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COVID-19 kills 11 more B.C. residents, as hospitalizations return to record level – North Shore News

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While the number of serious cases of COVID-19 in B.C. remains high, with a record 338 people in hospital – 13 more than yesterday – the number of those people in intensive care units fell by four overnight, to 76.

Deaths continue to mount, with 11 more individuals succumbing to the virus overnight, making the death toll 492, since the first COVID-19-related death in the province on March 9.

There were 711 new cases identified, for a total of 36,132 since the first case in B.C. was detected on January 28. 

“Currently, 10,957 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and 25,658 people who tested positive have recovered,” provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement. 

They broke the newly identified cases down by health region, as follows: 
• 143 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 427 in Fraser Health;
• 10 in Island Health;
• 81 in Interior Health; and
• 50 in Northern Health.

While Fraser Health remains the hot spot in the province for infections, all regions are battling outbreaks. Northern Health’s 50 new infections is a high number for that remote region, and more than double the 23 cases that were identified yesterday. 

Two new outbreaks at health care facilities are at Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in Surrey, and at Richmond Hospital in Richmond.

The outbreak at Youville Residence in Vancouver is over.

Dix yesterday made clear that despite the high number of people in hospital, scheduled surgeries are being done.

Scheduled surgeries are sometimes referred to as “elective” or “non-urgent” surgeries, although no one elects to have surgery if it is not necessary. 

Since the B.C. government restarted these surgeries on May 18, there have been:
• 49,100 completed in Fraser Health;
• 32,919 completed in Interior Health;
• 10,458 completed in Northern Health;
• 42,516 completed in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 37,543 completed in Island Health; and
• 7,266 completed in the Provincial Health Services Authority.

“There have been some questions about acute care capacity in recent days,” Dix. said. “In terms of our base bed capacity, it’s at 87.8%.”

When Dix added what he called “surge beds,” which would be extra beds added to the system, the province’s hospitals are now at 70.6% capacity. 

“That’s the level of beds that are occupied overall in hospitals,” he said. “Just to put that in context, last year at this time, [bed occupancy] was at 103.5% of base-bed capacity.”

Dix said ICU base-bed capacity is at 76%, although when new beds that have been added are included, ICU wards across the province are at 54.6% capacity. 

Dix has noted that what is needed in addition to beds is staff, and that this is one of the stresses in the system. 

There are now nine hospitals in the province with active outbreaks:
• University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George.
• West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni;
• Saanich Peninsula Hospital in Saanichton;
• Burnaby Hospital in Burnaby;
• Langley Memorial Hospital in Langley;
• Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver;
• Richmond Hospital in Richmond;
• Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge; and
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey.

In total, there are 56 seniors’ living facilities that have active outbreaks, and below is a full breakdown by health region.

There are 14 active outbreaks at seniors’ facilities in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, and they include:
• Arbutus Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Banfield Pavilion, in Vancouver;
• Revera Capilano Care Centre in West Vancouver;
• Columbus Residence in Vancouver;
• German Canadian Care Home in Vancouver;
• Lakeview Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Little Mountain Place in Vancouver;
• Renfrew Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Royal Ascot Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Royal Arch Masonic Home long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• St. Judes Anglican Home in Vancouver;
• Three Links Care Centre long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• Villa Cathay Care Home in Vancouver; and
• Windermere Care Centre in Vancouver.

The 35 outbreaks at seniors’ facilities in the ​Fraser Health region now include:
• Agassiz Seniors Community in Agassiz;
• Agecare Harmony Court Estates in Burnaby;
• Agecare Court Estates in Burnaby;
• Al Hogg Pavilion in White Rock;
• Amenida Seniors Community in Surrey;
• Amica White Rock in White Rock;
• Baillie House long-term care home in Maple Ridge;
• Belvedere Care Centre in Coquitlam;
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Chartwell Langley Gardens in Langley;
• Fellburn Care Centre long-term care facility in Burnaby;
• Finnish Manor in Burnaby;
• Fleetwood Villa Retirement Residence in Surrey;
• Fort Langley Seniors Community in Fort Langley;
• George Derby Centre in Burnaby;
• Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre 2 long-term care facility in Delta;
• Harrison Pointe retirement home in Langley;
• Harrison at Elim Village in Surrey;
• Hawthorne Seniors Care Community long-term care in Port Coquitlam;
• Hawthorne Seniors Care Community assisted living in Port Coquitlam;
• Hollyrood Manor long-term care home in Maple Ridge;
• Jackman Manor in Langley Township;
• Laurel Place long-term care facility in Surrey;
• Menno Home in Abbotsford;
• Morgan Place Care Society in Surrey;
• Northcrest Care Centre in Delta;
• Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in Surrey;
• PICS Assisted Living in Surrey;
• Queen’s Park Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Sunset Manor in Chilliwack;
• Tabor Home in Abbotsford;
• The Residence at Clayton Heights in Surrey;
• The Residence in Mission;
• Valley Haven Care Home in Chilliwack; and
• White Rock Senior Village in White Rock.

