B.C. continues to remain in a risky period for sudden increases in COVID-19 case numbers.
At today’s briefing from Vancouver, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the weekly average for new cases has slightly increased in recent weeks, more so in the Lower Mainland region (and particularly in Fraser Health).
She said an upward trend in the virus reproductive number indicates that there remains “potential for rapid growth if we’re not careful”, particularly in the Lower Mainland.
Henry said that “we’re not quite there yet” for relaxing restrictions but that they are looking ahead into March to figure out when there could be potential for that.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix pointed out that after the winter holiday season, there was a significant increase in cases and hospitalizations in Interior Health but that has since decreased over the past few weeks.
“It shows again what we can do together as communities,” he said.
In January, there were a number of incidents of police shutting down parties and makeshift nightclubs in Surrey, Richmond, and Vancouver that were violating provincial health orders.
That has since given way to a handful of increasingly vocal or violent examples of individuals resisting health measures, including:
- a few incidents involving male customers yelling and refusing to leave businesses after being denied service for not wearing a mask, including one in Kerrisdale, and another in Burnaby;
- a male suspect physically assaulting another gym user who had asked him to wear a mask at a Downtown Vancouver gym;
- two female passengers being arrested in Nanaimo and fined over $900 for yelling and verbally abusing staff aboard a B.C. Ferries sailing after they refused to wear masks aboard the ship;
- a male customer allegedly assaulting and then becoming embroiled in a physical altercation with staff at Canadian Tire in Burnaby as they tried to handcuff him after he refused to wear a mask or leave the premises;
- a male suspect allegedly stabbing a 50-year-old man during a fight that erupted after the victim’s daughter asked the suspect to physically distance in a Nanaimo parking lot.
Meanwhile, the antimask protest movement continues on with rallies, including one held in Vancouver last weekend (February 20).
In addition, the B.C. Supreme Court also denied a request from Henry and the province for an injunction against three churches in the Fraser Valley that are continuing to hold in-person services in defiance of provincial health orders. Those churches are also attempting to take legal action to overturn provincial health orders that prohibit church services from being conducted indoors.
Henry had previously spoken in September about abusive phone calls and letters, as well as death threats, that she has faced over the course of the pandemic.
When she was asked at today’s news conference about how she is dealing with threats and protests, Henry said that the part that she finds most challenging and disturbing is how it affects the people around her, including the people she works with and her family, but she added that they do have strong support systems.
She said her colleagues across the country, who are contending with similar issues, meet regularly and they support each other.
Henry did offer some insight into the psychology of those who are acting out in emotional or extreme ways.
“I recognize that when people are in crises, part of the way they respond or react is to lash out, to become angry,” she said. “That is a reaction that is sometimes fed by certain groups, by certain media, social media posts, et cetera, and it’s not to condone it but it’s to recognize the psychology of what we’re dealing with leads some people to react that way.”
She said “our collective support for each other that helps mitigate the impact of these things”.
However, she said it “really is not unacceptable”, and Dix agreed with that sentiment.
“We live in a democratic society and it is absolutely legitimate to disagree, even about issues such as the pandemic, but some of the disagreement is totally unacceptable,” he said. “Dr. Bonnie Henry is an extraordinary leader and that doesn’t mean she’s right all the time…but the kind of personal attacks on some of them are completely unacceptable.”
He condemned threats made against Henry, and pointed out how she never loses sight of people and shows compassion “for every single person” during the pandemic despite all of the criticism she receives.
“We need to have a slightly more respectful debate,” he said. “All of us have to find ways to disagree without personal attack.”
Henry announced that there are 395 new cases (including 12 epi-linked cases) in B.C. today, which includes:
- 207 new cases in Fraser Health;
- 86 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
- 41 in Northern Health;
- 37 in Island Health;
- 24 in Interior Health;
- no one from outside of Canada.
At the moment, there are 4,489 active cases, which is a drop of 179 cases since yesterday.
Hospitalized cases also decreased—with nine patients discharged since yesterday, 228 individuals are currently in hospitals, and 62 of them are in intensive care units (two fewer patients since yesterday).
Public health is monitoring 7,931 people for exposure to identified cases, which is only seven more people since yesterday.
Unfortunately, the number of deaths has risen. There are 10 new COVID-19-related deaths. The cumulative total of number of fatalities during the pandemic is now at 1,348 people who have died in B.C.
With 562 more recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 72,781 people have now recovered.
During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a total of 78,673 cases.
Since the last variant update on February 22, there have been 16 new confirmed COVID-19 variant cases, bringing the total to 116 cases.
