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What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C.

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Health officials confirmed on Sunday the first known case of a B.C. resident infected with a variant of the COVID-19 virus first identified in the United Kingdom.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is expected to be asked about the presence of the new variant in B.C. during her next update on the pandemic response Tuesday at 3 p.m.

As per the province’s last update on Dec. 24, there were 8,865 active cases of the novel coronavirus in B.C. Of those, 341 people are in hospital, including 78 in intensive care.

The seven-day average of new cases in B.C. stood at over 547 and has been dropping steadily since it peaked at 808 in late November.

New variant detected in B.C.

The first B.C. case of the new COVID-19 variant was detected in an individual who lives in the Island Health region and returned from the U.K. on Air Canada Flight AC855 on Dec. 15.

The person developed symptoms while in a mandatory 14-day quarantine and was subsequently tested. The positive diagnosis was confirmed on Dec. 19.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease expert at the University of British Columbia, said it’s not unexpected that a case of the new variant was discovered in the province, and there will likely be more across Canada, the United States and around the world.

 

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, associate professor at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, says finding cases of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus in British Columbia was to be expected after it was detected in Ontario over the weekend.. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC News)

 

Henry says that while there is no evidence so far that this variant affects the severity of illness, it does appear to transmit more easily.

No update since Christmas

Before the Christmas holidays, Henry said the number of new daily cases in B.C. had dropped, but warned it was still “at a very high level.”

To date, there have been 48,609 cases of the virus in B.C., including 808 people who have died.

In their written statement on Dec. 24, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix encouraged British Columbians to keep Christmas celebrations small and virtual this year.

It will be a couple weeks before new cases reflect whether social gatherings, travel and Boxing Day shopping events over the holiday season have led to increased transmission and a spike in cases.

What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 7 p.m. PT on Sunday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 552,020, with 79,863 of those cases considered active.

A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 14,964.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of taste or smell.
  • Headache.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they’re mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or o​​​​​​ther extreme symptoms should call 911.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

Source: – CBC.ca

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PHOTOS: South Surrey seniors grateful for 'freedom' of COVID-19 vaccine – Cloverdale Reporter

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“Freedom” and “relief” were among words buzzing around the Amica White Rock residence Friday morning, as nearly a dozen nurses worked to immunize the facility’s 160 residents from COVID-19 by day’s end.

The clinic, scheduled twice previously but ultimately pushed to Jan. 15, was among the last held in Fraser Health long-term care and assisted-living facilities since the health authority began its rollout. According to a news release issued Friday morning, all 151 such facilities in the region were to have completed vaccination clinics by the end of the day.

Larry O’Brien, outgoing chair of the residents’ council at Amica White Rock, described receiving the vaccine as akin to getting out of jail.

“I feel free,” the senior said, moments after rolling up his sleeve for the first of the vaccine’s two doses.

“Getting that vaccine in my arm, it’s such a big relief. This is good protection, even without phase 2.”

Senior care-home residents – who have been particularly impacted by health orders enacted since the pandemic was declared last March – were among groups identified as high-priority to receive the vaccine. It arrived in Canada in mid-December, and B.C. received its first shipments about a week later.

READ MORE: Canada gives first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

READ MORE: Dr. Bonnie Henry receives her first dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Both the Moderna and Pfizer versions require two doses over several weeks to reach their highest effectiveness.

At Amica Friday, health care workers administering the shots could be heard assuring residents it was not a live vaccine, and that they need not worry about contracting the virus from it. As well, that they might experience flu-like symptoms after receiving it, and that it would take about two weeks for the vaccine to start taking effect.

Justin Penney, Amica’s community relations director, said the excitement in the air was palpable Friday morning as the vaccination clinic got underway.

“We’ve been ready,” he said of the facility’s preparedness for the vaccine rollout. “We’ve been wanting it as soon as we can get it.”

Penney said he received his first dose at an undisclosed off-site location on Thursday (Jan. 14). The first of Amica’s staff members received it on Dec. 27, and any leftover doses from Friday’s clinic will go first to any staff who have not yet received it, he said.

(The issue of who gets excess vaccine doses from such clinics was thrust into the limelight earlier this week, after Fraser Health officials confirmed that a director at Peace Arch Hospital and two of her family members were offered doses leftover from a Dec. 28 clinic at Royal Columbian Hospital.)

READ MORE: UPDATE: Peace Arch Hospital staff did not jump COVID-19 vaccine queue: Fraser Health

Penney said he has had no side effects from the vaccine so far, and that everyone is looking forward to the greater freedoms that it is anticipated to bring. Things like hugs and holding hands make “a huge difference in the lives of our residents,” he said.

Helene and Austin Cable said they miss family and the freedom to go shopping, and have been “very much looking forward” to receiving the vaccine.

It means “freedom,” Austin said.

Exactly when hugs and other “normal” activities will be able to resume, however, remains unclear, Penney said.

“It’s not going to be a snap of the finger,” he said.

Amica, he continued, is listening to Fraser Health, and will continue with the protective measures that are currently in place until told it is safe to do otherwise.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
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Online sign-ups complicate vaccine rollout for older people – Burnaby Now

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DENVER — Howard Jones, who’s 83, was on the phone for three to four hours every day trying to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine.

Jones, who lives alone in Colorado Springs, doesn’t have the internet, and that’s made it much more difficult for him to make an appointment. It took him about a week. He said the confusion has added to his anxiety about catching what could be a life-threatening disease at his age.

“It has been hell,” Jones said. “I’m 83 and to not have the use of a computer is just terrible.”

