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COVID-19 in B.C.: Lifting longterm care restrictions; active cases increase most in Interior Health; and more – The Georgia Straight

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For a second consecutive day, active cases increased, after weeks of decreases.

Also again, active cases increased mostly in Interior and Vancouver Coastal Health, joined by Island Health.

Meanwhile, some long-awaited news about restrictions at longterm care facilities was announced today.

At the first news conference with B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix since in-person briefings ended, Henry and Dix announced the lifting of restrictions on visitations to healthcare facilities.

Dix pointed out that in today’s COVID-19 update (see below), there aren’t any healthcare outbreaks listed in any longterm facilities in the province.

He noted that there have been restrictions in longterm care since March 2020, and that on June 30 of last year, changes were made to allow social visits, and then on March 21 of this year, further changes expanded visits, thanks to the success of immunizations reducing transmissions.   

Henry pointed out that some of the first cases in B.C. were among seniors at longterm care facilities, in addition to the first death from COVID-19 in Canada.

Henry explained that the decision to restrict visitation “very severely” to these facilities to protect residents was “an incredibly difficult decision to make when we know that social connection is so, so important for seniors’ health and well-being”. Yet she also called it a “necessary and important step for protecting people in these most vulnerable situations” until a vaccine became available.

Dix announced that as of July 19, the following changes will apply to longterm care and assisted-living facilities:

  • visitors won’t need to schedule or book time to make visits, and limits on visitors for each resident will be removed;
  • fully immunized visitors can visit residents without wearing masks;
  • larger and facility-wide social events or gatherings can begin again;
  • indoor gatherings may include residents and staff from all units of a facility, while outdoor gatherings may include family and friends;
  • adult day programs and in-facility respite can resume.

At the same time, Dix said that preventative measures (visitor screening, sign-in lists, mask wearing, handwashing, physical distancing, and more) will remain in place and new protective measures will be implemented, which recognizes that risk still remains present:

  • a new health order requires all longterm care and seniors’ assisted living facilities to provide public health with information on all residents, staff, personal service providers, and volunteers to determine their immunization status;
  • workers who aren’t fully vaccinated must wear a mask at work and undergo regular rapid testing;
  • volunteers and personal service providers entering longterm care facilities must be fully vaccinated;
  • visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated must wear masks (fully vaccinated visitors must wear masks in common areas).

Henry also said that visitors will need to provide proof of immunization upon arrival at facilities.

She also explained that restrictions will be in place and visitations will be suspended during an outbreak at these facilities.

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

Henry said that although some case numbers have been increasing, the numbers remain low.

In addition, she said they are seeing clusters of transmissions occurring in smaller communities, particularly in “pockets of unvaccinated people”. She said there remain challenges in getting vaccines out to some communities in places like the Interior and Northern B.C., and that there are issues like heat, wildfires, and smoke to deal with.

In addition, she said that she expects case number increases to slow down as public health manages cases and vaccinations increase.

Today, the B.C. Health Ministry announced that there 59 new COVID-19 cases in the province.

Currently, there are currently 649 active cases, which is an increase of 25 cases since yesterday.

By region, the new and active cases include:

  • 21 new cases in Fraser Health (175 total active cases, a decrease of two cases since yesterday);
  • 19 new cases in Interior Health (175 total active cases, or an increase of 12 cases since yesterday);
  • 10 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health (236 total active cases, or six more cases than yesterday);
  • seven new cases in Island Health (22 total active cases, which is seven more cases than yesterday);
  • two new cases in Northern Health (30 total active cases, or two more cases than yesterday);
  • no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada (11 total active cases).

At the moment, there are 74 individuals are currently in hospital (a decrease of 12 cases) and 19 of those patients are in intensive care units (one fewer person since yesterday).

Sadly, there has been one new death (in Interior Health), which brings the total fatalities during the pandemic to a cumulative total of 1,760 people who have died of COVID-19-related reasons.

With 36 more recoveries, a cumulative total of 145,491 people have now recovered.

B.C. has now recorded a cumulative total of 147,915 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

In the provincial immunization program, B.C. has administered 5,497,150 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As of today, 78.4 percent (3,635,811) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose and 40 percent (1,854,387) have received their second dose.

Today, Northern Health declared the outbreak over at Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek, which was originally declared on June 11. In this outbreak, two residents tested positive and one of them died.

