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COVID-19 in B.C.: New case counts exceed 300 per day, 14 schools with new exposures, and more – The Georgia Straight



B.C. deputy health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson, who was filling in for Dr. Bonnie Henry at today B.C. COVID-19 update, and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix expressed concern about the extremely high case numbers that were registered over the past weekend.

However, these new cases aren’t linked to events that occured over the Halloween weekend—which included a mass congregation of people in the Downtown Vancouver core, fights, stabbings, and fires—as symptoms take up to 14 days to manifest.

“All of us could see what was going on on Granville Street,” Dix said of the large gathering of partiers on Halloween night. “It was on TV. It was on social media, and I can imagine the frustration of the millions of British Columbians who are following the rules.”

Dix also pointed out that these types of visible public events tend to gain a lot of attention, such as previous gatherings at English Bay did.

However, what people aren’t seeing on social media or on the news are the private parties that have been held at homes which been a major concern and have been contributing to the increases in cases.

Gustafson, who added that we are now entering the 11th month of the pandemic, pointed out that as the weather has become colder and people have moved indoors, “we are going to see fluctuations and surges in some communities”.

She explained that transmissions have tended to occur at large gatherings at peoples’ private homes where there isn’t a safety plan in place, rather than restaurants or venues that have safety protocols in place.

For those who have to have a social gathering or event, Gustafson recommended holding it at a restaurant or venue that has an established safety plan.

“So many places in British Columbia have learned how to operate safely,” she said.

When it comes to workplace transmission, she said they are mostly seeing transmission among social networks gathering outside of the workplace.

With regards to the recent provincial election, Gustafson said they review all types of places where transmission is occurring but there haven’t been any transmission traced to polling stations.

Meanwhile, there were 14 schools with new exposure dates (all in Fraser Health), and seven flights and six stores with confirmed cases.  

New case counts were significantly higher than previous weeks, and all of the new case counts over the past three consecutive days have each exceeded 300 cases. 

Gustafson said at today’s briefing that B.C. had a total of 1,120 new cases over the three days over the past weekend, including:

• October 30 to 31: 352 new cases;

• October 31 to November 1: 389 new cases, which is a new record high;

• November 1 to 2: 379 new cases.

By region, that includes:

  • 830 cases in Fraser Health;
  • 234 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
  • 36 in Interior Health;
  • 10 in Northern Health;
  • nine in Island Health;
  • 90 people from outside Canada.

Currently, there are 2,945 active cases—an increase of 555 cases over the span of the three time periods since October 30.

At the moment, 90 people are in hospital (an increase of 12 people since October 30), with 19 of those patients in intensive care units (six less people than October 30).

Public health is monitoring 6,448 people for exposure to confirmed cases, which is 445 more people than October 39.

There are three new healthcare outbreaks:

  • Hamilton Village Care Centre (23111 Garripie Avenue) in Richmond, where Vancouver Coastal Health stated that it imposed restrictions on the first floor on October 29;
  • Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre (9341 Burns Drive) in Delta, which had one staff member test positive;
  • Rotary Manor (1121 90th Avenue) in Dawson Creek, which had one staff member test positive and Northern Health stated that the last exposure date was on October 25.

Fraser Health declared the outbreak at Baillie House (11762 Laity Street) in Maple Ridge as over on November 1.

Active outbreaks are currently at 28 healthcare outbreaks—26 in longterm care facilities and two acute care units.

There aren’t any new community outbreaks.

In addition, Fraser Health declared the community outbreaks at Valhalla Distribution/MSJ Distribution (7848 Hoskins Street) in Delta and J&L Beef Ltd. (17565 65A Avenue) in Surrey as both being over as of October 31.

Tragically, there have been six deaths (five in Vancouver Coastal Health and one in Fraser Health), for a total of 269 deaths in B.C. during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, a cumulative total of 15,501 cases have been confirmed in B.C., including:

• 9,049 in Fraser Health;

• 4,898 in Vancouver Coastal Health;

• 777 in Interior Health;

• 422 in Northern Health;

• 265 in Island Health; 

• 90 people from outside Canada.

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

Six grocery stores and pharmacies have reported having staff members who tested positive.

Sobeys announced that an employee at Thrifty Foods (102–15745 Croydon Drive) in Surrey, who last worked at the location on October 26, has tested positive.

Loblaw has announced each of the following stores had one employee who tested positive:

  • Real Canadian Superstore (2332 160th Street) in Surrey, with the last exposure date on October 19;
  • Shoppers Drug Mart (8180 No. 2 Road) in Richmond, with the last exposure date on October 23;
  • Loblaws City Market (1650 Lonsdale Avenue) in North Vancouver, with the last exposure date on October 24;
  • Real Canadian Superstore (8195 Scott Road) in Delta, with the last exposure date on October 25;
  • Shoppers Drug Mart (4295 Blackcomb Way) in Whistler, with the last exposure date on October 28.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control added the following seven flights confirmed with COVID-19 to its list (with affected row information available on its website):

• October 18: Flair 8186, Edmonton to Prince George;

• October 19: United Airlines 466, Denver to Vancouver;

• October 21: Air Canada 103, Toronto to Vancouver;

• October 23: Air Canada 127, Toronto to Vancouver;

• October 23: WestJet 725, Toronto to Vancouver;

• October 28: WestJet 725, Toronto to Vancouver;

• October 30: WestJet 183, Calgary to Kelowna.

