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Op/Ed: IH tackling COVID-19, then and now – The Nelson Daily

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By Susan Brown, President and CEO, Interior Health

The past seven months reflect some of most turbulent times our country has seen, so if you are feeling anxious and confused, I understand.

The COVID-19 picture today is much clearer than it was when B.C. declared its first case on Jan. 28, 2020. That solid plan we all craved then has come into place and we are entering the next phase of the pandemic armed with increased knowledge and medical expertise about COVID-19.

It is nothing short of remarkable to look back to Feb. 14 when Interior Health recorded its first case of COVID-19. Our area of the province acted, we sacrificed, we kept our hospital admissions low, and our case counts down.

We have, tragically, had two deaths in the Interior Health region from COVID-19 and we know that no matter how low our numbers the impact is significant, especially for families who have lost loved ones. These losses are reason enough for all of us to continue to follow the safety precautions every day.

Our public health teams have dealt with a diverse range of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks since March.

We managed B.C.’s first outbreak of COVID-19 in a group of temporary foreign workers at an agricultural business. Later, illness at a South Okanagan farm was another example of excellent work as the spread was contained to the farm itself with only four people testing positive.

The same infection control measures and contact tracing went into high gear when outbreaks were declared at two long-term care sites. Swift action and teamwork resulted in only one person testing positive at each site and no residents becoming ill.

Similarly, outbreaks at the Okanagan Correctional Centre were kept to low numbers. In the second outbreak, declared over on Sept. 10, no inmates became ill.

Our contact tracers have worked tirelessly to reach anyone exposed to the almost 500 people in the Interior who have tested positive for COVID-19 since February. The efforts of our medical health officers, epidemiologists, environmental health, communicable disease and public health staff – all working together – are how we were able to bend the curve back in Kelowna after the July long weekend when a cluster of cases grew from a series of parties.

As CEO, I am proud of our teams, including the staff and physicians at COVID-19 testing sites, in hospitals, in the community, in long-term care, housekeeping, and assisted living facilities, in our labs, in our pharmacies and behind the scenes across all departments.

But – our success to date is not something health-care workers can do alone: we need you. In fact, we are counting on you to continue with the valiant efforts you have all shown to date.

None of the achievements listed above would have been possible without the outstanding commitment from the people who live in the Interior Health region. You stepped up. You washed your hands vigorously, you stayed close to home when you were asked not to travel, you are staying home now when feel ill, and you have maintained appropriate physical distance from others and have chosen to wear masks as an added precaution. These measures must continue in the months ahead.

Now, we’re re-starting our fall routines, including back-to-school.

We are watching this important and necessary step carefully. Our public health teams are ready to jump into action to support the school community and our children. Our medical health officers are working with school districts to answer questions from families and students and ease their fears.

While COVID-19 is new, dealing with communicable diseases such as meningitis and measles in schools is not. This is the role of public health and something we do very well.

We are also prepared at our testing facilities and have strengthened our IH lab capacity. More people have been trained and we’re ready to ramp up testing if required.

In some communities test results took longer than I wanted to see, so over the summer we focused our efforts on training more lab staff and stocking supplies to streamline testing. Today when you look at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control data page, Interior Health test results are typically a day or less.

As we head into the fall, we are urging everyone to keep their bubbles small. The precautions that help protect our long term care homes can be applied to schools. Together, fewer contacts and smaller bubbles will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its introduction to schools.

Our public health teams are equipped to follow up on COVID-19 cases, our primary care and hospital staff and physicians have the latest information on how to treat the illness, but none of us can stop the transmission of the disease alone. We need you.

I appeal to you to not be complacent and to continue to follow the safety precautions that we know works in stopping communicable diseases, including COVID-19. Stay home when you’re sick, maintain physical distancing, wash your hands frequently and keep your bubbles small.

We can do this together. Let’s renew and refocus our efforts to control this virus, to protect ourselves and loved ones from COVID-19.

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Researcher predicts 4,000 daily new COVID-19 cases in Alberta by mid-December if measures not taken – CBC.ca

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A researcher is sounding the alarm about Alberta’s significant increase in the number of new and active cases of COVID-19, warning that things could rapidly get worse in the province should additional measures not be taken.

