COVID-19 in B.C.: Youngest death in province; hospitalization concerns heightened; travel restrictions; and more

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      New case counts remained around the 900 to 1,000 range per day over the weekend.

      The number of active cases has finally decreased, but hospitalized cases continued to increase, which has become a focus of concern. Speaking to this point, B.C. health officials gave a presentation on the status of hospitalizations in the province.

      Health orders are being extended, with travel restrictions soon to be implemented.

      Meanwhile, vaccination registration opens this week for those in their 40s to those who are 18 years old.

      In addition, there were 26 flights with exposures and nine more businesses closed by health authorities.

      Regarding outdoor dance parties held in Vancouver at Kitsilano Beach and English Bay on the weekend, B.C. Premier John Horgan stated at today's COVID-19 briefing that he is aware that the Vancouver Police Department is conducting investigations into those incidents, including reviewing video and speaking with witnesses, before any potential charges are laid. 

      Hospitalization concerns

      Throughout the pandemic, health officials have aimed to ensure the healthcare system remained functional, and to protect it from being overwhelmed from excessive case numbers, which occurred in various locations around the world, such as in Italy and the United States.

      When the number of hospitalized COVID-19 cases increase, healthcare for patients for health issues unrelated to COVID-19 can potentially be impacted or compromised.

      For example, Ontario is preparing for a potential crisis in its healthcare system as hospitals face maximum capacities and doctors prepare for the worst-case scenario, which involves triage (or prioritization of treatment based on likelihood of recovery).

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix were joined by Horgan for a presentation on hospitalizations.

      Horgan spoke about and expressed his gratitude for the nurses, care aids, and doctors “who have not paused to party on the beach but have focussed all of their energies on keeping us all safe” and have worked “to the verge of exhaustion, keeping their fellow British Columbians well during a global pandemic”.

      B.C. hit record high numbers of hospitalized cases last week.

      The COVID-19 occupancy in B.C. hospitals, as of April 15, was 125 people in intensive care units (which is above the third level of COVID-19 hospitalization scenarios) and 409 in acute care (which is above the fourth and highest level of COVID-19 hospitalization scenarios).

      Overall provincial occupancy rates are close to capacity. However, there are regional variations and staff under stress from demand and the duration of the pandemic.   

      Although surge beds are prepared if needed, the use of surge beds will require the redeployment of staff, which will affect other medical services (including scheduled surgeries).

      Several hospitals across the province are currently operating at 95 percent bed capacity:

      • Vancouver Coastal Health: medical/surgical and critical care: Vancouver General Hospital; critical care: Lions Gate Hospital and Richmond Hospital;
      • Fraser Health: medical/surgical and critical care: Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital;
      • Interior Health: medical/surgical: Kelowna General Hospital, Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, Penticton Regional Hospital, Royal Inland Hospital;
      • Northern Health: medical/surgical: Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa, Mills Memorial Hospital;
      • Island Health: none.
      B.C. Premier John Horgan
      Province of British Columbia

      Health orders and travel restrictions

      The current provincial health orders—announced on March 29 and covering restaurants, bars, indoor group fitness, and more—will be extended to include the May long weekend, and will continue until May 24.

      Horgan reminded everyone that Henry has been repeatedly asking everyone to remain close to home.

      Horgan said that B.C. Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth will be issuing an order on Friday (April 23) to prevent British Columbians from travelling outside their regional health authority.

      Under this new order, Horgan explained, there will be random audits conducted and fines will be issued for those who are found travelling outside their regional health authority.

      Also, Horgan said that the B.C. government is working with tourism operators, who won’t be taking bookings from those outside their health authority region.

      In addition, Horgan said that B.C. Ferries will stop accepting bookings for recreational vehicles, such as campers and trailers, and they will be contacting travellers to ensure that their travel is essential and not for leisure. B.C. Ferries also won’t be adding additional ferries that are usually scheduled at this time of year.

      In addition, Horgan said that new travel signs will be placed at the Alberta border to remind people that only essential travel is permitted.

      B.C. update: April 16 to 19

      Henry announced that a total of 2,960 new cases were confirmed over the past three time periods, which includes:

      • April 16 to 17: 1,027 new cases;
      • April 17 to 18: 933 new cases;
      • April 18 to 19: 1,000 new cases.

      By region, the three-day total includes:

      • 1,845 new cases in Fraser Health (62 percent);
      • 696 in Vancouver Coastal Health (24 percent);
      • 211 in Interior Health (seven percent);
      • 108 in Island Health (four percent);
      • 100 in Northern Health (three percent).

      After several consecutive days of active cases constantly climbing, the number has finally dropped. Currently, there are 9,353 active cases, which is a decrease of 728 cases since April 16.

      However, the number of hospitalized cases has increased. With 16 more cases since April 16, there are now 441 people in hospitals, with 138 of those patients in intensive care units (an increase of 11 cases since April 16).

      Public health is monitoring 14,711 people for exposures to confirmed cases, which is a drop of 1,166 people since April 16.

      Tragically, there were eight new COVID-19-related deaths over the past three days, which brings the cumulative total fatalities to 1,538 people who have died.

      In addition, Henry said that among those deaths was a child under the age of 2 from the Fraser Health region who was receiving specialized treatment at B.C. Children’s Hospital and who had pre-existing health conditions. Henry said that this is the youngest death in the province and that it reflects the “vicious nature” of this virus.

      A cumulative total of 108,919 people (91 percent) have now recovered, which includes 3,628 recoveries over the past three time periods.

      Over the course of the pandemic, B.C. has recorded 120,040 cases.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Vaccinations and variants

      Although there have been delays in vaccine shipments, Henry said that the federal government has promised that there will be additional Pfizer vaccines available in the first week of May.

