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COVID-19 in B.C.: 50 percent of adults fully vaccinated; Vancouver Convention Centre care site closed; and more – The Georgia Straight

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Once again, Interior Health had the most new cases and the most active cases remain in Vancouver Coastal Health.

In B.C.’s vaccination program, 50 percent of all eligible adults have now received their second dose, with just under 50 percent for those 12 years and above.

In other news, a makeshift healthcare site created for the pandemic is being closed in Vancouver and B.C. researchers are studying the relationship between vaccines and drug users.   

With hospitalized cases decreasing, the B.C. Health Ministry has approved Vancouver Coastal Health to proceed with dismantling the alternate care site established at the Vancouver Convention Centre in April 2020.

The site was one of several healthcare locations created to ensure that the province has enough healthcare capacity in the event of huge surges in patients during the pandemic, as had been previously observed in various regions around the world, such as Northern Italy.

Although the site was never used, the site had 271 beds and remained ready to be used up until July 2 of this year. The site is expected to be demobilized by Friday (July 16).

A plan, however, remains in place for remobilization of the site if required.  

The Vancouver Sun reported in May that VCH was paying $88,000 per month to lease the convention centre, which is owned by the B.C. government. In addition, it cost $1.5 million to outfit and stock the centre with beds and supplies.  

B.C.’s peak level of hospitalization occurred at the end of April with over 500 people in acute care units.

UBC researchers Brittany Barker and Hudson Reddon
UBC

As B.C. continues to experience two public health emergencies—the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis—UBC and the B.C. Centre on Substance Use researchers, partnering with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and Vancouver Coastal Health, have launched a study that will examine the intersection of these two health crises.  

The study will examine the uptake, effectiveness, and safety of COVID-19 vaccines among vulnerable urban populations, including drug users.

“Since the pandemic was declared last March, we’ve seen an increase—both in B.C. and across the country—in the number of fatal drug poisonings,” UBC medicine postdoctoral research fellow Hudson Reddon stated. “In 2020 alone there were more than 6,200 toxic drug deaths in Canada, meaning nearly 17 Canadians are dying every day as a result of the toxic unregulated drug supply. 

UBC medicine postdoctoral fellow and BCCSU research scientist Brittany Barker explained what B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said at previous news conferences—that “an increasingly toxic and dangerous drug supply” has been circulating in B.C., that is “likely due to disrupted supply chains [caused by border closures] feeding the unregulated market”.

In addition, pandemic health restrictions have added to complications among people who are already facing multiple risks for acquiring COVID-19, including poverty, homelessness, group living situations, stigma, discrimination, other diseases like HIV, and more.

“People are also experiencing isolation, stress and grief, all of which can lead to increased substance use, using alone, and barriers to accessing care,” Barker stated. “Combined with the limited availability or accessibility of services during COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s easy to see how people who use drugs are more impacted by COVID-19 than other groups.”

The B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 41 new COVID-19 cases (including four epi-linked cases) in the province today.

Currently, there 639 active cases, which is the same number as yesterday.

The new and active cases include:

  • 16 new cases in Interior Health, with 157 total active cases (two more cases than yesterday);
  • 11 new cases in Fraser Health, with 165 total active cases (seven fewer cases than yesterday);
  • 10 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 258 total active cases (an increase of four more cases since yesterday);
  • two new cases in Northern Health, with 28 total active cases (one more case since yesterday);
  • one new case in Island Health, with 24 total active cases (a decrease of three cases since yesterday);
  • one new person from outside of Canada, with seven total active cases (one fewer case since yesterday).

Today, there are 65 individuals in hospital (one fewer case than yesterday), and 11 of those patients are in intensive care units (three fewer than yesterday).

For a sixth consecutive day, no new deaths have been reported. That leaves the total COVID-19-related fatalities during the pandemic at 1,760 people who have died during the pandemic.

A cumulative total of 145,817 people have now recovered, which includes 42 recoveries since yesterday.

During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 148,228 COVID-19 cases.

In the provincial immunization program, B.C. has now administered 5,872,611 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As of today, 79.3 percent (3,674,169) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose and 47.3 percent (2,191,315) of them have received their second dose.

In addition, 80.3 percent (3,475,111) of all eligible adults have received their first dose and 50.5 percent (2,185,443) have now received their second dose.

Again, Fraser Health is offering new ways to obtain vaccinations.