By region, that includes:
- 71 cases in Fraser Health;
- 39 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
- four in Island Health;
- two in Interior Health.
Of the total cases, nine cases are active and the remaining people have recovered.
So far, the total cases include:
- 95 of the B117 variant (U.K.);
- 21 of the B131 variant (South Africa);
- two of the B1525 variant (Nigeria), which Henry said is still a variant under investigation.
Henry said the source of transmission remains uncertain for about 25 percent of the cases.
Investigations into variants in schools remain ongoing.
As of today, 239,883 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 68,157 of them are second doses.
Henry said active outbreaks remain in 13 longterm care facilities and five acute care facilities for a total of 18 outbreaks, involving 611 cases (398 residents and 213 staff members).
There is one new healthcare facility outbreak at the Revera Sunwood Retirement Community in Maple Ridge.
Northern Health gave an update today on the outbreak at Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert, which was declared on January 19. there is now a total of 56 cases—33 residents and 23 staff, and 14 residents have died.
In Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), restrictions were lifted today from Unit 9C at St. Paul’s Hospital, where restrictions were imposed on January 4.
In an update today on cases in Whistler, VCH said that transmissions continue to decline. From February 16 to 21, there were 26 new cases (which is 36 fewer new cases than from February 8 to 15). With 671 people having recovered, there are currently 31 active cases left. Since January 1, a total of 702 cases have been confirmed in Whistler.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added seven domestic flights to its list of COVID-19 exposures:
- February 10: Air Canada/Jazz 8236, Vancouver to Terrace;
- February 12: Air Canada 115, Toronto to Vancouver;
- February 14: Air Canada/Jazz 8069, Vancouver to Victoria;
- February 14: Air Canada/Jazz 8239, Terrace to Vancouver;
- February 18: Air Canada 106, Vancouver to Toronto;
- February 20: Air Canada 251, Edmonton to Vancouver;
- February 21: Flair 8101, Vancouver to Edmonton.
Affected row information can be found at the BCCDC website.
Loblaw stated that several employees (specific number and dates not provided) at the Real Canadian Superstore (6–291 Cowichan Way) in Duncan have tested positive.
Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 161.42 million, death toll at 3,488,751
More than 161.42 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 3,488,751 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/2FThSv7 in an external browser.
Eikon users can click for a case tracker.
The following table lists the top 50 countries by the number of reported cases. A complete list is available with the above links.
COUNTRIES AND TOTAL DEATHS CONFIRMED DEATHS PER
TERRITORIES CASES 10,000
United States 584,768 32,926,288 17.9
India 262,317 24,046,809 1.94
Brazil 430,417 15,433,989 20.55
France 107,423 5,848,154 16.04
Turkey 44,301 5,095,390 5.38
Russia 254,590 4,922,901 17.62
United Kingdom 127,668 4,446,824 19.21
Italy 123,927 4,146,722 20.51
Spain 79,339 3,604,799 16.95
Germany 85,903 3,579,871 10.36
Argentina 69,254 3,242,103 15.56
Colombia 79,760 3,067,879 16.06
Poland 71,311 2,849,014 18.78
Iran 76,433 2,732,152 9.34
Mexico 219,901 2,375,115 17.43
Ukraine 47,620 2,143,448 10.67
Peru 65,316 1,873,316 20.02
Indonesia 47,823 1,734,285 1.79
Czech Republic 29,857 1,651,178 28.09
South Africa 55,012 1,605,252 9.52
Netherlands 17,423 1,589,282 10.11
Canada 24,825 1,312,408 6.7
Chile 27,520 1,266,601 14.69
Iraq 15,910 1,134,859 4.14
Philippines 18,958 1,131,467 1.78
Romania 29,413 1,070,605 15.11
Sweden 14,275 1,037,126 14.03
Belgium 24,645 1,026,473 21.56
Pakistan 19,384 873,220 0.91
Portugal 16,999 841,379 16.53
Israel 6,379 839,076 7.18
Hungary 29,041 796,390 29.71
Bangladesh 12,102 779,535 0.75
Jordan 9,203 722,754 9.24
Serbia 6,646 705,185 9.52
Switzerland 10,179 679,510 11.96
Japan 11,396 673,821 0.9
Austria 10,455 635,780 11.83
United Arab Emirates 1,626 543,610 1.69
Lebanon 7,569 534,968 11.05
Morocco 9,091 514,670 2.52
Malaysia 1,822 462,190 0.58
Nepal 4,669 439,658 1.66
Saudi Arabia 7,134 431,432 2.12
Bulgaria 17,194 413,320 24.48
Ecuador 19,442 405,783 11.38
Slovakia 12,168 387,162 22.34
Greece 11,322 373,881 10.55
Belarus 2,681 373,351 2.83
Panama 6,288 369,455 15.05
Source: Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials
Generated at 10:00 GMT.
