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COVID-19 in B.C.: Active cases increase, mostly in Vancouver Coastal and Interior Health; no new deaths; and more – The Georgia Straight



For one of the first times in weeks, the number of active cases grew instead of decreased, with the most increases occurring in Vancouver Coastal Health and Interior Health.

However, it remains to be seen if this growth will be sustained over several days and whether or not it becomes a trend. 

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had warned at a previous briefing that case numbers would begin to increase once more sectors reopened—it is now a matter of ensuring that case numbers remain within public health’s capacity to manage them and protecting the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.

Although many restrictions are being relaxed, Henry had also previously stated that every transmission offers an opportunity for the virus to mutate, which underscores the need to continue preventative measures even while vaccinated (which is not 100-percent protection).

In fact, reports have arisen from Israel that the Pfizer vaccine has decreased in efficacy in preventing infections and illness—something that has coincided with the dropping of physical distancing measures in Israel along with the proliferation of the Delta variant.  

Meanwhile in B.C., CBC News reported that a Denman Island family doctor, Dr. Stephen Malthouse, is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to stop the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. from disciplining him for statements he has made about COVID-19 on the basis of free speech.

CBC News previously reported in May that Malthouse had raised controversy for his views about opposing pandemic health restrictions and circulated an open letter that the novel coronavirus is not more deadly than the flu.  

Today, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 59 new COVID-19 cases.

Currently, there are 624 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, which is an increase of 20 cases since yesterday.

The new and active cases include:

  • 20 new cases in Fraser Health (177 total active cases, which is a decrease of two cases since yesterday);
  • 17 new cases in Interior Health (163 total active cases, which is nine more cases than yesterday);
  • 13 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health (230 total active cases, which is an increase of 10 cases since yesterday);
  • four new cases among people from outside Canada (11 total active cases, or an increase of three cases);
  • three new cases in Island Health (15 total active cases, or an increase of three cases);
  • two new cases in Northern Health (28 total active cases, which is one fewer case than yesterday).

As of today, there are 86 individuals currently in hospital (one fewer case than yesterday), and 20 of those patients are in intensive care units (two fewer than yesterday).

With 35 recoveries since yesterday, there is now a cumulative total of 145,455 people who have recovered.

For another consecutive day, no new deaths have been reported. The cumulative total number of COVID-19-related fatalities remains at 1,759 people who have died.

B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 147,856 cases in the province during the pandemic.

Since the provincial immunization program began in December, B.C. has administered 5,404,047 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As of today, 78.2 percent (3,631,452) of eligible people 12 years and above have received their first dose, and 38.2 percent (1,772,595) have received their second dose.

Island Health announced today that two new COVID-19 vaccinations clinics have been established in the Comox Valley:

  • the clinic at the Florence Filberg Centre, which opened on July 1, will continue to operate as a replacement for the Glacier Gardens clinic;
  • a clinic has opened at the regional B.C. Assessment Authority office (2488 Idiens Way) in Courtenay.

The clinic at Glacier Gardens won’t reopen, due to high temperatures in the building.

Currently, there are four active healthcare outbreaks in:

  • longterm care: Rotary Manor Dawson Creek (Northern Health);
  • acute care: Laurel Place at Surrey Memorial Hospital, Eagle Ridge Hospital (Fraser Health), and Royal Inland Hospital (Interior Health);
  • assisted or independent living: none.

None of the five regional health authorities have declared any new healthcare or community outbreaks, and none added any new public exposure events or business closures.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following six flights to its public exposures lists (for affected row information, visit the BCCDC website):

  • June 29: WestJet 174, Vancouver to Edmonton;
  • June 29: WestJet 3103, Calgary to Nanaimo;
  • July 1: Air North 510, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • July 1: Philippine Airlines 116, Manila to Vancouver;
  • July 2: Aeromexico 696, Mexico City to Vancouver;
  • July 2: Flair 8448, Kelowna to Edmonton.


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Obstetrician groups recommend COVID vaccine during pregnancy – Burnaby Now



Two leading obstetricians’ groups on Friday recommended COVID-19 shots for all pregnant women, citing concerns over rising cases and low vaccination rates.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said vaccinations in tens of thousands of pregnant women over the past several months have shown the shots are safe and effective during pregnancy.

COVID-19 during pregnancy increases risks for severe complications and can also increase chances for preterm birth. U.S. government data show only about 16% of pregnant women have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The two groups had previously said pregnant people shouldn’t be excluded from vaccination but stopped short of endorsing the shots.

The president of the OB-GYN group, Dr. Martin Tucker, said in a statement that doctors should enthusiastically recommend the shots to their patients.

Dr. Emily Miller, obstetrics chief at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, said she hopes the new recommendation “will help pregnant people feel more confident in their decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.”

