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COVID-19 in B.C.: Northern Health surge prompts new measures; health minister criticizes protests; and more – The Georgia Straight



While the Lower Mainland has been the main locus of concern throughout most of the pandemic, it shifted in recent months to Interior Health and has now moved into Northern Health.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and Northern Health chief medical health officer Dr. Jong Kim held a news teleconference today to address concerns about cases that have been surging in Northern Health.

But off the top, Dix gave special thanks to and recognition of healthcare workers.

He later followed up saying, in response to a question about protests held yesterday in B.C., that there are two things that he finds unacceptable.

One is the targeting of hospitals, and what that meant for both healthcare staff as well as patients, including those in end-of-life situations. He raised concerns about how that also affects people visiting loved ones who are receiving treatment and having trouble accessing parking.

The second is hateful comments, which he said “do not reflect 98 percent of British Columbians, if not 99 percent”.

“We have to be, in these times, respectful and generous to one another,” he said. “We have to reflect on the behavior of some, which is unacceptable and I think reflects very, very badly on them.”

Dix said that there has been a significant increase in cases in Northern Health and the vast majority of cases in intensive care units in the region are among unvaccinated patients (90 percent).

He pointed out that although some communities in Northern Health, such as Kitimat (93.5 percent), have among the highest vaccination rates in the province, vaccination rates for those under 55 years of age, there are marked differences between Northern Health and the rest of the province, which he deemed a “significant issue”.

Henry said that there have been some outbreaks at work sites and industrial camps in Northern Health, such as at Site C, but that the virus has spread rapidly among pockets of unvaccinated people, especially over the past 10 days and has “really exploded quite quickly in a number of communities”.

Some of the hotspots, she said, have included the Nechako area, Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, and Prince George.

Kim said about half of the cases are from the Northern Interior region and a quarter of the cases from the northeast.

Northern Health stated in a news release that the majority of the transmissions are linked to personal social gatherings at private households and gatherings.

“We need to raise the alarm right now so that people can take those actions over the next few days and weeks to protect themselves and their families, and to go get immunized,” Henry said.

Henry and Northern Health announced new public health orders that will be effective as of Tuesday (September 7).

The new measures, which Henry explained focus on the areas of “greatest transmission and risk”, include:

  • personal gatherings at home are limited to one additional family or 5 guests;
  • personal gatherings outside homes can have up to a maximum of 50 people;
  • organized events (including indoor events, outside events with over 200 people, and both indoor and outdoor sporting events with spectators) must have a safety plan.

These measures are in addition to the guidelines for Step 3 of the B.C. Restart Plan.

All indoor fitness classes, gyms, recreational facilities, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, pubs, worship services, and educational activities remain unaffected by these changes—Henry said transmission isn’t occurring in these settings.

The new measures will remain in place until case numbers lower and vaccination rates increase in Northern Health.

The B.C. Health Ministry stated that today’s new case count and total cases are “provisional due to a delayed data refresh and will be verified once confirmed”.

So for now, the ministry is reporting 801 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Currently, there are 5,931 active cases, which is an increase of 58 cases since yesterday.

Although active cases have been decreasing in Vancouver Coastal Health had been decreasing over the past few days, they resumed increasing. Notably, active cases decreased in Interior Health, which has been contending with the outbreak in the Central Okanagan over recent weeks. 

The new and active cases include:

  • 267 new cases in Fraser Health, with 1,616 total active cases (112 more cases than yesterday).
  • 237 new cases in Interior Health, with 2,112 total active cases (a decrease of 187 cases).
  • 128 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 1,102 total active cases (60 more cases).
  • 103 new cases in Northern Health, with 553 total active cases (70 more cases).
  • 66 new cases in Island Health, with 541 total active cases (58 more cases).
  • no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada, with seven total active cases (same number as yesterday).

With 12 more people in hospitals than yesterday, there are now 199 hospitalized cases, and 116 of those patients are in intensive care units (13 more cases than yesterday).

Tragically, six new deaths—all in Interior Health—have been reported. The overall total of people who have died of COVID-19-related reasons during the pandemic is now at 1,824 fatalities.