Temporary immunization clinics will be held at Rocky Point Park (2800 Murray Street) in Port Moody from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday (July 17) and at the Downtown Chilliwack Community Market (9360 Mill Street) in Chilliwack from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday (July 18).

Interior Health announced today that the COVID-19 immunization clinic in 100 Mile House has been cancelled due to the evacuation order issued today in response to the B.C. wildfires.

Although some patients have been evacuated to ensure continuity of care, the 100 Mile District General Hospital is not part of the evacuation orders and remains open for anyone who needs emergency care.

Today, Fraser Health declared the outbreak over at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody, but did not state how many cases were involved or if there were any deaths.

For the first time in months, there is only one active healthcare outbreak:

  • acute care: Laurel Place at Surrey Memorial Hospital (Fraser Health);
  • longterm care: none;
  • assisted or independent living: none.

The outbreak at Royal Inland Hospital is Kamloops is no longer listed as active on the B.C. Health Ministry list but Interior Health has not yet issued a news release about it.

The BCCDC added the following four flights to its lists of public exposures (affected row information is listed at the BCCDC website):

  • July 7: Aeromexico 696, Mexico City to Vancouver;
  • July 10: Air Canada 861, London to Vancouver;
  • July 11: Turkish Airlines 75, Istanbul to Vancouver;
  • July 12: Lufthansa 492, Frankfurt to Vancouver. 

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Quebec's test positivity rate highest since May as COVID-19 infections climb – CBC.ca

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While the number of new COVID-19 cases in Quebec remains low when compared to the peak of the third wave, the test positivity rate hit 1.4 per cent on Sunday.

That’s the highest it’s been since late May, and new public health data shows infections are on the rise.

Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior.

Quebec Public Health reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 347 new infections were identified on Friday and Saturday.

There have been no new deaths attributed to the disease since Thursday but there are 61 COVID-19 patients in hospital — of those, 17 are in intensive care.

Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, told The Canadian Press that the current trends are concerning as they show “there is still ongoing community transmission.”

The increased rate is based on fewer tests, he said.

On May 31, Quebec recorded a test-positivity rate of 1.5 per cent based on 15,783 tests. While on Sunday, Quebec analyzed only 11,202 tests.

With that data in mind, Vinh said the concern lies in the future, as schools and university classes resume in late August  and September.

“If it’s already increased when we are in the ‘safe’ outdoors,” he said, “what’s going to happen when we’re in the indoors?”

Quebec’s public health institute reported that 84.6 per cent of residents 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine while 68 per cent are adequately vaccinated.

Delta variant stirs worldwide worry

Meanwhile, health officials in the United States are sounding the alarm over the rapid spread of the delta variant which is described as extremely contagious, even among vaccinated people. It may also cause more serious disease than earlier coronavirus strains.

“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with delta can transmit the virus,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a statement last week.

On Friday, the CDC released data from a study of an outbreak in Massachusetts in which it said three-quarters of those infected had been fully vaccinated. 

Quebec has reported an average of 139 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from an average of 57 a week prior. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

The CDC recommends that Americans wear masks in areas with substantial transmission “regardless of vaccination status.”

The highly contagious variant, which was first discovered in India in late 2020, has spread around the world and now accounts for the majority of cases in Canada and various other countries. 

As of late July, the delta variant accounted for about five per cent of new cases in Quebec, compared to nearly 90 per cent of new cases in Ontario. 

For now, Quebec is continuing to scale back restrictions. For example, bars and restaurants are now officially allowed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m.— one hour longer than what was previously allowed. 

Stadiums, venues and festivals can welcome 15,000 spectators outdoors, up from 5,000.

The details on all changes can be found here.

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U.S. vaccination rate hits the highest pace in weeks – CTV News

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The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States continues to rise, a positive sign amid skyrocketing cases and hospitalizations after weeks of lagging inoculations.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday that 816,203 additional doses were administered, the fifth straight day the agency recorded more than 700,000 shots in arms. That brings the total number of doses administered to 346,456,669, according to the CDC numbers released Sunday.

The seven-day average of administered doses is now 662,529 per day, the highest average since July 7.

Additionally, Sunday was the third day in a row that the seven-day average of people getting their first shots topped 400,000. The last time that metric was over 400,000 was the July Fourth weekend.

That’s still less than a quarter of the peak in mid-April, when nearly 2 million people were getting their first shot each day.

