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COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 2000 new cases and 46 deaths on weekend, five healthcare outbreaks, and more

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Tragically, this past weekend has proven to be the most fatal time period that B.C. has witnessed during the course of the pandemic so far, with the largest number of deaths over a three-day period.

Meanwhile, new case counts remain high and the number of active and hospitalized cases continue to climb.

There were also five new healthcare outbreaks, and 14 stores and 23 flights with confirmed cases.

Henry explained that the process is “arduous” and involves many epidemiologists across the province, and that as case numbers increase, the process becomes even more challenging.

The data error announced on November 25 was rectified over the weekend, with changes reflected in today’s case numbers.

Accordingly, Henry said that they will be further automating their process, which will allow epidemiologists to spend more time on understanding the outbreaks and clusters in the community.

She said the daily numbers are important but that they look more at trends rather than individual days, which she has explained in the past can reflect a number of factors.

She said they will be adding the seven-day rolling daily average and talking more about it in the coming weeks to help people understand it.

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

At today’s in-person briefing, Henry provided updates for the past three time periods:

  • 750 new cases from November 27 to 28;
  • 731 new cases from November 28 to 29;
  • 596 new cases from November 29 to 30.

In addition, due to the correction to the data-reporting error from Fraser Health (based on a technical issue which has since been rectified), there were an additional 277 historical cases added.

Accordingly, there was a total of 2,354 new cases (including 10 epi-linked cases) over the weekend period.

The new case count includes, by region:

  • 1,365 new cases (including 277 historical cases) in Fraser Health;
  • 212 in Interior Health;
  • 73 in Northern Health;
  • 58 in Island Health;
  • one person from outside Canada.

Active cases have increased by 383 cases since November 20, rising to a total of 8,855 active cases as of today.

At the moment, there are 316 people in hospital (15 more than November 20), with 75 of those patients in intensive care units (six more than November 20).

One area that has decreased is the number of people being monitored by public health—the number dropped by 291 people since November 20 to 10,139 people today.

A total of 23,111 people have now recovered.

Sadly, B.C. had 46 deaths over the past three days, which Henry said is the highest-ever count. She also said that about 80 percent of the deaths were people in longterm care facilities. The eldest person who died this past weekend was 103 years old, Henry said.

Of the 46 deaths, Dix said there were:

  • 15 deaths from November 27 to 28;
  • 17 deaths from November 28 to 29—which establishes a new high;
  • 14 deaths from November 29 to 30.

The previous record was 13 deaths on November 26, which all three of the past days surpassed.

Dix also explained that 35 of those deaths in Fraser Health with the other 11 deaths in Vancouver Coastal Health.

The total number of deaths is now at 441 people who have died during the pandemic.

B.C. has recorded a cumulative total amount of 33,238 cases, which includes:

  • 21,070 cases in Fraser Health;
  • 8,850 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
  • 1,750 in Interior Health;
  • 845 in Northern Health;
  • 629 in Island Health;
  • 94 people from outside Canada.

Unfortunately, there are five new healthcare outbreaks:

  • Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead (4579 Chatterton Way) in Victoria, where Island Health stated that one staff member has tested positive and is limited to one unit;
  • St. Judes Anglican Home (810 W 27th Avenue) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on November 26;
  • Lakeview Care Centre (3490 Porter Street) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on November 26;
  • Fleetwood Villa (16028 83rd Avenue) in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated the one resident has tested positive;
  • Mountainview Village (1540 KLO Road) in Kelowna, where Interior Health stated that one resident and one staff member tested positive, and that the outbreak applies to both east and west units on the second floor.

In addition, one facility that wasn’t on Henry’s list was PICS Assisted Living Centre (12075 75A Avenue) in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated today that one resident and one staff member have tested positive.

One healthcare outbreak has been declared over: Louis Brier Home in Vancouver.

Henry said there are active outbreaks in 57 longterm care facilities and five acute care units for a total of 62 healthcare facilities.

She also said there are 1,338 active cases (847 residents and 487 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks.

Fraser Health declared one community outbreak at Newton Elementary (13359 81st Avenue) in Surrey, which has been temporarily closed for two weeks.