With 660 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 159,560 people who tested positive have now recovered.

During the pandemic, B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 167,654 cases (the B.C. Health Ministry stated that this number is still to be verified).

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

Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Northcrest Care Centre in Delta, where one resident and two staff members have tested positive, for a total of three cases so far.

Fraser Health also declared an outbreak at Menno Home in Abbotsford, where two residents and two staff members have tested positive for a total of four cases. (This outbreak was announced at the same time as the B.C. Ministry update so it was not included on that list.)

In addition, Interior Health has declared an outbreak at Hillside Village in Salmon Arm.

Meanwhile, Interior Health declared the outbreak over at Nelson Jubilee Manor in Nelson.

In an update about the outbreak at Sunset Lodge in Victoria (declared on August 27), Island Health stated that seven more residents and one more staff member have tested positive. As of September 1, a total of 34 cases (20 residents and 14 staff) have been involved in this outbreak so far.  

Today Northern Health provided an update on the outbreak at the inpatient unit at Fort St. John Hospital, where two more cases have been identified. A total of seven people (four patients and three staff members) have tested positive so far in this outbreak.

Currently, there are 21 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities, including:

  • longterm care: Heritage Village, Northcrest Care Centre, Menno Home (Fraser Health); Arbutus Care Centre, Brock Fahrni (Vancouver Coastal Health); Village at Mill Creek, Cottonwoods Care Centre, Brookhaven Care Centre, Spring Valley Care Centre, Kamloops Seniors Village, and Hillside Village (Interior Health); and Sunset Lodge (Island Health);
  • acute care: Peace Arch Hospital, Chilliwack General Hospital (Fraser Health); and Fort St. John Hospital (Northern Health);
  • assisted or independent living: Nicola Meadows, Hawthorn Park, David Lloyd Jones, Sun Pointe Village, Hardy View Lodge, and Rose Woods Village (Interior Health).

From August 25 to 31, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 79 percent of cases and from August 18 to 31, they accounted for 84 percent of hospitalizations.

Out of a total of 4,861 COVID-19 cases from August 25 to 31, there were:

  • 3,345 unvaccinated people (68.8 percent);
  • 496 partially vaccinated people (10.2 percent);
  • 1,020 fully vaccinated people (21.0 percent).

Out of a total of 268 hospitalized cases from August 18 to 31, there were:

  • 203 unvaccinated people (75.7 percent);
  • 22 partially vaccinated people (8.2 percent);
  • 43 fully vaccinated people (16 percent).

Since December, B.C. has administered 7,494,567 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

As of today, 84.6 percent (3,922,233) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 76.9 percent (3,565,148) received their second dose.

In addition, 85.3 percent (3,688,115) of all eligible adults have received their first dose and 77.9 percent (3,369,631) received their second dose. 


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US President Joe Biden urges Covid-19 booster shots for those now eligible – Times of India



WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday urged those now eligible for Covid-19 booster shots to get the added protection a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.
Opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against Covid-19, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. Biden praised the decision and aimed to set aside any unease about the vaccination, saying that he would get his own booster soon.
“It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot,” Biden said. “It’s a bear, isn’t it?”
The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.
However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.
The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health-care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus. But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with an FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week. The category she included covers people who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or homeless shelters, as well as health care workers.
An administration official said the White House did not have input in Walensky’s decision nor was given a heads-up. Biden on Friday said “the decision is left to the scientists and the doctors. That’s what happened here.”
The panel had offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one. But the advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy front-line health care workers who aren’t at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.
The panel voted 9 to 6 to reject that proposal. Walensky decided to disregard the advisory committee’s counsel, issuing a statement saying she had restored the recommendation.
“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said late Thursday night. “At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”
It’s rare for a CDC director to overrule the panel recommendation; experts said it has only happened once this century.
Experts say getting the unvaccinated their first shots remains the top priority, and the panel wrestled with whether the booster debate was distracting from that goal. Biden stressed that the administration’s focus remained on getting people to get their first shots and that he intended to keep rolling out “vaccination requirements wherever I can.”
“The refusal to get vaccinated have cost all of us,” the president said. “It is not hyperbole: it is literally a tragedy. Don’t let it be your tragedy.”
All three of the Covid-19 vaccines used in the US are still highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even with the spread of the extra-contagious delta variant. But only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just 55% of the population.
“We can give boosters to people, but that’s not really the answer to this pandemic,” said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University. “Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We are declining care to people who deserve care because we are full of unvaccinated Covid-positive patients.”
Thursday’s decision represented a dramatic scaling back of the Biden administration plan announced last month to dispense boosters to nearly everyone to shore up their protection. Late Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration, like the CDC panel, signed off on Pfizer boosters for a much narrower slice of the population than the White House envisioned.
The booster plan marks an important shift in the nation’s vaccination drive. Britain and Israel are already giving a third round of shots over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries don’t have enough for their initial doses.
Walensky opened Thursday’s meeting by stressing that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the top goal “here in America and around the world.”
Walensky acknowledged that the data on who really needs a booster right away “are not perfect.” “Yet collectively they form a picture for us,” she said, “and they are what we have in this moment to make a decision about the next stage in this pandemic.”
The CDC panel stressed that its recommendations will be changed if new evidence shows more people need a booster.
The CDC advisers expressed concern over the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots early in the vaccine rollout. The government still hasn’t considered boosters for those brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match and give those people a Pfizer shot.
“I just don’t understand how later this afternoon we can say to people 65 and older, ‘You’re at risk for severe illness and death, but only half of you can protect yourselves right now,’” said Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University.
About 26 million Americans got their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago, about half of whom are 65 or older. It’s not clear how many more would meet the CDC panel’s booster qualifications.
CDC data show the vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness for all ages, but there is a slight drop among the oldest adults. And immunity against milder infection appears to be waning months after people’s initial immunization.
For most people, if you’re not in a group recommended for a booster, “it’s really because we think you’re well-protected,” said Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
Public health experts not involved in Thursday’s decision said it is unlikely people seeking third doses at a drugstore or other site will be required to prove they qualify.
Even with the introduction of boosters, someone who has gotten just the first two doses would still be considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s Dr. Kathleen Dooling. That is an important question to people in parts of the country where you need to show proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or enter other places of business.
Among people who stand to benefit from a booster, there are few risks, the CDC concluded. Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses are exceedingly rare, including heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men. Data from Israel, which has given nearly 3 million people — mostly 60 and older — a third Pfizer dose, has uncovered no red flags.
The U.S. has already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.

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B.C. records seven COVID-related deaths, 80% of those eligible fully vaccinated – News 1130



VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Seven more British Columbians have died due to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, as Fraser Health once again recorded the most new cases in the province.

A total of 743 new infections were recorded on Friday, including 292 in Fraser Health and 177 in Interior Health. Vancouver Coastal Health recorded 111 cases and Northern Health saw 106. Island health recorded the remaining 57 cases.

Four of the latest deaths were within the Fraser Health Authority, while Interior Health, Northern Health, and Island Health recorded one each.

The Fraser Health region also has the most active cases, with 2,029 of the 5,979 province-wide.

Related articles: Province begins crack-down on businesses that ignore vaccine card enforcement

The province says 319 COVID-19 patients are in the hospital, including 149 in the ICU.

Earlier Friday, the health ministry issued a statement, confirming all COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized are counted in the daily totals once they enter the facility, but are removed from the total even if they remain hospitalized but are no longer infectious.

“Once a patient in critical care is no longer infectious with COVID-19, the patient is removed from daily critical-care totals. However, for planning purposes, these patients are still included in the overall COVID-19 counts for the hospital,” the ministry added in a statement.

It says some patients need to stay in the hospital for “difficulties with other health conditions … that are no longer directly tied to COVID-19,” or because they may have caught the virus while in the hospital and still need care for the original issue they were admitted for.

“This means some patients who entered hospital or critical care as a COVID-19 patient may no longer be counted as COVID-19 patients once they are no longer infectious, even though they remain in hospital.”

It says as of Sept. 21, 2021, there were 152 patients in B.C. hospitals in that category. “Discontinued isolation,” which is usually over after 10 days if the patient doesn’t have a fever and their symptoms are improving.

