a travel connection. So that is concerning . . . we still haven’t figured out where these people got the virus.”

Vancouver Island has seen its daily new case count trend upwards in recent weeks, centered around the mid-Island. On Monday, there were 73 new cases announced.

“We have seen an uptick on the Island, but also across the province and it does reflect increased transmission in the community, people who have travelled and come back to Vancouver Island,” she said.

“Where we’re most concerned is central Island where we’ve had quite a bit of transmission, in Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Duncan. So absolutely the focus is on that area and trying to get it under control.”

She urged those residents to maintain their distance, cut down on interactions with others, washing their hands and going back to the fundamentals.

Henry also said she hopes some of our societal changes made during the pandemic might become permanent in the future.

The use of social restrictions and masks have reduced B.C.’s regular influenza spread – which often kills numerous seniors annually – to almost nothing this year. Hospitals, which are usually overflowing due to the flu at this time of year, have yet to reach max capacity.

Henry said the basics we have gotten used to in order to prevent COVID-19 would have a large benefit on our society if some of them continued. She cited diligent hand-washing, not attending work or school if sick, and covering your mouth when you cough as major societal changes she hopes are permanent.

But Henry wouldn’t go as far as saying distances in lineups, plexiglass at restaurants and mandatory masks in public should stay – noting people need a return to normalcy to feel part of a community.

“I think there’s a balancing here,” she said.

“I think about the times we have those social interactions in a restaurant with friends and music and that feeling of connectedness of community. We don’t want to lose those things. And having those barriers are hard. But those thoughts of making it okay not to go if we are not feeling well, making it okay to stay away if we’re feeling the least bit unwell, making it okay to wear a mask if we are not sure. I think we want to keep some of these things.”

Watch the full interview with Henry in the video below

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