There are three outbreaks at seniors’ homes in Northern Health:
• North Peace Seniors Housing Society buildings in Fort St. John;
• Rotary Manor Dawson Creek in Dawson Creek; and
• Gateway House long-term care home in Prince George.

Two outbreaks are at seniors’ living facilities in the Island Health region: Tsawaayuss-Rainbow Gardens in Port Alberni and Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead in Victoria.

The Interior Health region has two seniors’ facility outbreaks, at Mountainview Village in Kelowna and Sun Pointe Village in Kelowna.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom

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The barriers facing rural health-care workers looking for a COVID-19 vaccine – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
With Manitoba’s only vaccine supersites set up in its two largest cities, rural health-care staff must use sick days or vacation time if they want to get the vaccine during work hours.

The union representing some of these workers worries the long trip is pulling priority staff away from the front lines.

All eligible health-care staff in Manitoba who want to roll up their sleeves and get a COVID-19 vaccine have two options – travel to the immunization supersite at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg, or travel to the immunization supersite at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

While one other supersite is being planned for Thompson, the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) said there are not enough options.

It said currently health-care staff who are eligible have to make the trip to these two supersites, which could take more than a day in some cases.

Michelle Gawronsky, the president of the MGEU, told CTV News the province needs to remember Manitoba extends beyond the perimeters of Brandon, Thompson and Winnipeg.

“Number one, I don’t understand why we are forcing healthcare workers to actually leave the job for any period of time,” she said. “The employer is taking them out of the workplace, out of the care that is needed for those in the facilities to be able to get the vaccine.”

For the health-care workers who don’t want to miss at least a day’s pay, they are required to use their sick days or vacation days for the trip.

“We encourage eligible staff to arrange their vaccine appointment outside of work hours, however, staff can use sick time, vacation or other accrued time if they are required to go during a planned or scheduled shift,” a spokesperson for the Southern Health-Santé Sud region told CTV News.

The Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority takes a similar approach. A spokesperson for the region said staff have been advised to make vaccination appointments outside their regular working hours, but if that is not possible they can use medical appointment time or banked time for the trip.

“This doesn’t make much sense to me, because these are those front line health-care heroes – the nurses and health-care professionals – that we want to get the vaccine so that they can take care of us and our loved ones should we get sick,” Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew said on Tuesday.

“The government should be removing every possible barrier for these health-care folks to get the vaccine.”

CTV News reached out to the province for comment and was directed to contact the regional health authorities. CTV News has reached out to Manitoba’s other rural health authorities for comment.

Gawronsky said she would like to see the province provide more opportunities for eligible health-care staff to get the vaccine in their communities.

“Let’s be proactive in a way that is going to ensure that as many people get vaccinated as we possibly can, and let’s flatten that curve the best way that we can.” 

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'It is totally irresponsible': union calls out Manitoba's health-care restructuring amid the pandemic – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
Manitoba is planning to move forward with the second wave of restructuring its health-care system, which includes shifting the management of the Cadham Provincial Laboratory and other health-care facilities – a move critics say is irresponsible during a pandemic.

The province began its restructuring of the health-care system in 2018, shifting responsibility for a number of health-care sectors to Shared Health.

On Wednesday, the province said it would move into its next phase of that transition, giving the responsibility of Cadham Provincial Laboratory, Selkirk Mental Health Centre, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, dental and oral health, emergency medical services, and other health-care-related sectors to Shared Health.

The province said about 1,600 employees may be affected by the move, which will begin no earlier than May 2021.

In a news release, the province said the transition is being planned to be as “simple and non-disruptive as possible,” though the union representing about 1,100 of the impacted employees is not so sure.

Michelle Gawronsky, the president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU), said this is not the time for large-scale changes.

“I think it is totally irresponsible of this government to be going down this path, putting services, putting the people providing the services, in an unknown right now,” Gawronsky said.

“Our members, these folks, right now are concentrated on getting us through COVID, and that to me should be the government’s very first priority – is getting Manitobans to the other side of the COVID pandemic. Not disrupting health-care in any way shape or form.”