If the U.S. picked up vaccinations to the April pace, it would take only a month and a half to reach all eligible people.

Per CDC data released Sunday, 168.4 million people are fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the U.S. population. Among vaccine-eligible Americans — meaning those who are 12 and older — 58.1% are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, hopes the recent surge in cases driven by the Delta variant is changing the minds of the vaccine hesitant, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. Collins noted that in the last two weeks, vaccination rates have increased 56% nationally.

“This may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say, ‘OK, it’s time,'” Collins said. “I hope that’s what’s happening. That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this Delta variant put back in its place.”

Overall, the seven-day average of people becoming fully vaccinated each day is at 247,385 people per day.

Twenty states have now fully vaccinated more than half of their residents, including Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as Washington, DC.

On the other hand, the states with the lowest percentage of their population vaccinated are Alabama and Mississippi, which have 34% and 35% of their residents vaccinated, respectively.

Correction: An earlier version of this story and headline gave the wrong timing for when the doses were administered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the additional doses Sunday, but it’s not clear when they were all administered.

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Delta spreads 'like wildfire' as doctors study whether it makes patients sicker – CTV News

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LOS ANGELES —
With a new wave of COVID-19 infections fuelled by the Delta variant striking countries worldwide, disease experts are scrambling to learn whether the latest version of coronavirus is making people – mainly the unvaccinated – sicker than before.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Delta, first identified in India and now dominant worldwide, is “likely more severe” than earlier versions of the virus, according to an internal report made public on Friday.

The agency cited research in Canada, Singapore and Scotland showing that people infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients earlier in the pandemic.

In interviews with Reuters, disease experts said the three papers suggest a greater risk from the variant, but the study populations are limited and the findings have not yet been reviewed by outside experts. Doctors treating patients infected with Delta described a more rapid onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and in many regions an overall increase serious cases.

But the experts said more work is needed to compare outcomes among larger numbers of individuals in epidemiologic studies to sort out whether one variant causes more severe disease than another.

“It’s difficult to pin down increase in severity and population bias,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at the UK’s Warwick Medical School.

In addition, it is likely that the extraordinary rate of Delta transmission is also contributing to a greater number of severe cases arriving at hospitals, the experts said.

Delta is as contagious as chickenpox and far more contagious than the common cold or flu, according to the CDC report.

Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, said the clearest indication that the variant may cause more severe disease comes from the Scotland study, which found that Delta roughly doubled the risk of hospitalization compared to an earlier version.

The majority of hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus in the United States are occurring in people who have not been vaccinated. But there is evidence that the shots are less effective in people with compromised immune systems, including the elderly.

For vaccinated, otherwise healthy individuals, the odds are that if they contract COVID-19 they will only experience asymptomatic or mild disease, said Dr. Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic.

“But they can pass it on to family members and others who may not be so lucky,” Poland said. “We have to be vaccinated and masked or we will, for the fourth time now, endure another surge and out of that will come worse variants.”

‘FULL-ON FLAMES’

The rate of severe illness, especially in regions where vaccination rates are low, is again straining healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

“This is like a wildfire, this is not a smouldering campfire. It is full-on flames right now,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control at Colorado’s UCHealth.

Research from China suggesting that the Delta variant replicates much faster and generates 1,000 times more virus in the body compared to the original strain highlights the biggest danger of this new wave, Barron said.

“It is hard to tell if they are more sick because of the Delta variant or if they would have been more sick anyway,” she said.

Other doctors said patients infected with Delta appear to become ill more quickly, and in some cases with more severe symptoms, than those they treated earlier in the pandemic.

“We are seeing more patients requiring oxygen sooner,” said Dr. Benjamin Barlow, chief medical officer at American Family Care, a 28-state chain of urgent care clinics.

At his clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, Barlow said that around 20 per cent of patients are testing positive for COVID-19, compared with two to three per cent a few weeks ago. Patients are assessed at that time for potential hospital admission and oxygen support.

David Montefiori, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development at Duke University Medical Center, said the Delta variant is more infectious and leads to faster onset of illness – particularly for the unvaccinated.

“Frankly there’s a severity that comes from this variant that is a little more severe,” Montefiori said on a webcast last week. “It’s not just easier to transmit, it makes you sicker.”

(Reporting by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles, Josephine Mason in London and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Daniel Wallis)

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