      Henry said they are confident that they will be able to administer second doses to everyone by September.

      This week’s vaccination registration schedule will progress to include people in age groups from those in their 40s to 18 years old:

      • Monday (April 19): people aged 40 and up;
      • Tuesday (April 20): people aged 35 and up;
      • Wednesday (April 21): people aged 30 and up;
      • Thursday (April 22): people aged 25 and up;
      • Friday (April 23): people aged 18 and up.

      Registration can be done online, by calling provincial call centres between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 1-833-838-2323, or in person at the nearest Service B.C. location.

      Henry said that the use of the AstraZeneca is now being expanded to include those 40 years and above.

      After vaccinations in high-risk communities, including Prince Rupert, Whistler, and Indigenous communities, the next focus will be Invermere and Enderby in Interior Health.

      Those over 40 will be targeted in the following high-risk Community Health Service Areas in B.C.:

      1. Dawson Creek
      2. West Newton
      3. Whalley
      4. North Delta
      5. East Newton
      6. Panorama
      7. South Langley Township
      8. West Abbotsford
      9. North Surrey
      10. Port Coquitlam

      As of today, 1,380,160 of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca-SII vaccines have been administered in B.C., and 87,970 of those are second doses.

      Meanwhile, B.C. has confirmed a total of 5,872 variant cases, with 191 of those as active cases.

      The total includes:

      • 3,908 cases of the B117 (U.K.) variant;
      • 1,893 cases of the P1 (Brazil) variant;
      • 71 cases of the B1351 (South Africa) variant.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Henry said that the outbreak at the Joseph and Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre in Vancouver has been declared over.

      Interior Health declared the outbreak at the level 3 surgical unit at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, declared on March 30, to be over as of April 16. Interior Health stated that a total of four staff and 10 patients were involved in the outbreak.

      In an update, Island Health stated today that one additional patient case has been confirmed in the outbreak at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, which brings the total to five patients who have tested positive.

      Accordingly, Henry said that there are 10 active outbreaks remaining in healthcare facilities: five in longterm care facilities and five in acute care facilities.

      Sobeys listed one employee who tested positive as having last worked on April 11 at the 6153 200th Street location of Safeway in Langley.

      Loblaw added six stores with staff members who tested positive.

      One store was Shoppers Drug Mart at 350 Ross Street in Kimberley, where an employee who tested positive last worked on April 14.

      The five other stores were Real Canadian Superstore locations:

      • two employees who tested positive last worked on April 6 and 11 at 3185 Grandview Highway in Vancouver;
      • one employee who tested positive last worked on April 11 at 1301 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam;
      • an employee who tested positive last worked on April 14 at 7550 King George Boulevard in Surrey;
      • one employee who tested positive last worked on April 15 at 14650 104th Avenue in Surrey;
      • several employees (specific case numbers and dates not listed) tested positive at the 2332 160th Street store in Surrey.

      McDonald’s listed four locations with staff members who tested positive:

      • an employee who last worked on April 13 at 7005 120 Street in Delta;
      • one employee who last worked on April 14 at 515 Sixth Street in New Westminster;
      • an employee who last worked on April 14 at 45225 Luckakuck Way in Chilliwack;
      • one employee who last worked on April 15 at 1160–4700 Kingsway in Burnaby.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 26 flights to its lists of public exposures (affected row information is listed at the BCCDC website when available):

      • April 2: WestJet 3325, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • April 3: Air Canada 7, Vancouver to Hong Kong;
      • April 4: American Airlines 392, Vancouver to Dallas;
      • April 4: WestJet 3320, Vancouver to Kelowna;
      • April 4: WestJet 4475, Calgary to Kelowna;
      • April 5: Air Canada 127, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • April 7: WestJet 139, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • April 8: Air Canada 104, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • April 8: WestJet 139, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • April 9: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • April 9: Air Canada 215, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • April 11: WestJet 3112, Victoria to Calgary;
      • April 11: Delta Airlines 3702, Seattle to Vancouver;
      • April 11: Air Canada 224, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • April 11: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • April 11: American Airlines 392, Vancouver to Dallas;
      • April 11: WestJet 136, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • April 11: WestJet 3113, Calgary to Victoria;
      • April 11: WestJet 3176, Abbotsford to Calgary;
      • April 12: Air Canada/Jazz 8839, San Francisco to Vancouver;
      • April 12: All Nippon Airways 115, Vancouver to Tokyo;
      • April 13: Air Canada 224, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • April 14: American Airlines 2263, Dallas to Vancouver;
      • April 14: Air Canada 8543, Regina to Vancouver;
      • April 14: Air India 185, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • April 16: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver.

      Workplace closures

      The following workplaces have been closed by regional health authorities due to three or more COVID-19 cases being confirmed, and evidence of transmission at the workplace. These are in addition to the workplaces closed last week.

      Northern and Interior Health have not listed any business closures yet. (Vancouver Coastal Health information was not available at the time of publication due to a website outage.)

      Island Health

      Club Phoenix Fitness (305-895 Langford Parkway, Victoria): closed on April 19

      Fraser Health

      April 17 closures:

      Golden West Baking Co. (1111 Derwent Way, Delta)

      Terrastone Development (5827 Production Way, Langley)

      April 18 closures:

      Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness—Highgate Village (300–7155 Kingsway, Highgate Mall, Burnaby)

      Buy-Low Foods Home Office (19580 Telegraph Trail, Surrey)

      Lennox Industries—Burnaby (2962 Lake City Way, Burnaby)

      Peregrine Retail Design Manufacturing—Burnaby (3131 Production Way, Burnaby)

      Quality Saw and Knife—Port Coquitlam (3108–585 Seaborne Avenue, Port Coquitlam)

      Rona (16659 Fraser Highway, Surrey)

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.