Gawronsky said the union has received little information about the shift. She said they were told of the plan to move forward Wednesday morning, hours before the province released the news publicly.

“Right now we have more questions than answers,” she said. “They say the devil is in the details always, so until we actually have the details of exactly what the government has planned here, we don’t know what the outcome is going to be in the long run.”

The province said there will be no impact on the day-to-day duties of the health-care workers impacted by the transition during the notice period. It said there will be no impact on the accessibility of health services for Manitobans.

“We are grateful for the ongoing commitment of all health-care workers to the pandemic response and to the many health services that Manitobans continue to rely upon and access during this unprecedented time,” Manitoba’s Minister of Health and Seniors Care Heather Stefanson said in a news release.

“This preparation work is necessary to ensure a seamless transition when we are ready and able to safely do so without impacting Manitoba’s pandemic response.”

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he believes the province’s decision to move forward with the transition will cause confusion during the pandemic response.

“The government shouldn’t be using the pandemic as cover to try and sneak through significant changes to the health-care system that they had planned long before COVID was ever top of mind for any of us,” Kinew said.

The province said it will now begin discussions with union representatives, something Gawronsky said can’t happen until the province provides more information.

“It is unfortunate the government chose to make this announcement without having details ready to be able to give to Manitobans, to be able to give to these people that right now – quite frankly – are dealing with COVID,” she said.

“We are ready to sit down when the time is appropriate and we have all the answers to our questions. That is when we are able to sit down to ensure that services Manitobans rely on are not going to be hindered or hurt in any way here.”

The province said the final decisions on the transitions will be made in the coming months.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Minister Stefanson referred CTV News back to a provincial news release.

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Tests identify COVID-19 ‘variant of concern’ at fast-growing Barrie LTC outbreak – Toronto Star

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Preliminary testing has confirmed that at least six COVID-19 cases at a Barrie long-term-care home are due to a “variant of concern” of the virus that causes the illness.

The fast-moving outbreak at Roberta Place Long Term Care, which began on Jan. 8, has now spread to most of the building’s 130 residents as well as 69 staff and two visitors. Nineteen people have died so far, and five residents and one staff member are in hospital.

On Wednesday, health officials said testing by the Public Health Ontario laboratory identified a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in six samples. It will be another three or four days before genetic sequencing is complete, at which point health officials will know which variant is present. In recent weeks, experts have warned about the arrival of strains from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.

“It’s very likely that it’s one of those strains,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit. The rapid progression of cases indicates “a very high attack rate,” he said.

All three variants are thought to be more transmissible than the existing virus. The U.K. version, the most-studied so far, has been found about 50 per cent more contagious.

Officials say they don’t know at this point how the outbreak began, or if it’s connected to a visitor.

One visitor had close contact with an individual who had travelled out of country, Gardner said, but not to the U.K., South Africa or Brazil. That close contact is now also a case, he said.

Residents of long-term-care homes are allowed to designate two people as “essential” visitors, typically family members, who may come into the home to help with care. Both confirmed visitor cases are in that category, Gardner said.

Gardner said he’s concerned about the risk of the variant spreading in the community. The speed of the outbreak “speaks to the caution that staff that go into this facility have to exercise with infection control practices,” he said.

“We certainly need to work hard to provide the care needed to the residents and to bring (the outbreak) under control,” said Gardner. “But we also need to exercise caution that it doesn’t spread out into the community as well. Hence the importance of the infection control that’s practised by everyone who goes into the facility.”

Patients from the home have been admitted to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, and Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital has provided a director to manage the outbreak.

The home is also set to receive help from the Canadian Red Cross this week and the corporation that manages the home, Jarlette Health Services, has redirected staff to the facility, Gardner said.

In a statement, Ontario Minister of Long Term Care, Merrilee Fullerton said the outbreak underscored the need for people to stay home to stop the spread of the virus.

“It is also a stark reminder of the need for greater vigilance at our borders with incoming travellers,” she said.

Fullerton is not the only politician worried about incoming cases of COVID from other countries.

On Monday, Quebec Premier François Legault demanded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ban all non-essential travel into and out of the country because of vaccine delays and rising case counts.

The federal government has said it is keeping a close watch on variants from other countries and Trudeau has hinted that Ottawa “can impose new restrictions without advance notice at any time” on travellers, the Canadian Press reported.

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The UK variant, referred to as B.117, was first identified in December. Genetic sequencing showed that it was responsible for cases as early as September, before quickly becoming the dominant strain in that country.

Last week, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the risk of the U.K. variant was a driving factor behind the province’s new stay-at-home order.

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