Currently, there are three active outbreaks in:

  • acute care: Laurel Place at Surrey Memorial Hospital, Eagle Ridge Hospital in Fraser Health, and Royal Inland Hospital in Interior Health;
  • long-term care: none
  • assisted or independent living: none

None of the five regional health authorities declared any new healthcare or community outbreaks, and didn’t list any new public exposure events or business closures.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following four flights to its public exposure lists (affected row information is listed at the BCCDC website when available):

  • June 24: Turkish Airlines 75, Istanbul to Vancouver;
  • June 28: WestJet 170, Vancouver to Edmonton;
  • July 4: Turkish Airlines 75, Istanbul to Vancouver;
  • July 4: WestJet 188, Kelowna to Calgary.

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Interior Health will make COVID-19 vaccinations available in downtown Kelowna starting Friday – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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Interior Health will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in downtown Kelowna for the next several days.

In conjunction with the Downtown Kelowna Association, the clinic will be held in the lobby of the Kelowna Yacht Club beginning Friday.

The pop-up clinic will be held from 3 p.m. to 7p.m. for five consecutive days, and will be re-evaluated after that time to determine whether it will continue.

Anyone who has not yet received a first vaccination, or those 28 days past their first shot in welcome to drop in. No appointments are necessary.

Access to the clinic is from the boardwalk entrance.

There have been calls for a downtown clinic as positive COVID-19 cases swell in the Central Okanagan.

Interior Health declared an outbreak in the Central Okanagan Wednesday after it was revealed 240 positive cases had been recorded over the past seven days.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry brought back a mask mandate for the region from Peachland to Lake Country, making the wearing of masks mandatory indoors.

That mandate is expected to run for at least 14 days.

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Alberta's top doctor came up with plan to lift all COVID-19 orders: health minister – The Record (New Westminster)

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CALGARY — Alberta’s health minister says it was the idea of the province’s chief medical health officer to end isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19 or who have been in close contact with someone who has.

Tyler Shandro said Dr. Deena Hinshaw came to the government with the plan. He said the government agreed with science and data supporting it and wanted to respect the independence of her position. 

“It came from Dr. Hinshaw,” Shandro said Thursday when asked about the province’s strategy. “This is work that was developed by those who are in public health.”

He acknowledged concerns about moving forward so quickly. “We have many different opinions in the medical community and that’s to be expected and that’s encouraged.”

He also said that while Alberta is alone in Canada in the approach, others will eventually follow suit. 

“We are leading the way in moving to the endemic (phase of the COVID-19) response. We’ve led the way throughout in the response to the pandemic quite frankly.”

Hinshaw has always said she presents scientific evidence, numbers and trends, but the final decision on how to respond to pandemic developments lies with the government.

Close contacts of positive cases are no longer notified of exposure by contact tracers, nor are they required to isolate. The government has also ended asymptomatic testing.

As of Aug. 16, individuals who test positive won’t be legally required to isolate either — although it will still be recommended. Isolation hotels will close and quarantine supports will end. 

Reaction to Hinshaw’s announcement Wednesday was swift and critical — much of it on Twitter. Opposition politicians, the medical community and private citizens all weighed in.

On Thursday, Dr. Daniel Gregson, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Calgary, said the government’s decision to end mandated isolation is irresponsible. 

“The message we’re sending is that if you have an infection with COVID, or think you might have an infection with COVID, you can do whatever you want,” said Gregson. “I would not agree with that.”

He said a fourth wave is inevitable, primarily among young and healthy individuals. “We are going to see a bump in our hospitalizations. The question is how much?” 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it’s inconceivable Alberta is eliminating almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders as cases climb in the province.

“It is the height of insanity,” Nenshi said.

“It is putting the health of Albertans at risk to stop contact tracing, to stop testing people for the coronavirus and to become one of the first — if not the first — jurisdictions in the world to say that people who have tested positive, who are infectious, can just go about their lives.”

Nenshi said if he were in another jurisdiction he would contemplate travel restrictions on Albertans starting Aug. 16. 

“I’m aware of no science that backs this up,” he said. “Even the most fervent of the anti-maskers wouldn’t say (to) unleash people who are actually infectious into the population.”

Nenshi said he worries the decision to lift the orders is politically motivated and has nothing to do with science.

Rida Abboud also questioned the province’s motives. 

Abboud, who teaches at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and has a child starting kindergarten in the fall, said the United Conservatives are taking a gamble and the odds aren’t in their favour.

“I feel like I’m sending my child into the COVID Wild Wild West,” said Abboud. “It really feels like this government has no interest whatsoever in supporting families in … diminishing the risks to anyone under the age of 12 who can’t get vaccinated.”

She’s also worried about returning to the classroom come September. Abboud said poorly ventilated rooms and teaching an age cohort with lower vaccination rates is concerning, especially as it will be unknown who’s infected. 

“This government likes to gamble on a lot of different approaches. They’ve lost in many ways and this is, I think, unfortunately, another one,” she said. “It’s just so shocking and saddening that it’s on the backs of parents and women, in particular.” 

