By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called a special press conference yesterday to announce 28 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including three in the North, a baby in a Vancouver neonatal Intensive Care hospital unit, and an expanding caseload stemming from events in Kelowna.
“These flare ups in our communities around the province are a concern,” Henry said from Victoria. “It isn’t necessarily unexpected, but it is a warning to us that we need to do more to keep things in balance.”
Of the three people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Northern Health, one is a worker at BC Hydro’s Site C near Fort St. John, while the two others are from separate communities in the North. None of the cases are connected.
The Site C worker was newly-arrived from Alberta and began self-isolating two days into his shift and immediately on receiving positive test results for COVID-19. A handful of close contacts are also self-isolating at Site C. There was no interaction between the workers and the local community.
The other two Northerners who tested positive were recovering in their homes and had minimal close contacts, said Henry.
“Around Northern B.C., we have very few cases of COVID-19,” said Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson. “And that’s the way we like it.”
The latest people to test positive, were the first new cases announced in Northern Health in 39 days.
“Low and slow; bigger spaces, fewer faces,” said Torgerson, quoting Henry. “We encourage visitors to be respectful of our community… as we all enjoy our 360 degrees of opportunities.”
COVID-19 reaches neonatal ICU
At St. Paul’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), one baby tested positive for COVID-19 but showed no signs of illness, and several additional babies and families have been exposed, said Henry.
“There is no infant at NICU at St. Paul’s right now who has severe illness or worrisome illness at all,” the health officer said. “So that’s good news.”
While some infants can develop severe illness after developing COVID-19, so far, none have in B.C. or in Canada, said Henry. “Most young children, even infants, and even infants in the intensive care unit do very well with this,” she said. “We’ll obviously be watching very carefully.”
Everyone potentially exposed to the virus is being closely monitored, she said. “But I do believe it is a very low risk scenario for others who were in the NICU with the people who were cases.”
The Neonatal ICU is currently closed, while the hospital’s maternity ward is full-functioning, said Henry.
Many of the day’s new COVID-19 cases were people in their 20s and 30s who transmitted the virus during social events that began in Kelowna around Canada Day.
“There were a number of parties and different people and then they went to different restaurants,” said Henry.
“We know that gathering helps us feel connected and hopeful in these challenging times,” said Henry. “I empathize. It’s been a rough couple of months.”
As of July 17, 35 people had tested positive to COVID-19 related to what began at a couple of community events in Kelowna on Canada Day.
“We anticipate that there will be more cases in the coming days as people who were exposed are now starting to develop symptoms,” said Henry, who met with City of Kelowna representatives, Minister Adrian Dix, Opposition Health Critic and Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, and Interior Health officials earlier in the day. The group came up with a plan to help people ‘safely enjoy the rest of the summer,’ she said.
Dr. Henry asks young people to be her ‘voice’
“This is a time in your life where those social connections are so important,” said Henry, but those connections must be made in a way that doesn’t lead to a rapid increase in numbers of cases.
“Open isn’t over,” Henry said. “It just means we need to take precautions and do it in a safe way.”
While the severity of illness is typically lower in young adults, their ability to spread the virus is just as high, or higher, than older people, Henry said.
“I don’t want COVID to steal our summer,” said Henry. “So that means we all need to do our bit.”
Henry asked young people to be her ‘voice’ on social media.
“Use your influence to share a message with your friends, with your connections around the province,” she said, to help British Columbians maintain the public health measures that have allowed people the freedom to mix this summer.
“We need to play safe and stay safe,” said Henry. “In the same way that we don’t let friends drive drunk, or that we use condoms and sunscreen.”
We can still have fun and enjoy each other’s company, said Henry. “But just do it in a way that that minimizes our risk of having major outbreaks.”
Always know who you’re with when you’re out, she said. That way public health officials can find people quickly and break the chains of transmission.
When hosting a party, keep the number of attendees low and collect their contact details, she said. Then, if there is an exposure event, public health can anonymously send guests messages to let them know of their risk.
“Take steps to protect each other,” she said, “so you can spread kindness and joy, and not the virus.”