The list of schools with new exposures will be published in a separate forthcoming article.

Over the past three days, there have been 14 stores with employees who have tested positive.

Sobeys announced that four of its Safeway locations had staff members who tested positive:

  • one employee who last worked on November 18 at the 1766 Robson Street location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 19 at the 1780 East Broadway location in Vancouver.
  • one employee who last worked on November 24 at the 2101 Lahb Avenue location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 26 at the 6564 East Hastings Street location in Burnaby.

In addition, Sobeys announced an employee who last worked on November 18 at the FreshCo location at 7165 138th Street in Surrey tested positive.

Meanwhile, Loblaw announced seven of its stores had staff members who tested postive.

One employee who tested positive last worked on November 23 at Joti’s No Frills (310 West Broadway) in Vancouver.

Another employee who tested positive last worked on November 25 at Your Independent Grocer (1255 Davie Street) in Vancouver’s West End.

The remaining five stores were Real Canadian Superstore locations, including:

  • two employees who last worked on November 18 and 21 at the 2332 160th Street location in Surrey;
  • two employees who last worked on November 19 and 23 at the 3185 Grandview Highway location in Vancouver;
  • one employee who last worked on November 23 at the 8195 120th Street location in Delta;
  • one employee who last worked on November 23 at the 2280 Baron Road location in Kelowna;
  • one employee who last worked on November 24 at the 14650 104th Avenue location in Surrey.

Meanwhile, T&T Supermarket reported that a backroom employee who last worked on November 26 at the Metrotown location (147–4800 Kingsway Avenue) in Burnaby has tested positive.

Canadian Tire reported an employee who tested positive last worked on November 16 at its Prince George location (5008 Domano Boulevard).

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added 23 flights to its lists of flights confirmed with COVID-19:

  • November 15: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
  • November 15: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 17: Air Canada 314, Vancouver to Montreal;
  • November 17: Air Canada 8421, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • November 18: Air Canada 202, Vancouver to Calgary;
  • November 19: Air Canada 103, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 19: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • November 19: Air Canada 225, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 20: Flair 8102, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Aeromexico AM696, Mexico City to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Air Canada 1126, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • November 22: WestJet WS139, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • November 22: Air Canada AC311, Montreal to Vancouver;
  • November 22: WestJet Flight 3455, Calgary to Abbotsford;
  • November 23: Air Canada AC854, Vancouver to London;
  • November 24: Air Canada Flight 554, Vancouver to Los Angeles;
  • November 25: United Airlines Flight 5312, San Francisco to Vancouver;
  • November 25: Cathay Pacific 865, Vancouver to Hong Kong;
  • November 25: United Airlines 1641, Denver to Vancouver;
  • November 26: Air Canada AC121, Toronto to Vancouver;
  • November 26: Air Canada AC8081, Vancouver to Victoria;
  • November 27: Air Canada AC0044, Vancouver to Delhi;
  • November 27: Air Canada 8417, Kelowna to Vancouver.

 

Source: – The Georgia Straight

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B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April – Rossland News

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B.C.’s health ministry expects to start registering four million people for COVID-19 vaccine in March, beginning with the oldest and reaching everyone 18 and older who wants to be immunized by the end of September.

The largest immunization program in the province’s history will set up clinics in 172 B.C. communities, using school gymnasiums, arenas, community halls, church halls and convention centres, as well as mobile clinics for rural areas. Mobile teams will also be dispatched to people who aren’t able to leave their homes, using transit buses and other self-contained vehicles.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the current phase one of vaccinations has reached most long-term care staff and residents as well as front-line acute care staff with a first dose. Decisions on increasing access and mobility in long-term care homes can be considered in March, he said.

Phase two in February and March continues to target the highest-risk populations, seniors aged 80 and up in communities, hospital staff, community physicians and staff in home support and nursing for seniors.

The mass vaccination starts with phase three from April to June, with people registered for vaccination in five-year increments, starting with the group aged 75 to 79. Phase four, from July to September, moves to people younger than 60, moving down to age 18. Approximately 900,000 of B.C.’s population of more than five million are under 18, and won’t be eligible for vaccine under the current plan.

