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Record 274 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C., including five in Island Health – Times Colonist

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British Columbia has seen a ­second day of record-high COVID-19 cases, with 274 new cases reported on Thursday.

B.C. reported more than 200 new infections for the first time on Wednesday, with 203 confirmed cases.

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There were five new cases reported in the Island Health region Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 15. There has also been a new COVID-19 exposure at a Vancouver Island school, Island Health said.

Families at Wood Elementary School in Port Alberni received a letter Wednesday saying a member of the school community has tested positive for COVID-19.

The exposure happened on Oct. 19 and the health authority will use contact tracing to notify staff and students who need to self-isolate or self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

People who have been asked to self-isolate received a phone call, while those told to self-monitor were notified by letter.

Those who have not been contacted should continue to attend school and monitor for symptoms, according to the letter, signed by Dr. Shannon Waters, medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley region, and Pacific Rim school district superintendent Greg Smyth.

The latest school exposure on the Island follows two previous school exposures in September: One at Carihi Secondary in Campbell River on Sept. 28 and one at Alberni Secondary in Port Alberni on Sept. 22.

B.C. has seen its first school outbreak, at Kelowna’s Ecole de l’Anse-au-Sable School, where five cases have been confirmed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said despite the school outbreak, there’s no indication the return to in-person classes has caused COVID-19 to spread.

Since in-person classes resumed on Sept. 10, here have been 213 exposure warnings of COVID-19 cases linked to a school, Henry said. There have been six “clusters” where more than one person linked to a school was infected and the Kelowna case is the first outbreak, she said. An outbreak outside a health facility is declared when at least two people test positive.

“We are not seeing return to school cause the amplification [of infections] in our community,” Henry said.

“While it’s concerning that we have an outbreak, what I think is positive about this is that we are monitoring all of the exposure events and we have had very little transmission in the schools and public health has been working with schools across the province to keep it that way.”

Henry said the majority of new COVID-19 cases are concentrated around the Lower Mainland, with 203 new cases in the Fraser Health region on Thursday.

The Fraser Health authority confirmed outbreaks at several long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities. The province has 1,920 active cases, with 71 people in hospital, 24 of whom are in critical care.

Henry said people are also travelling across the province and coming to B.C. from other parts of Canada, which increases the risk of spreading the virus.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has warned of a COVID-19 exposure on a flight to Victoria on Oct. 15. There was a confirmed case on Air Canada flight 195 from Toronto that day, and passengers in rows 17-23 are advised to self-isolate and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

Gatherings such as weddings, funerals and Thanksgiving meals have caused significant spread of the coronavirus in the province, said Henry, adding as the cold weather sets in and events move indoors, there’s a higher risk for the virus to spread.

People getting married should consider having a civil ceremony and waiting until next year to hold a larger gathering with extended family and friends, she said.

The maximum gathering size remains 50 people, but as flu season begins, people need to be extra cautious and limit gatherings to their households plus their “safe six” bubbles, Henry said.

“You may think the risk doesn’t apply to you because you live far away from the Lower Mainland. But we have seen on many occasions … that COVID‑19 knows no boundaries and impacts us all.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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Amazon's Covid Dilemma: Mandate Vaccinations and Risk Losing Workers – Bloomberg

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While much of Corporate America scrambled to adjust Covid-19 policies this summer in response to a surge of cases, Amazon.com Inc. was dismantling its coronavirus testing sites. Sequestered corners of warehouses and conference rooms where, just a few weeks ago employees were performing nasal swabs, are now blocked off or cleared of equipment.

This may seem counterintuitive as the delta variant rips through many of the states where Amazon has warehouses. But the company says employees have plenty of other ways to get tested. Amazon, employees say, has been loath to make the tests compulsory for fear of alienating the Covid skeptics in its ranks. The same has held true for forcing workers to get vaccinated.

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Delta variant behind increase in COVID-19 case numbers in British Columbia: experts – Trail Times

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The number of COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant is doubling every seven to 10 days in British Columbia, experts say.

Prof. Sarah Otto of the University of British Columbia said the variant, which first became prominent in India, is displacing the one that originated in the United Kingdom.