Fran Yanor / Local Journalism Initiative / The Rocky Mountain Goat / Fran@thegoatnews.ca
Origin of Revelstoke cluster unknown, but some visitors did test positive for COVID-19 – BC News – Castanet.net
Interior Health has not been able to identify how a large cluster of COVID-19 cases were introduced to the community of Revelstoke, however, the region’s chief medical health officer admits some non-residents have tested positive for the virus.
During a Zoom press conference Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Albert de Villiers said a “patient zero” has not been identified, despite Premier John Horgan stating earlier in the day that the cluster was caused by people travelling for recreation.
“What we can say with the numbers that we have seen that, yes, there are some people that are not residents in Revelstoke that sadly are infected as well,” said Dr. de Villiers.
“But having said that, we have also seen there is no one specific incident that led to the bigger number of cases. There are some that have been household clusters, some people picked it up when they went to a worksite, some people may have gone to a private function. There are rumours out there we haven’t been able to substantiate that someone went to a hot spring somewhere.
“I think there are different pieces of this. It’s not just one person that travelled in and caused all of this, I don’t think it’s as simple as that.”
Dr. de Villiers says people travelling in from other communities has been a factor in cases in other communities, which is why, he says, part of the provincial recommendations are for people not to travel outside their community if they don’t absolutely have to.
“Sadly, skiing is not essential to most people,” he said. “For recreation purposes, try to stick to your own community and stick to your own ski hill.”
Dr. de Villiers also addressed an online post out of Revelstoke where an individual asked to be infected with the virus so he could become immune.
He says they’ve seen it before with chicken pox and the measles, but it’s a bad idea with COVID-19 because people don’t know how they’ll react.
“Most people will have a relatively mild form of the disease…but there are people, relatively healthy people, that can develop complications. We’ve had people throughout Canada of all ages that have passed away,” he said.
“I don’t think we want to put people at risk unnecessarily.”
The doctor also explained why it took two weeks for IH to publicly disclose the cluster in Revelstoke.
He says over a two-week period there were only 10 cases, one every day or second day, which isn’t abnormal within communities.
“But, all of a sudden in one day, there were 12 more cases,” he said. “That’s why when we did announce it, it was 22, because there was one day that had more than usual.”
He said they do expect cases to pop up in communities, but the large one-day jump was reason to believe there may have been an issue.
Family seeking COVID is “playing with a loaded gun” in B.C. city, mayor speaks out – CTV News Vancouver
The mayor of Revelstoke is appalled at a family rumoured to be trying to contract COVID-19 to “build their natural immunity” at a time when his city is discouraging visitors and grappling with a slew of active coronavirus cases.
Revelstoke has 32 active COVID-19 infections and a population of only 13,500 people, which is more than double the active cases per capita than in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, said Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz.
“We’ve become a little complacent because we haven’t seen this through the community in a big way over the last eight months so what we’re saying now is ‘it’s here, it’s not just those who are travelling in who are bringing this in, it’s here in our community,’” he said.
Sulz said residents need to be more vigilant.
“It’s our locals who are not being vigilant who are spreading it so we need to make sure that everyone does follow the rules.”
The mayor also raised serious concerns about a family rumoured to be seeking out people who’ve tested positive in the community so that they can become infected, reminiscent of ‘chicken pox parties’ among kids before a reliable vaccine was developed.
“We are a healthy family and we would like to safely expose ourselves to the virus to build our natural immunity,” reads the ad posted to a local Craigslist-style website.
The post was removed before CTV News could attempt to contact the family.
The post ends with a plea for “no hate mail.”
“You’re playing with a loaded gun,” warned Sulz.
“We don’t know what this disease can do, whether it’s an older person, younger person, someone who’s in their 30s and 40s. Because people feel they may be in good health doesn’t mean you should go out seeking this because it can have different effects for everyone. That, for me, is very concerning.”
While there were several cases in the United States of people trying to get COVID-19, scientists have repeatedly stressed that they don’t know whether contracting the virus will guarantee immunity and prevent a second infection.
Interior Health cases rising sharply
While Vancouver Coastal Health has brought down its active caseload per capita in the past week and Fraser Health has seen a smaller increase than before, cases in Interior Health have nearly doubled in that time.
Last week a CTV News analysis found there were 37 active cases for every 100,000 people who live in the Interior Health region. However, current data as of Dec. 1, shows there are now 65 cases per 100,000. Fraser Health has grown from 301 to 337 cases per 100,000 people, while Vancouver Coastal Health has dropped from 116 to 111 per 100,000.
