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Some skipping COVID-19 tests because they don't want to self-isolate during holidays, says Henry – CHEK

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Some people aren’t getting tested for COVID-19 simply because they don’t want to have to isolate, the province’s top doctor says.

Data available on the BCCDC’s website shows that daily testing has declined off significantly from more than 15,000 daily tests in mid-December to less than 5,000 tests in the days after Christmas.

In fact, according to Health Canada, British Columbia’s testing rate is among the lowest nationwide. With a rate of 188,195 per 1 million people, only Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Yukon and New Brunswick are testing at a lower rate.

During a recent news conference, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, says daily COVID-19 testing has declined by around 15 per cent across B.C. in recent weeks and that part of the decline can be attributed to people simply not wanting to get tested out of fears they will be required to isolate in the event they test positive.

“Partly, it is people don’t want to be tested and have to isolate before the holiday, which is worrisome because we know that people are getting together,” said Henry.

“Even if it is just your household, you may bring this into your household and spread it to them,” she added.

Testing is one of the biggest tools experts use to understand and manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Without accurate testing data, things could take a turn for the worse — especially as the new variant starts to show up.

“Maybe fewer people had symptoms and that’s great and there are fewer people with COVID,” said Caroline Colijn, a Simon Fraser University mathematics professor, who focuses on epidemiology and evolution of pathogens.

However, Colijn thinks it could be something else.

“But it could also be people with mild symptoms who were thinking ‘ugh it’s Christmas Eve, it’s Boxing Day, it’s just a little it’s not a big deal,’” said Colijn. “We could see a resurgence for both of those reasons, the extra contact through the holidays and changing testing behaviour.”

Daily case numbers have declined in recent weeks and active cases appear to have gone down but deaths are still high, especially among seniors — the death rate usually lags behind larger spikes.

“The day you get symptoms [and] you test positive is not the same day you die, if unfortunately there is a death,” said Colijn. “It’s not the case that you would see the immediate relationship. Also the number of deaths and severe outcomes will depend on who is affected, if you have more outbreaks in long-term care, that is a tragedy.”

At the Chartwell Malaspina long-term care home in Nanaimo, the number of cases has gone up since an outbreak was declared at the facility. Yesterday, Island Health announced an additional three cases linked to the outbreak, bringing the total number of positive cases to five.

“In wave two we have double the number of care homes in outbreak we had in wave one,” said B.C. seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie. “We are seeing extraordinarily higher levels of community transmission. They are linked right, trying to bring that down as much as possible is what we can be doing to try to get these outbreaks under control.”

The average incubation period for COVID-19 is around five to seven days, meaning its only a matter of time before people who were around others at Christmas begin developing symptoms if they haven’t already.

Henry says although testing and the number of new daily infections is low right now, that is likely going to change in the days and weeks ahead.

“If people were around others during the Christmas period we will start to see that in the coming days,” she said. “This is why we need to all take a step back, we have this new variant in our midst now. We know that it is coming around the world.”

Testing has dropped off province-wide since Dec. 15. (Source: BCCDC)

B.C. continues to have one of the lowest rates of testing in the country. (Source: Health Canada)

With files from Nicholas Pescod

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132 new COVID-19 cases reported in Waterloo, total number climbs past 8,000 – Global News

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Waterloo Public Health reported 132 new positive tests for the coronavirus on Friday, raising the total number of cases in the area to 8,088.

This is the lowest number of new cases that the agency has announced since Jan. 3.

Read more:
10,000 COVID-19 vaccinations completed in Waterloo Region

On the flip side, another 182 people were cleared of the virus, lifting the total number of resolved cases to 6,862.

There have been no new COVID-19-related deaths reported in four days leaving the death toll in Waterloo Region sitting at 179.


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2nd case of South African COVID-19 variant appears in Canada


2nd case of South African COVID-19 variant appears in Canada

The number of active cases drops to 1,045 but there are now 37 people in area hospitals as a result of COVID-19, including 20 people who are in intensive care.

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The COVID-19 vaccine has been administered in Waterloo Region 10,068 times, with 1,009 of those coming on Thursday.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

There were no new COVID-19 outbreaks announced for Waterloo Region, however, there are still 42 remaining which continues to be a record number.

Elsewhere, Ontario reported 2,998 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 231,308.

Friday’s case count is lower than Thursday’s, which saw 3,326 new infections. On Wednesday, 2,961 new cases were recorded and 2,903 on Tuesday.

Read more:
7 patients transferred to Grand River Hospital in Kitchener from across the GTA

“Locally, there are 800 new cases in Toronto, 618 in Peel, 250 in York Region, 161 in Waterloo and 153 in Niagara,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

The death toll in the province has risen to 5,289, after 100 more deaths were reported — marking the highest daily number of deaths.