RELATED: Messenger RNA vaccines changing landscape of health care

RELATED: Antibody drug shows results in protecting nursing homes

With the delay in delivery of Pfizer’s vaccine while it expands its production facility in Belgium, deliveries to Canada are interrupted until February. Despite that, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said seniors aged under 80 in communities are likely to be registered and start receiving vaccine by the end of March.

Dr. Penny Ballem, the former deputy health minister appointed to lead the B.C. vaccine rollout, said the program is designed to be flexible, diverting vaccination to emerging situations like infection clusters in communities, work camps, and other group situations that may need earlier protection.

Details of the registration are still to come. Ballem said a phone call centre will be available to assist seniors who don’t have online access to get registered. For those who miss an appointment, they don’t lose their place in line and will receive priority for rescheduling.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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Front-line workers, chronically ill concerned about low priority in B.C.'s new COVID-19 vaccine plan – CBC.ca

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Sharon Lee-Flynn, 43, says she suffers from a spinal cord injury of more than twenty years and, with impaired pulmonary and cardiovascular systems, she’s “more at risk than a 60-year-old.” 

That’s why the B.C. resident says she doesn’t understand the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan announced Friday which mainly prioritizes people by age, leaving Lee-Flynn to wait at least another six months before she can be vaccinated. 

Lee-Flynn is one of a large group of vulnerable people who say they should be further up the new vaccination line. The list also includes teachers, first-responders and grocery store workers who are no longer being given higher priority based on their jobs. 

Instead, provincial officials announced that, after health-care staff, Phase 2 of the plan will allow seniors over 80 and Indigenous seniors over 65 to be vaccinated starting in February. Next will be Phase 3 in April which includes seniors 60 to 79. This leaves Lee-Flynn in Phase 4 starting in July when people from 18 to 59 will finally have the chance to be vaccinated. 

“It really seems like patients with true medical compromise have been overlooked in the ‘ethical framework’ put forth,” said Lee-Flynn, adding that she’s had “a very limited, house-arrest type of life” since last March to avoid risking her health.

Henry says schedule could move quicker if more vaccines approved

Premier John Horgan said Friday that he’s received a pile of mail “a couple of inches thick” from advocates asking for higher priority for certain people.

“All of the arguments were very compelling … but the science is pretty clear: age is the dominant determinant factor on severe illness and death.”

Both Horgan and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said other at-risk people could be vaccinated sooner than scheduled if more vaccines are approved by Health Canada.

Russ Grabb, 63, from North Vancouver, says while he’s been diagnosed with a rare, incurable form of leukemia and is severely immunocompromised, he’s prepared to wait the three-to-five months it will for this vaccine rollout because it is still faster than most.

“For us to be getting any kind of vaccination within 10 months to a year is a miracle,” he said, adding that he’s in “really good hands” with his doctors and his family in the meantime.

Firefighters can be exposed to COVID-19 on a daily basis, according to their union. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

First-responders should be prioritized, says firefighters association

Gord Ditchburn, president of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association, says while he’s happy the plan is finally out, he’s disappointed that firefighters, along with other first responders have been bumped down to Phases 3 and 4, under the new plan.

“Our members right across this province are exposed every day while interacting with the public in unknown environments… [This] puts firefighters at risk every day to picking up this virus,” he said.

Similarly, Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, told CBC’s On The Coast Friday that she’s concerned about “thousands of front-line essential workers” who are at high risk of exposure to the virus every day. 

“For us, it’s a question of clarity,” said Smith. “We represent members in corrections, shelters, supportive housing, child care… When with their turn be?”

Teachers are concerned about not having faster access to vaccines, says the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Teachers union wants enhanced protections

Meanwhile, Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said that she understands many teachers are stressed at not being prioritized, and called for the government to “take immediate action” to improve safety measures in schools, if this continues to be the case.

“We must have a mandatory mask mandate, we must have better physical distancing measures, and we must have ventilation upgrades in our classrooms,” her statement reads.