As states across the U.S. roll out the COVID-19 vaccine to people 65 and older, senior citizens are scrambling to figure out how to sign up to get their shots. Many states and counties ask people to make appointments online, but glitchy websites, overwhelmed phone lines and a patchwork of fast-changing rules are bedeviling older people who are often less tech-savvy, may live far from vaccination sites and are more likely to not have internet access at all, especially people of colour and those who are poor.

Nearly 9.5 million seniors, or 16.5% of U.S. adults 65 and older, lack internet access, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Access is worse for seniors of colour: more than 25% of Black people, about 21% of Hispanic people and over 28% of Native Americans 65 and older have no way to get online. That’s compared with 15.5% of white seniors.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Dr. Rebecca Parish has been dismayed by the bureaucratic process and continued calls for help from seniors. One of her patients, who’s 83, called her in tears, unable to navigate the online appointment system at Rite Aid. A 92-year-old woman called her before dawn this week after reading about her in a newspaper, telling her, “I’ll do anything to get this vaccine.”

So Parish took things into her own hands. She reached out to Contra Costa County and acquired 500 doses to vaccinate people this weekend at a middle school in Lafayette, California. She’s working with nonprofits to identify seniors who don’t live in nursing homes and risk falling through the cracks. All her appointments have been claimed, but she’ll start taking them again once more doses are available.

Some health officials have been trying to find other solutions to ease the confusion and help senior citizens sign up, just as the Trump administration urged states this week to make the nation’s 57.6 million seniors eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some places have found simple ideas work. In Morgantown, West Virginia, county health officials used a large road construction sign to list the phone number for seniors to call for an appointment. Others are considering partnering with community groups or setting up mobile clinics for harder-to-reach populations.

Some seniors may be waiting to hear from their doctor. But there are limits to using health care systems, pharmacies or primary care providers to reach underserved people who don’t have the internet, said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers.

She said the two coronavirus vaccines available in the U.S. and their low-temperature requirements “don’t lend themselves to being sent out to rural areas.”

In McComb, Mississippi, where 77.5% of residents are Black and almost half the population lives below the poverty line, 71-year-old Mary Christian made an appointment online with her son’s help. But the only available sites are at least an hour away from she lives.

“I’m 71 years old, and my kids are not going to be happy for me driving 1 to 200 miles away to get a vaccine,” said Christian, who has diabetes.

Some medical systems, like UCHealth in Colorado, are trying to partner with community groups to get vaccines to underserved populations, like seniors.

Dr. Jean Kutner, chief medical officer of UCHealth University at Colorado Hospital, said she’s volunteering at a clinic hosted by a church that brings in the vaccine and helps build trust between health care workers and residents.

For now, UCHealth schedules appointments online, but Kutner said a COVID-19 hotline is in the works because of the volume of calls from seniors.

“Seniors are comfortable with the phone side of things, so that that’s not really a technological barrier for them,” said Gretchen Garofoli, an associate professor at West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy.

But even a Colorado health provider setting up vaccine clinics for underserved communities, Salud Family Health Centers, said their phone lines can’t handle the volume of calls they’re receiving and encouraged people to go online.

When calling for an appointment is an option, finding a number is often only possible online.

That was the problem for Jones, the 83-year-old in Colorado. A retired service member, he considered reaching out to Veterans Affairs but couldn’t find a phone number.

He asked for help from a friend, who gave him several numbers. One led to Angela Cortez, head of communications for AARP in Colorado.

AARP has been flooded with calls from seniors like Jones who don’t have the internet and need help navigating the websites of health departments, care providers and vaccine sign-up forms, Cortez said.

“It’s not like you can show up somewhere and get vaccinated,” Cortez said. “And if you don’t have access to a computer, you’re at a disadvantage.”

Even Cortez had trouble as she tried to help Jones. She called numbers listed on the Colorado health department website and several Safeway stores after Jones heard friends were vaccinated there.

Eventually, Cortez was told to sign up online.

“I’m an employee of AARP, one; and two, I’m the communications director — I’m a trained journalist — and I have a computer, three, and I can’t even get through to anybody,” she said.

A friend was finally able to get Jones an appointment for Saturday. But he’s frustrated that he had “to go through side channels” instead of doing it himself.

___

Naishadham reported from Phoenix. Associated Press reporter Janie Har in San Francisco and data journalist Larry Fenn in New York contributed to this report. Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

___

This story has been corrected to show that there are 57.6 million seniors in the U.S., not 54 million, according to Census Bureau data.

Patty Nieberg And Suman Naishadham, The Associated Press




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Number of positive COVID-19 tests exceeds 60000 in British Columbia – Straight.com

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It was another day with more than 500 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

That has brought the provincial total to 60,117 since the virus was first detected in B.C. nearly a year ago.

The good news is the number of hospitalizations from the disease fell to 349 today, down from 362 on January 14. 

The number of those in intensive care is also down, falling from 74 to 68 in a single day.

Tragically, there have been another nine deaths from COVID-19, lifting B.C.’s total to 1,047 since the virus first arrived in the province.

“We have had one new health-care facility outbreak at Hilltop House,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement. “The outbreaks at Villa Cathay and Wingtat Game Bird Packers are now over.

“People throughout British Columbia are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

B.C.’s is still registering fewer positive test results per 100,000 than some other provinces, according to data released by the federal government.

Henry and Dix reported that 260 of the 509 new cases were in the Fraser Health region. Another 101 were in Vancouver Coastal Health and 86 in the Interior Health regions.

The lowest daily totals were again reported in Northern Health (49) and Island Health (13).

So far, 75,914 people in B.C. have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We must never forget how far we have come by working together,” Henry and Dix said. “Over the past months, we have all made sacrifices for the health of our families and communities, and now more than ever we need to hold the line and stop transmission of COVID-19 as our vaccination program ramps up.”

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