Anyone in the affected rows or on these flights should watch for symptoms for 14 days and immediately self-isolate if symptoms develop while contacting 811 or your local healthcare provider for testing information.

École Westwood Elementary

Fraser Health—the only regional health authority to report new exposure incidents at school—added 14 schools with new exposure dates.

In Abbotsford, Abbotsford Dasmesh Punjabi (5930 Riverside Street) had an exposure event from October 20 to 21

In Coquitlam, Mundy Elementary (2200 Austin Avenue), which previously had an exposure incident on October 6, has had another exposure event from October 20 to 22

In Port Coquitlam, École Westwood Elementary (3610 Hastings Street) had exposures from October 19 to 22 and 26.

In Langley, two schools had new exposure dates:

  • Langley Fundamental Elementary (21789 50th Avenue) had an exposure incident on October 22;
  • Global Montessori School (19785 55A Avenue), which previously had exposure events from October 19 to 22, had added October 23 and 26 as additional dates.

In Surrey, there were nine schools with new dates, including:

• Cloverdale Catholic School (17511 59th Avenue) had an exposure event from October 21 to 22;

• Dr. F.D. Sinclair Elementary (7480 128th Street), which had a previous exposure event from October 5 to 6, has had another exposure event from October 20 to 22;

• École Panorama Ridge Secondary (13220 64th Avenue)—which previously had exposures on September 8 and 10; from September 30 to October 1; from October 6 to 9; from October 13 to 15; and from October 19 to 20—has had more exposures from October 21 to 22;

• Enver Creek Secondary (14505 84th Avenue), which previously had exposures on October 9 and October 14, had a new exposure on October 26;

• Fleetwood Park Secondary (7940 156th Street), which previously had an exposure incident on October 1, has had an exposure event from October 20 to 21;

• Sikh Academy—Newton (12895 85th Avenue), which had a previous exposure on October 14, has additional exposure dates from October 19 to 22 and 26;

• Sullivan Heights Secondary (6248 144th Street)—which had previous incidents on September 8; from September 30 to October 1; from October 13 to 15 and 19; and from October 20 to 22—has added October 30 to its exposure dates;

• Sunrise Ridge Elementary (18690 60th Avenue) had an exposure on October 21;

• Surrey Centre Elementary (16670 Old McLellan Road) had an exposure on October 22.

Surrey Centre Elementary


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Makeshift graveyard constructed outside of Alberta health minister's office – CTV Toronto



Rows of cardboard grave markers lined the grass across the street from Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s office in southwest Calgary Monday morning.

The signs, erected in the grass on the west side of Macleod Trail, criticized the province’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and placed blame on the provincial government for the recent spike in confirmed cases.

The individual or group responsible for the makeshift graveyard has not been identified.

The province announced 1,584 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday, continuing Alberta’s four-day streak of establishing record highs for new case counts. Alberta’s new case count was the most amongst all provinces.

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Alberta reports new one-day record Sunday with 1,584 new COVID-19 cases – Strathroy Age Dispatch



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As Albertarecorded a newrecord for single-day COVID-19 cases, the fifth one in a week, Albertans are left wondering what next steps to take when it comes to new restrictions.

On Sunday, the province reported 1,584 new cases of COVID-19 with 4,309 active cases in the city of Edmonton, a rate of 421.8 per 100,000 people.

During a Thursday emergency advisory committee meeting, Mayor Don Iveson asked Dr. Michael Zakhary what the trigger points would be for stronger COVID-19 measures to be brought in.

Zakhary, a medical officer of health for the Edmonton Zone, said that’s a policy decision for Alberta Health.

“At the moment we haven’t had information from Alberta Health about the triggers for the next action,” he said.

Not having detailed information on when and how new restrictions may come down is frustrating, said Coun. Andrew Knack in an interview Sunday.

He said at the beginning of the pandemic it was easier for the community to come together when Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, and Premier Jason Kenney explained the scope and scale of the province’s COVID-19 situation with modelling in April.

“To date, we don’t even have new modelling based on everything we’ve learned over the last eight months,” Knack said.

“So that’s challenging for everyone, including folks in municipal government, to know what the right actions are to help minimize the impact to people’s health as well as to our economy.”

The city could help if it had information on triggers for new restrictions as well as when they might loosen.

“We could aid in the decisions, we could make adjustments to our own civic facilities to help make sure we’re being clear to Edmontonians what needs to be done and what shouldn’t be done and what should be done,” Knack said.

