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Hospitalizations from COVID-19 in B.C. fall to level last seen in November – Squamish Chief

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The trajectory of serious COVID-19 infections in B.C. continues to point in the right direction, as the number of hospitalizations, and intensive care unit (ICU) patients, continues to fall.

The province now has 320 people hospitalized with the virus that has spawned a global pandemic. That is nine fewer than yesterday, and the lowest total since November 30.

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The number of hospital patients in ICU is similarly falling, as it is down by four overnight, to 66, which is the lowest total since November 26, according to government data.

Unfortunately 14 more people died overnight from complications related to the virus, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,104 since the first death was recorded on March 9.

New cases continue to pile up, with 500 people newly diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past day, and only 465 people newly diagnosed as having recovered. Testing also ramped up substantially, compared with yesterday, as 10,437 tests were given. That pushes the positive-test rate down to 4.7%, compared with 9.22% yesterday.

More than 89%, or 55,564 individuals out of the 62,412 people identified in B.C. as having contracted the virus, are deemed to have recovered.

The vast majority of the 4,345 people actively infected with the virus have been told to self-isolate, while 6,905 people are under active health monitoring from officials because they are known to have been in contact with others who have tested positive for the virus.

Here is a regional breakdown of where the 500 new cases were identified:
• 125 people in Vancouver Coastal Health (25%);
• 216 people in Fraser Health (43.2%);
• 32 in Island Health (6.4%);
• 91 in Interior Health (18.2%);
• 35 in Northern Health (7%); and
• one person who resides outside the province.

Despite fewer doses of vaccine expected to be delivered in later January than first expected, there were 5,756 vaccinations completed in the past day, for a total of 98,125 since the first dose was administered on December 16. 

”We have had two new health-care facility outbreaks: at Villa Cathay in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and Acropolis Manor in the Northern Health Authority,” provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement.

“The outbreaks at Guildford Seniors Village and Maple Ridge Seniors Village in the Fraser Health Authority, as well as Mountainview Village and Village by the Station in the Interior Health Authority, are now over.”

They added that there has been one new community outbreak at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre.

“Our COVID-19 curve is trending in the right direction, and we want to keep that going – to push our curve down, which in turn, will allow us to safely ease restrictions,” they said.

The nine hospitals identified as having active COVID-19 outbreaks are:
• Burnaby Hospital in Burnaby;
• Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake;
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital in Vancouver;
• Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge;
• St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey;
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver; and
• University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George.

The nine active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Vancouver Coastal Health are at:
• Arbutus Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Braddan Private Hospital in Vancouver;
• Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge in Richmond;
• German Canadian Benevolent Society Home in Vancouver;
• Hilltop House in Squamish;
• Little Mountain Place in Vancouver;
• Minoru Residence in Richmond;
• Renfrew Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Sunrise of Vancouver in Vancouver; and
• Villa Cathay in Vancouver.

The 23 active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Fraser Health are at:
• Avalon Gardens in Langley;
• Brookside Lodge in Surrey;
• Eagle Ridge Manor in Port Moody;
• Evergreen Baptist Care Society in White Rock;
• Fleetwood Villa in Surrey;
• George Derby Centre in Burnaby;
• Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre in Delta;
• Hilton Villa Seniors Community in Surrey;
• Kin Village in Tsawwassen;
• Kin Village West Court in Tsawwassen;
• Madison Care Centre in Coquitlam;
• Mayfair Seniors Living Care in Abbotsford;
• Menno Home in Abbotsford;
• Morgan Place Care Facility in Surrey
• Nicola Lodge in Port Coquitlam;
• Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in White Rock;
• Queen’s Park Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Rideau Retirement Residence in Burnaby;
• Royal City Manor in New Westminster;
• St. Michael’s Centre Extended Care in Burnaby;
• Suncreek Village in Surrey;
• The Harrison at Elim Village in Surrey; and
• Waterford Retirement Residence in Delta.