Miller is a member of the maternal-fetal medicine group’s COVID-19 task force.

Pregnant women weren’t included in studies that led to emergency authorization of the vaccines. Experts including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not discouraged vaccination during pregnancy and have said available safety information is reassuring.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

The Associated Press

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COVID-19 in B.C.: Almost 250 new cases and over 1200 active cases; almost 700 active cases in Interior Health; and more – The Georgia Straight



Both B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have been speaking at news conferences about the risks and impact of both B.C. wildfires as well as extreme heat conditions upon health across the province.

While the province faces challenges from those issues, the numbers of new and active COVID-19 cases in B.C. continue to climb upward.

Once again, the new case count for the province hit a new high in recent weeks and the number of active cases has risen above 1,200 cases.

In addition, Interior Health, with an outbreak in the Central Okanagan that was declared earlier this week, is nearing 700 active cases.

Today, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 243 new COVID-19 cases (including one epi-linked case).

Currently, there are 1,231 active cases, which is a rise of 176 cases since yesterday.

At the moment, 47 individuals with COVID-19 are in hospital (a decrease of four people since yesterday), and 16 of those patients are in intensive care units (four fewer than yesterday).

The new and active cases include:

  • 131 new cases in Interior Health, with 693 total active cases (an increase of 93 cases since yesterday);
  • 56 new cases in Fraser Health, with 277 total active cases (an increase of 35 cases);
  • 32 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 160 total active cases (an increase of 21 cases);
  • 13 new cases in Island Health, with 65 total active cases (an increase of 14 cases);
  • nine new cases in Northern Health, with 28 total active cases (an increase of nine cases);
  • two new cases of people from outside of Canada, with eight total active cases (an increase of three cases).

The good news is that no new deaths have been reported. That leaves the overall total COVID-19-related fatalities at 1,771 people who have died during the pandemic.

With 66 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 146,876 people who tested positive have now recovered.

During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 149,889 cases.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
Province of British Columbia

Yesterday, Island Health announced that the Eagle Ridge immunization clinic would be relocated on July 30 to the air-conditioned Victoria Conference Centre due to the anticipated high temperatures.

Today, Island Health extended the relocation dates to July 31 and August 1.

Since the provincial immunization program began in December, B.C. has administered 6,774,257 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As of today, 81.1 percent (3,758,385) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose and 64.9 percent (3,008,360) have received their second dose.

In addition, 82.0 percent (3,548,137) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 67.5 percent (2,921,008) have received their second dose.

More good news is that none of the five regional health authorities have declared any new healthcare or community outbreaks, and none have listed any new public exposure events or business closures.

Currently, there are two active healthcare outbreaks, both in longterm care facilities: Holyrood Manor (Fraser Health) and Nelson Jubilee Manor (Interior Health).


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Why the delta variant is spreading COVID-19 so quickly — and what that means for Canada –



It’s the word on everyone’s mind right now when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic: Delta.

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. 

The recent spread in the United States has led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to recommend that Americans wear masks in areas with substantial transmission “regardless of vaccination status.”

So, why is this particular variant spreading so rapidly? And what’s the mechanism at play behind its apparent success at infecting human hosts?

The answers are complicated, and there are still unknowns around how, exactly, the delta variant was able to take hold at such a brisk pace, throwing a wrench in global efforts to wind down the pandemic.

But we are getting closer to understanding how it works — and why vaccines, thankfully, still hold up.

How contagious is delta?

The delta variant is thought to be significantly more contagious than the early strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which first swept around the world. Delta has been dubbed a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We are fighting the same virus but a virus that has become fitter and better adapted to transmitting amongst us humans,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, during a Friday briefing.

Scientists estimate it’s spreading roughly 50 per cent faster than the alpha variant, which was 50 per cent more contagious than the original virus strain, according to the Yale School of Public Health.

That means every person infected is capable of passing the virus on to more people than before, helping this variant spread through populations quickly — and even faster among those whose immune systems aren’t already on high alert due to a previous COVID-19 infection or vaccination.

WATCH | COVID-19 delta variant a ‘dangerous virus,’ warns WHO:

The World Health Organization says the trajectory for the COVID-19 delta variant in some countries is almost ‘vertical’ and warns that even partially vaccinated countries are at great risk because of its high transmissibility. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters) 0:56

Why is it more transmissible?

While the exact mechanism making delta more transmissible isn’t entirely clear, emerging research is hinting at possible reasons why it’s so infectious.

One lab-based study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, from researchers at the Kumamoto University and Weizmann Institute of Science, suggests mutations on the spike protein of this SARS-CoV-2 variant can evade cellular immunity and may increase its infectivity. 

The spike protein is a crucial feature on the surface of the coronavirus that allows it to gain access to our cells, explained University of Ottawa epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan. 