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley urged the government to reverse course with necessary resources.

“This isn’t fair to Albertans. It’s not fair for them to be exposed and not know,” Notley said. “It’s also quite reasonable to keep asking Albertans who are infected to stay home until they are no longer contagious.”

She said the changes will do little to encourage uptake of vaccines.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Bill Graveland and Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press


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COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 200 new cases and over 1000 active cases; Fraser Health shifts to vaccine hubs; and more – The Georgia Straight

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Today’s total and new case numbers are provisional but they are concerning.

Both new and active cases continue to rise and hit new highs in recent weeks, with the bulk of both of them still in Interior Health—which continues to have more new and active cases than both Fraser and Vancovuer Coastal Health combined.

Meanwhile, like the last heat wave, some immunization clinics may be affected by the high temperatures and at least one is already being relocated.

According to the B.C. Health Ministry, the following numbers for total and new cases are provisional due to a delayed data refresh.

For now, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 204 new COVID-19 cases today.

Currently, there are 1,055 active cases, which is an increase of 146 cases since yesterday.

The new and active cases include:

  • 107 new cases in Interior Health, with 600 total active cases (an increase of 97 cases since yesterday);
  • 58 new cases in Fraser Health, with 241 total active cases (33 more cases than yesterday);
  • 23 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 139 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
  • 14 new cases in Island Health, with 51 total active cases (10 more cases than yesterday);
  • two new cases in Northern Health, with 19 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
  • no new cases of people from outside of Canada, with five total active cases (same number as yesterday).

At the moment, 51 individuals are in hospital (four more people than yesterday), and 20 of those patients are in intensive care units (same number as yesterday).

Thankfully, no new COVID-19-related deaths have been reported, which leaves the overall total at 1,771 people who have died during the pandemic.

With 54 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 146,810 people have now recovered.

During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 149,648 cases.

The forecast heat wave may cause some clinics to be relocated again, as they were during the previous heat wave in June.

In preparation for the expected high temperatures this weekend, Island Health announced today that it will move the Eagle Ridge immunization clinic to the air-conditioned Victoria Conference Centre (720 Douglas Street, Victoria) tomorrow (July 30).

Also tomorrow, Island Health will hold a pop-up clinic from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Starlight Stadium (1089 Langford Parkway) in Langford, during the game between Victoria’s Pacific FC and Calgary’s Cavalry FC.

Meanwhile, Fraser Health announced today that it has now administered over two million vaccine doses—80 percent of eligible people in the region have received at least one dose, and over 60 percent have received their second dose.

Consequently, as of tomorrow (July 29), Fraser Health is transitioning from a network of immunization clinics to establishing four main hubs at existing clinics at:

  • Ag-Rec Centre (32470 Haida Drive) in Abbotsford (for both COVID-19 testing and immunizations);
  • Poirier Forum (618 Poirier Street) in Coqutilam;
  • Guildford Rec Centre (15105 105th Avenue) in Surrey;
  • North Delta Rec Centre (11415 84th Avenue) in Delta.

Immunization will also continue to be available at COVID-19 testing and immunization centres in Hope, Chilliwack, Mission, Langley, South Delta, South Surrey, Surrey 66, Coquitlam, and Burnaby. In addition, Fraser Health will continue to hold pop-up and mobile clinics, outreach clinics, and community initiatives (such as beachside clinics) to ensure easy access to immunizations.

The following clinics, however, will be closed on the dates listed below:

  • July 28: South Surrey Rec Centre and Chuck Bailey Rec Centre;
  • August 1: Abbotsford test collection centre at the University of the Fraser Valley will close and testing will relocate to Abbotsford Ag Rec;
  • August 7: Agassiz Agricultural Hall, Langley Events Centre, Anvil Centre, and Christine Sinclair Community Centre;
  • August 14: Chilliwack Mall, Hope Legion, Cloverdale Rec Centre, Surrey North, and Haney Place Mall;
  • August 30: Mamele’awt Community Indigenous Centre, Stó:lō Service Agency, Fraser River Indigenous Society, Mission Friendship Centre, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre.

As part of its effort to increase vaccinations amid the recently declared outbreak in the Central Okanagan, Interior Health will hold pop-up immunization clinics from 3 to 7 p.m. from Friday (July 30) to Wednesday (August 4) at the Kelowna Yacht Club (1370 Water Street) in Kelowna, and vaccinations are available for eligible drop-in visitors.

In the ongoing provincial immunization program so far, B.C. has administered 6,732,309 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As of today, 81 percent (3,753,057) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose and 64.1 percent (2,971,793) have received their second dose.

In addition, 81.9 percent (3,543,503) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 66.8 percent (2,890,948) have received their second dose.

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

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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