One area that could be helpful with the city’s COVID-19 response, Coun. Ben Henderson said, is if the city’s peace officers were given the power to once again enforce restrictions in addition to police.

“There’s a whole bunch of areas where we could probably be more effective for our population,” Henderson said. “The province is one of the very few provinces that hasn’t done a mask bylaw, but has been very supportive of us doing ours, so there’s a kind of mixed signal there as well.”

Hinshaw said Friday she is preparing new recommendations for the province to consider.

“No decisions have yet been made, but of course we are watching very closely and considering what may need to be done if our numbers do not go down,” she said.

As of Sunday, there were 12,195 active cases across the province and 310 people hospitalized, including 60 in intensive care units. There were no new deaths.

In the County of Vermilion River there were 7 active cases as of Monday morning. That’s a rate of 54.2 active cases per 100,000. In the County of St. Paul there are 20 cases as of Monday morning–a rate of 121.3 active cases per 100,000.

The most recent restrictions impacting group sports, fitness, amateur arts performances, and late-night restaurant liquor sales were implemented on Nov. 13. They are expected to be in effect until Friday.

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley is seeking an emergency debate on Monday afternoon in light of the record number of COVID-19 cases and the lack of information and lack of action from Kenney.

“This is the greatest public health threat we have faced in our lives,” said Notley in a news release. “When faced with great challenges, Albertans are always willing to roll up their sleeves and work together, but to do so they need leadership and a road map. So far, the premier has provided neither.

“We have seen premiers across the country address the public in recent days and provide modelling and other information that makes it clear just how big of a threat COVID-19 is. In Alberta, we’ve seen nothing of the sort.”

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3rd major COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective and cheaper – Medicine Hat News



By Danica Kirka And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press on November 23, 2020.

FILE – In this Wednesday, June 24, 2020 file photo, a volunteer receives an injection at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, as part of Africa’s first participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial developed at the University of Oxford in Britain in conjunction with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. On Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, AstraZeneca Inc. announced that the Food and Drug Administration is letting it resume testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Pool via AP)

LONDON – Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals.

The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine.

AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage results for a potential COVID-19 vaccine as the world anxiously waits for scientific breakthroughs that will bring an end to a pandemic that has wrought economic devastation and resulted in nearly 1.4 million confirmed deaths.

Pfizer and Moderna last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were almost 95% effective. But, unlike its rivals, the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries.

“I think these are really exciting results,” Dr. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the trial, said during a news conference. “Because the vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, it can be distributed around the world using the normal immunization distribution system. And so our goal “¦ to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also cheaper. AstraZeneca, which has pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its cost at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20 a dose, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have struck to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.

All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.

Oxford researchers and AstraZeneca stressed that they aren’t competing with other projects, and that multiple vaccines will be needed to reach enough of the world’s population and end the pandemic.

“We’re not thinking about vaccinations working in terms of one person at a time. We have to think about vaccinating communities, populations, reducing transmission within those populations, so that we really get on top of this pandemic,” said Sarah Gilbert, a leader of the Oxford research team. “And that’s what it now looks like we’re going to have the ability to contribute to in a really big way.”

The results come as a second wave of COVID-19 hits many countries, once again shutting businesses, restricting social interaction and pummeling the world economy.

AstraZeneca said it will immediately apply for early approval of the vaccine where possible, and it will seek an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization, so it can make the vaccine available in low-income countries.

The AstraZeneca trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half-dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month later was 90% effective. Another approach, giving patients two full doses one month apart, was 62% effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%.

The vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that is combined with genetic material for the characteristic spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19. After vaccination, the spike protein primes the immune system to attack the virus if it later infects the body.

The vaccine can be transported under “normal refrigerated conditions” of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), AstraZeneca said. By comparison, Pfizer plans to distribute its vaccine using specially designed “thermal shippers” that use dry ice to maintain temperatures of minus-70 degrees Celsius (minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit).

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said the finding that a smaller initial dose is more effective than a larger one is good news because it may reduce costs and mean more people can be vaccinated.

“The report that an initial half-dose is better than a full dose seems counterintuitive for those of us thinking of vaccines as normal drugs: With drugs, we expect that higher doses have bigger effects, and more side-effects,” he said. “But the immune system does not work like that.”

The results reported Monday come from trials in the U.K. and Brazil that involved 23,000 people. Late-stage trials are also underway in the U.S., Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America, with further trials planned for other European and Asian countries.

AstraZeneca has been ramping up manufacturing capacity, so it can supply hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine starting in January, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said earlier this month.

Soriot said Monday that the Oxford vaccine’s simpler supply chain and AstraZeneca’s commitment to provide it on a non-profit basis during the pandemic mean it will be affordable and available to people around the world.

“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” Soriot said.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he felt “a great sense of relief” at the news from AstraZeneca.

Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and the government says several million doses can be produced before the end of the year if it is approved by regulators.

Just months ago, “the idea that by November we would have three vaccines, all of which have got high effectiveness “¦ I would have given my eye teeth for,” Hancock said.


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