“Delta is now the most common variant in the province, with its frequency doubling every week relative to Alpha,” said Otto, who is an expert in the university’s zoology department on the mathematical models of pandemic growth and evolution.

“The Delta variant increases the viral load by about one-thousand-fold, making it much easier to catch and transmit.”

COVID-19 cases in B.C. continued their upward march as the province reported more than 700 infections Tuesday over a four-day period, with more than half of those in the Interior where the vaccination rate is lower.

Paul Tupper, a mathematics professor from Simon Fraser University, said the Delta variant is a “large part” of the reason for the increase in COVID-19 case numbers.

The relaxing of restrictions and reopening of the economy have also contributed to the growth, he said.

If the Alpha variant infects two people on an average, the Delta infects three, he said.

“And that’s bad news.”

The good news is that areas with higher vaccination rates are showing fewer infections even among the Delta variant, he said.

The Vancouver Coastal region has a vaccination rate of about 80 per cent while it is 65 per cent for the Interior and that is reflected in COVID-19 case numbers, Tupper said.

Dean Karlen, a physics professor at the University of Victoria, said the emergence of the Delta variant is stronger than scientists expected, and Canada’s next wave has the potential to be similar to what is happening in the United States if no special measures such as mask mandates are reintroduced.

“But right now, in Alberta and British Columbia, it’s very clear that Delta is starting to play a big role,” he said.

The exact trajectory and intensity of growth will become clearer as more data comes in over the next few weeks, he said.

Otto said B.C. is beginning a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, but how high it will get and how fast it will rise depends on everybody’s behaviour.

The two things people can do to prevent the wave from getting “very high” is get vaccinated and avoid indoor crowded spaces without a mask, she said.

The province and the country will continue seeing such waves as new, more transmissible variants arise, but Otto noted that “vaccinations are really protecting people from the worst ravages of this disease.”

Caroline Colijn, a mathematics professor at Simon Fraser University, said most of the infections are likely to be among the unvaccinated population.

“And they of course have the same risk of hospitalization they always did or maybe more with Delta because it may be more severe and higher viral loads,” she said.

While the vaccines are about 90 per cent effective against the virus, Tupper said there will still be some people who get sick and transmit to others.

A higher degree of immunity can be achieved by vaccinating children under 12, he said.

Health Canada has not yet approved a vaccine for children under 12.

“Children when immunized can contribute to herd immunity, and that makes other people that they’re with safer,” he said.

It “definitely makes sense” to have some restrictions until a higher vaccination rate is reached, Tupper said.

“So, anything that buys us time, that allows us to have fewer infections before we get our vaccination numbers high, that makes sense.”

—Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Vaccinated? You’re 10x less likely to catch and transmit COVID-19, but risk remains

RELATED: B.C. reports 742 new COVID cases, 1 death over August long weekend

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B.C. urges unvaccinated people to get their COVID shot during Walk-in Wednesday – Barriere Star Journal

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As cases continue to rise across B.C., health officials are urging anyone who is not yet fully vaccinated to drop in at a vaccine clinic for Walk-In Wednesday today (Aug. 4).

According to the province, anyone ages 12 and older is eligible for their first shot, while anyone who got their first dose before June 16 can get their second. People getting their second dose are asked to bring their immunization cards.

All vaccine clinics in B.C. will be offering walk-in appointments for either Pfizer or Moderna. There is no need to register beforehand. To find a clinic in your community, click here.

B.C. recorded 742 cases and one death over the long weekend, a marked increase from even two weeks ago. The average number of cases over the long weekend – four reporting periods – was 186 cases. For the weekend starting on July 16, there were an average of 52 cases each day.

Vaccines, which health officials and experts say remain the best way to keep cases down, have also risen. On July 19, 79.9 per cent of people had their first dose and 53.2 per cent of people had their second dose. As of Tuesday, 81.4 per cent had their first dose and 67.3 per cent had their second.

Research by an independent modelling group shows that increasing the first-dose vaccination rate in a community from 70 per cent to 90 per cent can decrease cases five-fold.

READ MORE: Vaccinated? You’re 10x less likely to catch and transmit COVID-19, but risk remains


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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