The two active outbreaks at a seniors’ living facilities in Northern Health are at Jubilee Lodge in Prince George, and Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert.

The nine active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Interior Health are at:
• Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops;
• Creekside Landing in Vernon;
• Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna;
• Heritage Square in Vernon;
• Noric House in Vernon;
• Sunnybank Retirement Home in Oliver; and
• Williams Lake Seniors Village in Williams Lake.

In Island Health, there are two seniors’ facilities with an active outbreak of COVID-19:
• Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo; and
• Hart House in Victoria.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom
 

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Indonesia approves free COVID-19 vaccine drive by private companies – Arab News

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JAKARTA: The Indonesian government on Friday said it would allow private companies to run coronavirus vaccination programs for workers and families alongside a nationwide drive to expedite efforts in achieving herd immunity.

The country is aiming to inoculate 181.5 million people out of the total 270 million population by year-end.

“The companies will provide the vaccines for free for workers,” Siti Nadia Tarmizi, health ministry spokesperson for the vaccination program, said during a press conference.

Tarmizi added that the ministry’s revised regulation, which serves as the main reference for the vaccination program, was issued on Wednesday to include articles regulating the private sector’s involvement in the vaccination drive.

“The number of vaccines distributed in the private-run program will match the number that the companies requested, and the inoculations will be conducted at private healthcare facilities or the companies’ own facilities,” Tarmizi said.

Additionally, the vaccines used in the program will be different from the free CoronaVac, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Pfizer vaccines that the government has distributed since mid-January.

While initial population targets included health workers, senior citizens, frontline public workers, teachers and lecturers, athletes, journalists, and lawmakers, the general population or those in their productive age will receive their first vaccine jab in April.

The private scheme, which the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) proposed, will require companies to purchase the vaccine from Bio Farma, a state-owned vaccine manufacturer appointed as the sole importer for all jabs that Indonesia procures.

Bio Farma spokesperson Bambang Heriyanto said the company is in discussions with Moderna and Sinopharm to procure vaccines for the private scheme, which has been dubbed “Gotong Royong,” an Indonesian term for mutual cooperation.

“In accordance with its name, this is a mutual cooperation initiative. The government will provide a space for any members of society that will want to assist the government in the vaccination program,” Arya Sinulingga, a spokesperson for the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, said on Friday.

He added that the private drive will run in parallel with the government’s program and will not alter the existing schedule or priority groups being targeted.

Kadin said that about 7,000 companies had already registered for the vaccination drive as of Saturday.

“The enthusiasm is really high to take part in this program because it is quite costly for the companies to swab test regularly. It is better for the companies to allocate the cost to vaccinate their workers,” Shinta Kamdani Widjaja, Kadin deputy chairwoman, said at a press conference earlier this week.

She dismissed concerns that the program will commercialize vaccines, saying the government would closely monitor the program to avoid any violations of terms and conditions.

“There are also companies that are willing to vaccinate not only their workers, but also their families. It would be difficult for the economy to recover if we don’t achieve the herd immunity target. The business community is ready to support the government in the vaccination drive and economic recovery program,” Widjaja said.

However, opponents of the scheme said the private vaccination drive will “only enable queue jumpers who don’t really need the vaccine compared with the more vulnerable groups, and disregard the principle of equity for all citizens in a vaccination program.”

Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist, said in an online discussion: “There is also no guarantee that we will achieve herd immunity by inoculating 181.5 million people. This could be misleading the public and making them have the wrong expectation.

“This is also prone to make the government, the companies, and the public relax its compliance to the health protocols, testing, tracing and treatment,” Budiman added.

He said that achieving herd immunity is a long-term goal and that the vaccination drive could not stand alone in battling the pandemic without a comprehensive public health approach.

Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, agreed and said that the private vaccination program focused mainly on economic recovery targets instead of controlling the pandemic.

“It is clear from the start that the government does not view the vaccine as one of the ways to handle the pandemic, but it has been more about economic recovery,” Riono said.