(Editing by David Clarke)
Canada plots course to fully vaccinated return to gatherings in fall
Canada on Friday said there would be a gradual return to a world with indoor sports and family gatherings as more people get vaccinated, but it did not go as far as the United States in telling people they could eventually ditch their masks.
Canada has administered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to just over half its adult population, and the country may be over the worst of its current third wave of infections, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.
On Friday, Canada‘s public health agency offered guidelines to the 10 provinces, which are responsible for public health restrictions.
The agency says once 75% of Canadians have had a single dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, some restrictions can be relaxed to allow small, outdoor gatherings with family and friends, camping, and picnics.
Once 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the fall, indoor sports and family gatherings can be allowed again.
“I think masks might be the last layer of that multi-layer protection that we’ll advise people to remove,” Tam told reporters, noting that in Canada colder temperatures meant people would start spending more time indoors in the fall.
“We are taking a bit of a different approach to the United States,” she added. While in most of Canada masks are not required outdoors, they are mandatory indoors.
Less than 4% of Canada‘s adult population has been fully vaccinated compared to more than 36% of Americans.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has promised that everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by September, this week spoke of a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall” without explaining what that might look like.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
Delayed 2nd Pfizer/BioNTech shot boosts antibodies in elderly; COVID-19 obesity risk higher for men
The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Delaying second Pfizer/BioNTech dose boosts antibodies in elderly
Delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine beyond the originally recommended three-week gap used by the companies in clinical trials appears to induce a stronger antibody response in the elderly, UK researchers found. Shortly after the vaccine became available, UK health officials advised that the second dose should be given 12 weeks after the first to allow more people to get protected by a first dose early on. In a new paper seen by Reuters and expected to appear on medRxiv on Friday ahead of peer review, researchers found that among 175 people ages 80 to 99, those who got their second dose at 12 weeks had antibody responses that were 3.5 times higher than those who got it after three weeks. Antibodies are only one part of the immune system, and vaccines also generate T cells that fight infections. The peak T cell responses were higher in the group with a three-week interval between doses, and the authors cautioned against drawing conclusions on how protected individuals were based on which dosing schedule they received. (https://reut.rs/3wjPK9B)
Impact of obesity on COVID-19 risks may be greater in men
The known increased risk of severe COVID-19 and death linked to obesity may be even more pronounced for men than women, new data suggest. Researchers studied 3,530 hospitalized COVID-19 patients with an average age of 65, including 1,469 who were obese. In men, moderate obesity was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing severe disease, needing mechanical breathing assistance and dying from COVID-19. (The threshold for moderate obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 35. In an 5-foot, five-inch tall (1.65 m) adult, that would correspond to a weight of 210 pounds (95 kg). In women, however, only a BMI of 40 or higher, indicating severe obesity, was linked with the increased risks. In a report published in European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, the researchers note that while obesity is known to be linked with body-wide inflammation, patients’ levels of inflammatory proteins did not appear to explain the association between obesity and severe illness. For now, they conclude, “particular attention should be paid” to protecting patients with obesity from the coronavirus, “with priority to vaccination access, remote work, telemedicine, and other measures given the higher risk of adverse outcomes once they are diagnosed with COVID-19.” (https://bit.ly/3eO6GiA)
COVID-19 testing rates low among symptomatic Americans
Sick Americans appear to be passing up opportunities to get tested for coronavirus and thus are likely unknowingly spreading the infection throughout their communities, new research shows. Among 37,000 adults across the United States who participated in a smartphone app survey between March and October 2020, nearly 2,700 reported at least one episode of fever and chills. But according to a report published in JAMA Network Open, only a small fraction reported receiving a COVID-19 test result within seven days of the onset of illness. At first, as tests became more accessible, the numbers improved. In early April 2020, less than 10% of survey participants reporting illness with fever received test results within a week. By late July, that proportion had increased to 24.1%. Throughout the summer and fall, as tests became easier to find, the number of sick participants who reported getting tested remained flat. By late October, only 26% reported receiving a test result within a week of febrile illness. “It’s shocking to me that when people have a fever they’re still not getting tested,” said coauthor Dr. Mark Pletcher of the University of California, San Francisco. “Tests are easy to come by. People might have coronavirus, might be spreading it to their friends and neighbors, and they’re not getting tested.” (https://bit.ly/2QUyMzf)
Open in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Alistair Smout and Ronnie Cohen; Editing by Bill Berkrot
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