B.C. reaches 80% mark for those with two vaccine doses

In the past day, 7,858 British Columbians aged 12 and up received their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total to an even 80 per cent. Another 6,778 people received their first dose bringing that percentage up to 87.5.

According to the province, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 75 per cent of cases between Sept. 16 and Sept. 22. It also says they accounted for 81.9 per cent of hospitalizations between Sept. 9 and Sept. 22.

Related articles:

There are 21 active outbreaks at health-care facilities:

Long-term care: Northcrest Care Centre, Westminster House, Menno Terrace East (Fraser Health), Arbutus Care Centre, Louis Brier Home and Hospital (Vancouver Coastal Health), Village at Mill Creek – second floor, Cottonwoods Care Centre, Spring Valley Care Centre, Kamloops Seniors Village, Hillside Village, The Hamlets at Westsyde, Joseph Creek Care Village, Overlander (Interior Health), Jubilee Lodge (Northern Health), and Victoria Chinatown Care Centre (Island Health)

Acute care: Chilliwack General Hospital (Fraser Health) and Fort St. John Hospital (Northern Health)

Assisted or independent living: Sunset Manor (Fraser Health), David Lloyd Jones, Sun Pointe Village, and Hardy View Lodge (Interior Health)

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Rodents on the rise: How to avoid an infestation this fall



Rodents have become a larger problem for Canadian homeowners since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pests that lived near bars and restaurants moved into residential neighbourhoods during lockdowns, spreading out their colonies and causing trouble.

With colder weather just around the corner, these rodents are likely to break into people’s homes. Invasions are especially common in the fall and winter when pests seek a warmer place to stay. Mice sneak in via the holes in the wall, and rats dig underground and into the basement.

While many homeowners deal with mice every year, it is important that they be kept out. Rodents are potential carriers of disease, and they will damage the home’s interior. The following tips, when used together, will help ensure that your home is pest-free this winter.

Block Entry Points

Rodents come from outside. While it may seem like they appear out of thin air, rodents find openings in the outer walls of the home and sneak their way inside. Wall vents, cracked window frames, and doors that have been left open are often to blame.

Examine your home’s exterior very carefully and use caulking or mesh to block the openings you find. Check between the layers of your siding, underneath your deck, and along the edges of your soffits for openings of 5mm or more. Put weatherstripping on the bottoms of your doors and seal cracks in the foundation with epoxy.

If you’re not sure you got them all, contact a mice exterminator for an inspection and pest-proofing service. Professionals offer complete pest-proofing in addition to pest control. They can find the entry points you missed and close them for you. If you know that there are rats in your neighbourhood, a professional can protect your foundation by digging a trench and attaching a mesh to its sides. This will prevent rats from digging into the basement.

Do Some Fall Cleaning

Spring isn’t the only time of year for cleaning. Mice, rats, ants, and other pests can smell the food you keep, and they will want their share. Deep clean the kitchen this fall and maintain it to keep pests out when it gets cold. Vacuum everywhere and clean the floors beneath your major appliances. Keep surfaces clean and store food in airtight containers to reduce odours. Never leave dirty dishes out overnight and use lidded garbage cans.

In addition to food, pests love clutter. Rodents like to hide in quiet, cluttered areas, like messy basements and storage rooms. This way, they can hide as they move from place to place. Get organized this fall and get rid of what you don’t need. Move objects off the floor and create space so there is nowhere for pests to hide.

Tidy up the Yard

Because rodents love food and clutter, it is important that you maintain the yard, as well. Trim back the vines, bushes, and plants that grow around the walls of the home to reduce the number of potential hiding spots. Move patio furniture and firewood away from the sides of the home, as well. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves, and bag all your organic materials for collection.

Pest control experts recommend getting rid of the bird feeder because it attracts rodents. While it is unfortunate, bird feeders are magnets of animal activity. Consider getting rid of it when the temperature cools or switch to one that hangs far away. Harvest your apples and home-grown produce on time, and secure your garbage cans with bungee cords or tight locks.

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