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Trivia night that led to Burnaby daycare outbreak linked to 300 COVID-19 cases: Dr. Henry – Vancouver Is Awesome

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A pub trivia night that led to an outbreak at Burnaby’s largest daycare has resulted in more than 300 COVID-19 cases, Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference Thursday.

B.C.’s provincial health officer provided the number as she described the complex series of factors she is monitoring before she can decide whether to loosen or tighten restrictions in the coming days.

Among the issues she is watching is the recent “uptick” in the reproductive rate of COVID-19 transmission, which she said has been above one in Fraser Health and the Vancouver Coastal health region, as well the percentage of test positive cases, which is 8% in Fraser Health compared to 6.7% in the rest of B.C.

“It’s like a tree that keeps growing and spreading, but we need to keep cases low and slow so we can control that. We are continuing to watch these indicators and when we have confidence that they are slowing in a sustained way, that is when we will be able to ease restrictions,” Henry said.

The exposure at St. James’s Well in Port Moody was flagged by Fraser Health, which resulted in the pub being closed for several days and WorkSafeBC conducting an investigation requiring the pub to update its COVID-19 safety plan by adding supervised daily health checks for its 28 workers. The pub also implemented a policy requiring patrons to wear masks in any space shared with workers or other members of the public.

That exposure was linked to an outbreak at the SFU Childcare Society on Burnaby Mountain, with at least 28 cases in staff and children.

A representative from B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees told The Tri-City News the transmission at the Newport Village pub occurred when an asymptomatic patron left their table and interacted with another group.

Health officials have never named the pub, but St. James’s Well was identified on the Fraser Health website when it listed the exposure notification and asked people to self-monitor for symptoms.

The exposure event remains on the website.

While not naming the Port Moody pub, Henry said a pub she talked about before was responsible for hundreds of COVID-19 cases.

“We talked last week about the event of a pub. That led to over 300 people being affected, including transmission in a day care, transmission in a school, transmission in a number of other workplaces and in families.

“These are the chains of transmission we need to stop as soon as we can and that’s why we pay attention to not only the overall numbers and how they’re moving, but numbers in different communities and where those transmission events are happening,” Henry said.

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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine reduces transmission after one dose – UK study – Reuters

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LONDON (Reuters) – A single dose of Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine cuts the number of asymptomatic infections and could significantly reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, results of a UK study found on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Researchers analysed results from thousands of COVID-19 tests carried out each week as part of hospital screenings of healthcare staff in Cambridge, eastern England.

“Our findings show a dramatic reduction in the rate of positive screening tests among asymptomatic healthcare workers after a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” said Nick Jones, an infectious diseases specialist at Cambridge University Hospital, who co-led the study.

After separating the test results from unvaccinated and vaccinated staff, Jones’ team found that 0.80% tests from unvaccinated healthcare workers were positive.

This compared with 0.37% of tests from staff less than 12 days post-vaccination – when the vaccine’s protective effect is not yet fully established – and 0.20% of tests from staff at 12 days or more post-vaccination.

The study and its results have yet to be independently peer-reviewed by other scientists, but were published online as a preprint on Friday.

This suggests a four-fold decrease in the risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 infection amongst healthcare workers who have been vaccinated for more than 12 days, and 75% protection, said Mike Weekes, an infectious disease specialist at Cambridge University’s department of medicine, who co-led the study.

The level of asymptomatic infection was also halved in those vaccinated for less than 12 days, he said.

Britain has been rolling out vaccinations with both the Pfizer COVID-19 shot and one from AstraZeneca since late December 2020.

“This is great news – the Pfizer vaccine not only provides protection against becoming ill from SARS-CoV-2, but also helps prevent infection, reducing the potential for the virus to be passed on to others,” Weeks said. “But we have to remember that the vaccine doesn’t give complete protection for everyone.”

Key real-world data published on Wednesday from Israel, which has conducted one of the world’s fastest rollouts of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, showed that two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman

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