Horgan said the long-term goal is still to have everyone in the province who wants a vaccination to have it by the end of September.

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British Columbia announces plan for mass vaccination campaign starting in April – The Globe and Mail

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Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix look on as Premier John Horgan talks about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Jan. 22, 2021.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

Starting in February, British Columbia’s oldest residents will be asked to pre-register to get their COVID-19 vaccination, securing a place in line for when their age group is called.

The B.C. government offered the details of its distribution plan on Friday, as it wraps up the first phase of priority vaccinations for those in long-term care facilities. Rebuffing demands from various industries and professions, it has instead established a rollout based mostly on a resident’s date of birth.

“The science is very clear. The single biggest factor for death or severe illness, is age,” Premier John Horgan told a news conference on Friday. He said he has been lobbied hard by different interest groups that wanted priority vaccines, but said the plan is driven by the statistics on risk. An individual older than 60 is five times as likely to get seriously ill or die from COVID-19 than someone younger than 45, he noted. “No matter where you work, no matter what you do, your age is the predominant factor. And that’s been the focus of the development of this plan.”

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Even with mass vaccinations around the province starting in April, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said relief from pandemic restrictions such as mask requirements, travel limits and bans on social gatherings are many months away.

“I would love to be able to say July 1st, but I think there are a whole lot of unknowns,” she said. She suggested that non-essential travel within B.C. will likely be permitted by the summer, but not large gatherings. She cautioned that the new variants of COVID-19, or additional shortages of promised vaccines, could change that.

“By the summer, we should be able to have some types of our normal lives back again,” she said. “But the full, back to what we would like to have, in terms of social interactions and being together, is not likely until the fall.”

The province, dealing with uncertainty around vaccine supply, is focused on reaching select high-risk populations, such as people who are homeless, acute-care health workers, elderly residents at home and family doctors. Roughly 520,000 people are expected to be vaccinated in this early stage of the program, before distribution is opened up to the remainder of the province’s eligible adults. The two vaccines currently available in Canada, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have not been approved for people younger than 18.

Once residents are pre-registered, they will be contacted by their local health authority for the opportunity to visit one of mass vaccination centres that are being organized in 172 communities around the province. They will be set up in school gymnasiums, convention halls and stadiums, staffed by nurses and others who can be trained to administer the vaccine. Residents will emerge with a vaccination card, and instructions on when to return for their booster shot within 35 days.

Residents older than 79, or Indigenous elders older than 64, will be served first. Vaccinations will proceed based on age, descending in five-year increments. The last group to receive their shots will be those aged 18 to 24, with the last, second doses expected to be done in October.

The B.C. teachers union said they are concerned with the plan. “B.C. teachers, like many others, will be disappointed to see there is no prioritization for the front-line workers who have kept our schools, public services and economy open,” federation president Teri Mooring said in a statement.

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The Mayor of the Vancouver Island city of Duncan, which has seen a large wave of COVID-19 cases, expressed relief at word the program is under way. “The way that they rolled it out makes sense,” Michelle Staples said in an interview. “You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Before, there has been [this sense] that we have no idea how long this is going to go on.”

Ian MacPhee, comptroller of Prince of Whales, a marine-tour company operating out of Vancouver and Vancouver Island, said the prospect of widespread vaccination in B.C. provides some “hopeful certainty” for his tourism business.

But hope has a cost. He said his 27-year-old company faces the challenge of surviving to the point when many are vaccinated. “But how many limbs will we have left? We may be that soldier stumbling off the battlefield with only one arm and one leg,” said Mr. MacPhee, who is also an at-large member of the board of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.

The province’s plan is banking on the delivery of only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, but Dr. Henry said she is hoping a third vaccine, by AstraZeneca, will be approved shortly. That additional supply would allow the province to target some groups that are not currently prioritized but still facing elevated risk.

Until a majority of residents are vaccinated, the virus will continue to pose a risk, she noted. “We need to keep this bargain that we have made with each other, this social contract that we have, to keep ourselves, our communities, protected through this next few months, as we get towards the light, as we start to see the time when we will be able to come together again, when we will be able to take our masks off.”

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