However, the Ontario government noted some of the deaths included in Friday’s report are from one public health unit and are also from earlier in the pandemic that the provincial database had missed.

–With files from Global News’ Gabby Rodrigues

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Pandemic claims another life in northern BC – Prince George Citizen

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The COVID-19 pandemic claimed another life in the Northern Health region, according to statistics released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on Friday.

The death brings the pandemic’s death toll in the region to 48. In a joint statement issued on Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix reported a total of nine new COVID-related deaths in the province. COVID-19 had claimed a total of 1,047 lives in B.C. as of Friday.

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“We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Henry and Dix said.

There were 49 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the Northern Health region on Friday. The number of active cases in the region went up to 497, from 486 on Thursday, according to the B.C. CDC.

There were 44 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Northern Health region, including 13 in intensive care. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been 2,745 cases of COVID-19 in the region, of which 2,182 have recovered.

In their joint statement, Henry and Dix said there were a total of 509 new cases of COVID-19 in the province.

“There are 4,604 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 349 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 68 of whom are in intensive care,” they said. “Since we last reported, we have had 101 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 260 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 13 in the Island Health region, 86 in the Interior Health region, 49 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.”

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 60,117 cases in the province.

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“Currently, 7,132 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 53,115 people who tested positive have recovered,” Henry and Dix said. “To date, 75,914 people have received a COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. We are disappointed to hear today there will be a short-term delay in the delivery of some of the Pfizer vaccines to British Columbia in the coming weeks as the company upgrades its production facility. We are working closely with the federal government to determine how this might impact our immunization rollout in the immediate term, and we will have more to share in the coming days.”

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In pandemic politics, timing is everything – Winnipeg Free Press

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Premier Brian Pallister said a disruption in the supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a good example of why Manitoba has been slow and cautious in its COVID-19 immunization rollout.

Government was prepared for this kind of bump in the road, he said.

However, according to the province’s own figures, Manitoba was falling behind its own vaccine schedule long before the Pfizer vaccine slowdown was announced.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks at a press conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Friday.

Pfizer-BioNTech confirmed Friday it plans to delay some vaccine shipments (including to Canada) in the coming weeks to retool its manufacturing plants. Company officials said they expect to catch up by the end of March.

There are no details on how it will affect shipments to the provinces. But there will be a temporary reduction in doses.

Given how far behind Manitoba is in its immunization program, that slowdown may not make much of a difference.

But it does give the Pallister government political cover; the slower the shipments over the next few weeks, the easier it will be to catch up.

“I think this backs up our strategy,” Pallister said Friday. “Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”

Not exactly. The provincial government expressed confidence in the supply chain two weeks ago, announcing there was no longer any need to hold back 50 per cent of doses for followup booster shots.

“I think this backs up our strategy. Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”
— Premier Brian Pallister

Officials argued, rightly, there was enough certainty in the supply chain to rely on future shipments for second doses. They said they would maintain enough supply to meet demand for the following week. Beyond that, there was no plan to build up large inventories.

The province has fallen behind since then. The Pfizer delay buys time to catch up, while claiming plans were always in place for this. That’s why, late Friday, there was an announcement of a pause in new vaccination appointments (even though Pfizer shipments are still coming; there are just going to be fewer of them).

Pallister’s comments make for great political rhetoric, but they collide with the facts.

Manitoba has administered 13,539 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines since the immunization program began in December. The total number of vaccines received to date is 38,890. If all 5,300 doses sent to First Nations earlier this month have been used, it means only 48 per cent of doses have been injected so far. Manitoba was scheduled to receive 7,400 doses of Moderna this week. If those doses have arrived (the province refuses to confirm when it receives shipments), only 41 per cent of doses have been administered. The rest are sitting in freezers.

Manitoba chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin.

Nowhere in the Pallister government’s vaccine rollout plan did it say the province planned to stockpile that much inventory in case of a supply disruption.

Part of the reason for Manitoba’s slow rollout is the delay in getting vaccines to residents of personal-care homes. The province had enough inventory to start that program in early January, but didn’t begin until Monday. In a pandemic, every day matters.

The plan is to immunize an estimated 9,834 care-home residents over 28 days. The target for the first week was 1,157, but the number has fallen well short. As of Thursday, only 281 residents had received injections.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin would not provide any explanation for the low number Friday, other than to say there will be more updates next week.

To meet the federal government’s original shipment estimates for January and February (which will now change), Manitoba would have to administer almost 2,400 doses a day.

But just 1,130 people, including care-home residents, were vaccinated between Wednesday and Friday.

The province just can’t seem to get this program off the ground. But now there’s an excuse.

It remains unclear when the Pfizer doses will be delayed, or by how much. But politically, this could be a blessing in disguise for the Pallister government.

tom.brodbeck@freepress.mb.ca

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Columnist

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

   Read full biography

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