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COVID-19 curve bending down in B.C. after mid-November peak: top doctor – PrinceGeorgeMatters.com

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VICTORIA — COVID-19 cases in British Columbia are levelling off after peaking in mid-November, though the province’s top doctor warns now is not the time to relax public health rules.

The majority of cases are being traced to known infections and outbreaks, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday. 

However, keeping up with contact tracing is still a challenge, particularly in the hard-hit Fraser Health region, she said.

The Northern Health authority has also been stretched in recent weeks, said Henry, who is issuing a new public health order requiring a slower, phased startup for industrial work camps in the new year.

The nature of the camps means employees frequently travel to and from the sites and there’s usually an influx of workers in January, elevating the risk of illness spreading to nearby communities, she said.

When presenting the latest modelling data, Henry showed the reproductive number for the illness has dipped slightly below one, meaning on average, someone who’s infected may not transmit COVID-19 to anyone.

She said that shows ongoing public health rules are working, though she urged people to stick to their own households over the holidays as hundreds of people are still testing positive for COVID-19 every day.

Henry points to the week of Dec. 15 to 21 as one of the most challenging throughout the pandemic, as 109 people died after contracting the illness.

B.C. recorded 518 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 19 more people have died, pushing the death toll in the province to 796. 

Young and middle-aged adults continue to be overrepresented among cases, particularly those between the ages of 20 and 29, government figures show.  

School-aged children are underrepresented among those who’ve tested positive, Henry said, presenting data showing seven in 10 schools have not confirmed any exposures to COVID-19 and the vast majority of exposure events haven’t led to transmission in school settings.

B.C. also has word that it could receive the first doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine as early as Monday, said Henry.

More than 5,600 people have been immunized so far with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the province. 

The latest vaccine comes in trays of 1,200 doses that can be broken down into smaller quantities than the Pfizer-BioNTech offering, making it easier to transport and deliver to remote communities and long-term care homes, Henry said. 

While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperature in freezers, Moderna’s can be stored in the fridge for longer periods, she noted. 

B.C. has identified 10 remote First Nation communities that should receive doses of the vaccine as soon as it arrives in the province. 

In the new year, the focus of B.C.’s immunization program will shift to include people over the age of 80 living in the community, as well as people experiencing homelessness and those using shelter services, Henry said.

The province is expecting to receive 792,000 doses of both vaccines between January and March, said Henry, allowing about 549,000 people to receive their first dose and another 240,000 to receive their second.

— by Brenna Owen in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2020.

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

The Canadian Press

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COVID deaths rise to 53 in Northern Health – Prince George Citizen

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One more person in the Northern Health region has died from COVID-19, according to B.C. Centre for Disease Control numbers issued Tuesday.

The fatality increased the total to 53 in the region since the pandemic broke out and was among 12 deaths reported province-wide, increasing that total to 1,090 deaths. Seven of those new deaths were in Fraser Health, raising the total there to 611.

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Active cases in Northern Health stood at 525, down by six from the day before, with 40 in hospital, no change from Monday, and 17 of them in intensive care, up by one.

For B.C. as a whole, active cases rose by six to 4,331, with Fraser Health accounting for 1,737, up 34, and Vancouver Coastal 818, down 35. Interior Health stood at 1,055, Vancouver Island at 184 and out of Canada at 12 with marginal changes in those totals from Monday.

Meanwhile, Northern Health reported a new exposure D.P. Todd Secondary School. It is for Jan. 11-12 and is the second time the school has been put on the list.

“If your child’s school has been notified of an exposure, no action is required unless you are contacted by Public Health or are otherwise directed by school officials,” Northern Health says in the posting. “Public Health will contact you directly in case of any school exposure involving your child.”

In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix stressed good practices while people wait for the vaccine rollout.

“The vaccines are our path forward to the brighter days ahead. However, until that path is wide enough for everyone, we must continue to focus on our individual efforts,” they said.

“To get to the finish line faster and to make our communities safer, we must stop the spread in our communities today. We do that by following the measures we have in place: washing our hands, staying home when we are ill, getting tested and always using our layers of protection.

“Let’s choose safety by continuing to do our part to protect everyone in our province.”