Malgorzata Gasperowicz, a developmental biologist and associate in the school of medicine at the University of Calgary, says that given the province’s current doubling time, the province could be reporting more than 1,000 new cases per day by Nov. 11.

But Gasperowicz also told CBC Calgary News at 6 that without “strong, decisive measures” given the province’s current doubling time, Alberta could see around 2,400 daily new cases of COVID-19 on Dec. 5, and 4,800 on Dec. 23.

WATCH | Malgorzata Gasperowicz discusses the COVID-19 numbers Alberta could be seeing in the coming months:

Malgorzata Gasperowicz, a developmental biologist at the University of Calgary, talks to CBC’s Rob Brown about what she’s seeing in the province’s latest COVID-19 numbers during CBC Calgary News at 6. 4:22

But even should the province shut everything down today, it’s not as though the numbers will instantly drop.

“They usually take like, what we [saw] in the first wave in [introducing restrictions], it took at least three or four weeks to see the cases drop down,” Gasperowicz said. “So we will still be doubling for three weeks at least.”

That would mean the province would still be seeing around 1,600 or 2,000 daily new cases before dropping down, Gasperowicz said.

Given a situation where the province shut down on Nov. 15, Gasperowicz said, the province would see 3,000 daily new cases before bending the curve.

Alberta at ‘a tipping point’

On Monday, Alberta introduced new social gathering restrictions, bringing in mandatory limits of 15 people in Edmonton and Calgary. 

“You have heard me say many times that we need to achieve a balance between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and minimizing the risk of harms of restrictions,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said during a news conference.

“This requires us to keep the spread of COVID-19 manageable. We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking.”

WATCH | Dr. Hinshaw says Alberta is at a tipping point for COVID-19 

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says the province has ‘now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking’ when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. 1:26

When asked whether the province would consider implementing another shutdown, Tom McMillan, a spokesperson with Alberta Health, pointed to the measures introduced Monday.

“We announced new measures on Monday. We are watching the data in Alberta closely and will consider if adjustments to the public health approach are needed in the days to come,” McMillan said in an email.

Speaking Thursday, Hinshaw reiterated that the province’s focus at this time was to strike “a difficult, but necessary balance when responding to COVID-19.”

“We must follow the evidence, and take the steps needed to prevent cases from rising exponentially and overwhelming our health system,” Hinshaw said.

“At the same time, every element of Albertans’ health is important. We must also limit the harms that our measures can have, as much as possible.”

Implementing ‘strong measures’

Gasperowicz pointed to a “cocktail of measures” that have worked to decrease numbers in other western jurisdictions.

“I’m convinced that if strong measures would be implemented, we would have the decrease,” she said. “But if we won’t implement strong measures and just have little tweaks, I don’t think it will slow the virus down.

“Strong measures worked in Australia, and they have zero cases now, and they’re celebrating.”

Speaking Thursday, Hinshaw said the choice is not between implementing another lockdown or letting COVID-19 run unimpeded.

“Instead, we must make it as easy and safe as possible for Albertans to live with this virus for the foreseeable future,” she said.

One day before Halloween, Alberta reported 622 new cases of the virus, a new daily record. It pushed the number of active cases in the province to a record 5,172.

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Fraser Health outbreaks push active COVID-19 infections in B.C. to all-time high of 2390 – Powell River Peak

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B.C. has never had more people actively battling COVID-19 infections, as new government data showed a total of 2,390 people suffering with the virus that has spurred a global pandemic. 

That’s 46 more people suffering with the illness than was the case yesterday and it comes as 272 people were newly identified as infected in the past 24 hours. With 10,420 tests conducted, the day’s positive-test rate was 2.6%.

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The hotspot for new infections remains the 1.8-million-resident Fraser Health region, which includes much of the eastern and southern Lower Mainland, including 20 communities, such as Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey, Delta, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack, but not Richmond or Vancouver.

Only about two-thirds of the new cases are from Fraser Health today, however. That’s down from the average in the past week, which had seen about three-quarters of all new cases located in the Fraser Health region. 