“It fits into a receptor on our cells and then it enters the cell via that receptor. Something about the mutation has changed the shape or a feature on the spike protein that makes it fit a bit better,” he said.

“As a result, you need fewer viruses present to achieve infection.”

People wear masks while walking in Grand Central Terminal in New York City on July 27. Due to the rapidly spreading delta variant, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Another study from a team in China, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found people infected with the delta variant carried, on average, a more than 1,000 times higher amount of virus in their nose compared to the original strain — which likely means they’re shedding more of it.

The researchers also found people carrying this variant test positive faster: around four days after exposure, compared to around six for the original strain. That suggests delta replicates at a quicker pace inside someone’s body.

“You may actually excrete more virus and that’s why it’s more transmissible,” microbiologist Sharon Peacock, who runs the U.K.’s efforts to sequence the genomes of coronavirus variants, recently told Reuters.

How well do vaccines protect against it?

If carrying around delta means people may be shedding more of the virus and transmitting it to others more easily, vaccines definitely have a tougher task — since people’s immune systems are now facing a larger army and need to ramp up to mount a defence.

In the U.S., the CDC warned Friday that emerging data from a county in Massachusetts suggests the higher viral loads could mean vaccinated people can still transmit delta to others.

But the good news is that leading vaccines, including those approved for use in Canada, do seem to ward off serious disease that can lead to hospitalization or death.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 88 per cent effective against the delta variant, while two shots of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine were 67 per cent effective. 

It marked a drop in the vaccines’ ability to curb infections of any severity level — whether mild or more severe — when compared to the earlier alpha variant, but the researchers said there were only “modest differences.”

Health-care providers administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in Toronto on July 27. Leading vaccines do seem to ward off serious disease that can lead to hospitalization or death, even against the delta variant. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Recent data from Israel also shows the Pfizer shot reduced the risk of severe disease by a whopping 91 per cent, and hospitalization by 88 per cent. The level of protection against symptomatic infections in general was less than half that, but there are questions about how the government collected its data and how many infections were involved.

Still, it’s a hopeful real-world snapshot of how a leading mRNA vaccine is warding off serious illness, and it is likely the highly similar Moderna shot also being used in Canada would fare similarly.

“I don’t want to minimize the risk of things like ‘long COVID,’ but one of the biggest risks is how likely you’ll develop serious disease after being infected,” stressed Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization.

“The bottom line there,” she said, “is vaccination is still very protective.”

How widespread is delta?

This variant has definitely taken hold around the world since being first reported in October 2020 in India, with other countries later reporting high levels as well.

“It’s out-competing all other viruses, because it just spreads so much more efficiently,” virologist Shane Crotty, of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, told Reuters.

In the U.S., delta now represents more than 80 per cent of new infections. Cases are spiking in many areas with low vaccination rates, and data shows unvaccinated individuals total nearly 97 per cent of all severe cases.

Across Africa, meagre vaccination rates, coupled with the rise of the delta variant, are putting major pressure on various countries’ hospital systems.

The variant is now being found in at least 26 African nations, and 21 countries have seen cases rise by more than 20 per cent for at least two weeks running, the WHO announced in late July.

Countries from the U.K. to Singapore are also dealing with delta surges — including Canada. Variants of this virus now make up the bulk of our SARS-CoV-2 infections.

By early July, delta made up roughly 70 per cent of the country’s cases, according to the latest available whole genome sequencing data from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

That marked a massive jump from early May, when delta still represented less than 10 per cent of sequenced infections.

So what does this all mean for Canada?

There are now growing signs that the rise of delta could spark another overall surge in cases — even though nearly six in 10 Canadians are now fully vaccinated, millions still remain unprotected.

Ontario and Quebec have largely plateaued for new daily COVID-19 cases after weeks of falling numbers, while the number of new cases reported each day in B.C. has actually tripled during the last three weeks.

The virus is also spreading faster in Alberta than it did during the peak of the province’s third wave — all while that province is set to loosen its tightest restrictions around mask-wearing and isolation requirements.

WATCH | Alberta removing most COVID-19 isolation, testing requirements:

Alberta will be pulling back on requirements for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and quarantines, despite rising cases in the province. 2:05

Even if overall case growth starts to spike, some experts are hopeful Canada, as a whole, will avoid the most dire outcomes, including overwhelming pressure on the country’s hospital networks and a death toll similar to earlier waves. 

Most people may still be able to avoid getting infected if they’re both vaccinated and playing it safe, even in high-density, urban areas, Rasmussen said, though she does expect school outbreaks if mitigation measures aren’t in place.

Many Canadians are still wearing masks and taking precautions in social settings, said Deonandan.

“I’m fairly optimistic that if this good decision-making continues, we could be world leaders in this endeavour.”

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