Also on Tuesday, Dix said B.C. is still on track to begin administering second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine despite the news that no vials will be delivered to Canada next week.

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COVID-19 update: B.C.'s health ministry to reveal latest new cases, deaths, outbreaks – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
British Columbia reported another 465 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths related to the disease on Tuesday.

The province has now recorded a total of 61,912 coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic and 1,090 fatalities.

In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered condolences to “everyone who lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Another 443 people have recovered from the disease since B.C.’s last update, leaving 4,331 active cases across the province.

That includes 329 patients in hospital, 70 of whom are in intensive care.

The province has seen an average of 479 cases per day over the last week, which is similar to the number of infections that were being identified at end of December.

The rolling seven-day average increased to 582 cases per day after the first week of January, but has been gradually decreasing since.

Tuesday’s COVID-19 update came hours after the federal government confirmed Canada would not be receiving any new shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week. The country received 82 per cent of its expected shipment this week as a result of previously announced delays.

B.C. was expecting to receive about 5,800 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, though Dix said the province still expects to be able to deliver second doses as scheduled.

Health officials have decided on a 35-day interval between doses, and Wednesday will mark 36 days from when B.C. began administering its first shots.

The province should be receiving 25,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine per week after the shortage ends, according to Dix.

While British Columbians await their turn to get immunized against COVID-19, Henry and Dix stressed the need to continue their individual efforts to limit the spread of the disease.

“To get to the finish line faster and to make our communities safer, we must stop the spread in our communities today. We do that by following the measures we have in place: washing our hands, staying home when we are ill, getting tested and always using our layers of protection,” they said.

“Let’s choose safety by continuing to do our part to protect everyone in our province.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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City of Winnipeg allowed employees to use its gyms during code red – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
The City of Winnipeg has been allowing its employees to use gyms and fitness centres at its facilities amid code red restrictions due to an exemption for governments in health orders.

The City of Winnipeg confirmed to CTV News on Tuesday evening that fitness facilities in Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and Winnipeg Police Service stations, along with six other facilities, have been open and operating for city employees only under a reduced capacity limit.

The city said these centres were used predominantly by first responders working in or near the buildings.

Under current health orders that have been in place in Manitoba since Nov. 12, all indoor sporting or recreational facilities, including gyms and fitness facilities, must be closed. Though some restrictions are expected to be eased when health orders expire on Friday, the province said gyms and fitness centres will be required to remain closed for now.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said while the City of Winnipeg was not specifically given permission to operate its in-house gyms, the health orders that required gyms and fitness centres to close do not apply to any level of government.

“We expect governments to be able to regulate and so we’re not going to tell governments how they function,” Roussin said. “If they feel that they could have limited capacity and run these gyms for their employees for certain reasons, then we’re not regulating that.”

Roussin said if gyms and fitness centres were allowed to open across Manitoba, it could cause cases to spike.

He said he was aware that health inspectors visited some of the gyms operating at City of Winnipeg facilities, and found them safe.

Transcona Coun. Shawn Nason blew the whistle on social media about the city’s operation of fitness centres during code red restrictions.

“I’m disappointed in myself for being so distracted with the business at City Hall to have not raised the issue sooner than when I became aware today that the City was not covered under the blanket rules assigned by (the) Province,” Nason said in a statement to CTV News.

“Even though I didn’t access the gym at any time during the Code Red restrictions, we should respect the provincial orders and align ourselves with so many that have had to shutter their businesses due (to) this unprecedented time.”

A spokesperson for the city told CTV News the city was not aware until today that it was being allowed to operate its fitness centres solely because it is a municipal government.

“Several months ago, we sought clarification from provincial public health officials on whether fitness facilities within civic workplaces accessible only to, and for City employees, could remain open,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The province advised us that these facilities could in fact continue to operate provided posted capacity limits and physical guidelines were maintained and adhered to.”

Despite the exemption, they said effective immediately the city is closing its employee fitness centres.

Fitness centres at Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and Winnipeg Police Service stations will continue to operate because “mandatory fitness standards are a requirement of first responders’ jobs.”

“We will continue to encourage our employees to explore alternative ways of maintaining their physical health while adhering to public health guidelines,” they said.

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