Here is the breakdown of all 14,381 detected COVID-19 cases in B.C., by health region, with new cases identified overnight in brackets:
• 4,664 in Vancouver Coastal Health (76);
• 8,219 in Fraser Health (183);
• 256 in Island Health (no change);
• 741 in Interior Health (seven);
• 412 in Northern Health (six); and
• 89 people who reside outside Canada (no change).

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital fell by six to 78, with 25 of those people having infections serious enough to be in intensive care units. 

The vast majority of those infected are self-isolating at home. Health officials are keeping tabs on a record 6,003 people because those individuals have come into contact with others who are known to be carrying the virus.

The vast majority of COVID-19 patients recover: 11,670, or more than 81%.

One new death was recorded overnight, pushing the provincial death toll from the disease to 263. That leaves 58 patients unaccounted for, and health officials have told BIV that it is likely that they left the province without alerting authorities.

“There has been one new community outbreak, at Suncor Firebag Oil Sands,” provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement. “There continue to be exposure events around the province.”

One hospital in Fraser Health, Surrey Memorial Hospital, has had an outbreak for weeks. That health authority earlier this week declared that the outbreak at Delta Hospital is over.

There are three new outbreaks at seniors’ homes and healthcare facilities:
• Hawthorne Seniors Care Community in Port Coquitlam;
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey; and 
• Queen’s Park Hospital: Unit 3C NMSK 2.

Three such outbreaks have been declared over: 
• Fort Langley Seniors Community in Fort Langley;
• Sunset Manor in Chilliwack;
• The Village in Langley.

Fraser Health yesterday declared that the outbreak at Good Samaritan Victoria Heights, in New Westminster, is over, and the province confirmed that news today.

Other seniors’ long-term care and assisted living facilities in B.C. that have active outbreaks, include:
• Gateway Assisted Living for Seniors in Surrey;
• Mayfair Terrace Retirement Residence in Port Coquitlam;
• Louis Breyer Home and Hospital in Vancouver;
• Revera Lakeview long-term care home in Vancouver;
• Evergreen Baptist Care Society in White Rock;
• Queens Park Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Three Links Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Royal Arch Masonic Home in Vancouver;
• Haro Park Centre long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• Banfield Pavilion 4 West in Vancouver;
• Peace Portal Seniors Village in Surrey;
• Rosemary Heights Seniors Village in Surrey;
• Zion Park Manor in Surrey;
• Laurel Place in Surrey;
• Amenida Seniors Community in Surrey;
• Baillie House in Maple Ridge;
• Fellburn Care Centre long-term care facility in Burnaby;
• St. Michael’s Centre long-term care facilityin Burnaby;
• Fair Haven Homes Burnaby Lodge in Burnaby; and
• Agassiz Seniors Community in Agassiz.

“As we all enjoy Halloween tomorrow, make it about the treats and not the tricks,” Henry and Dix said.

“Respect homes that are choosing not to participate this year and give everyone the space to stay safe, both indoors and outdoors.”

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom

 

 

 

 

 

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Family Thanksgiving dinner linked to 13 cases of COVID-19 in Renfrew County – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
Three weeks after Thanksgiving weekend, a family dinner is Renfrew County is being linked to 13 cases of COVID-19.

Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman tells CTV News Ottawa between 15 and 20 people attended an intergenerational Thanksgiving dinner over the holiday weekend.

Dr. Cushman says it appears someone at the dinner was asymptomatic or didn’t pay attention to the symptoms.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit says 13 positive cases are linked to the Thanksgiving dinner, including two new cases Thursday. Not all 13 positive cases attended the dinner.

“What you see is the spread, now into the third group from those at the dinner,” said Dr. Cushman, noting there is now second and third generational spread of the virus.

Two family members who tested positive for COVID-19 were high school students.

“Luckily, no further spread yet (at schools), thanks to excellent public health precautions at the school,” said Dr. Cushman.

Seventy students at the school were tested for COVID-19, while 90 students returned to school on Friday after being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Dr. Cushman says four outstanding students who developed symptoms on days 14 and 15 are now being retested, and will remain in isolation.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit is also investigating a COVID-19 outbreak at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory at Chalk River. Six people have tested positive for COVID-19.

“This virus is very wily,” said Dr. Cushman, noting CNL has solid public health measures in place.

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