In Revelstoke, where the exact number of residents is up to debate as the city claims double the number of inhabitants than the federal census, CTV’s analysis was based on the city’s declared total of 13,500, which puts their active cases at about 237 per 100,000.
That has the mayor pleading with those who think it’s safe to visit over the holidays to simply stay away.
“Snowmobiling, skiing, that’s the ultimate physical distancing but it is when you gather afterwards (that the virus is spreading),” he said. “We’re finding that COVID is spreading because of social gathering so we’re basically saying to people ‘avoid that the best that you can, stay in your own family bubble’.
Revelstoke has only 13 beds in its hospital, with two additional rooms for ventilators. While there aren’t any coronavirus patients there now, the mayor fears the mountain city will soon see its first COVID-19 deaths.
“There isn’t any leeway,” said Sulz bluntly. “If it gets into our hospital or seniors centre or something like that, it’s going to be devastating for this community.”
COVID-19 in B.C.: 834 more cases, 12 deaths in the last 24 hours – CTV News Vancouver
B.C. has added 834 more cases of COVID-19 to its total, as well as 12 more deaths from the disease.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the new numbers Wednesday during a live briefing.
There are now 8,941 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., another new record. Of that total, 337 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, which is also a record. There are 79 people in intensive care with the virus.
Since the pandemic began, the province has recorded 34,728 cases of COVID-19 and 469 deaths.
Henry also announced multiple new outbreaks of the disease on Wednesday, including two community outbreaks in the Fraser Health region, at The Cove Shelter in Surrey and at Millennium Pacific Greenhouses in Delta.
Three more health-care facilities have had outbreaks of the coronavirus declared: Royal City Manor long-term care home in New Wesminster, Saanich Peninsula Hospital in Saanich and West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni.
With 54 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care in the province and a recent spike in the number of daily deaths B.C. has seen, Henry highlighted the need for British Columbians to overcome their pandemic fatigue.
“We hope and expect that vaccines will be ready in the next few weeks,” the provincial health officer said. “But this virus continues to move and move quickly between us, and it takes lives. Another 12 families have been affected today, and we are continuing to see unchecked transmission in many places despite our efforts.”
A total of 10,201 people are under active public health monitoring because of exposures to known cases of COVID-19, Henry said, adding that public health orders she has put in place must be followed to get the province through the rest of the pandemic’s second wave.
“Those are there because we know that these are situations where this virus can spread very easily now,” she said. “It’s not about bad people or people doing the wrong things, it’s the fact that we know this virus can spread even in places where we thought it was safe with the guidelines we had in place just a few months ago.”
Henry also repeated her plea to British Columbians and residents of other provinces to stay home and avoid travelling outside of their local communities.
She acknowledged that it has been a “challenge” for people to limit their travel, citing examples of people travelling to and from B.C. for recreation and sports, despite health officials’ warnings.
The provincial health officer shared the specific example of an “old-timers'” hockey team from B.C.’s Interior that travelled to Alberta. She declined to identify the team or where it was from, saying her understanding is that it’s not a unique case. She described it as a “cautionary tale.”
“Now, there are dozens of people who are infected and it has spread in the community,” Henry said. “We need to stop. Right now. To protect our communities and our families and our health-care workers. This is avoidable, and these are the measures that we need to take.”
Wednesday’s new outbreaks come alongside five outbreaks that have been declared over, including the care home outbreaks at Cottage Worthington Pavilion in Abbotsford, Discovery Harbour Care Centre in Campbell River and Orchard Manor in Kelowna.
The other two health-care outbreaks recently concluded are at acute-care units at Burnaby Hospital and Langley Memorial Hospital.
Most of the new cases added Wednesday are located in the Lower Mainland, with 529 in Fraser Health and 174 in Vancouver Coastal Health.
Elsewhere in the province, 66 cases have been added in Interior Health, 45 in Northern Health and 20 in Island Health.
Origin of Revelstoke cluster unknown, but some visitors did test positive for COVID-19 – BC News – Castanet.net
Science on the back roads could help us prepare for solar storms (5 images) – TimminsToday
The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 2 – CBC.ca
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