COVID-19 in B.C.: Second food facility outbreak, collecting racial data, and restarting B.C. "without rebooting the virus"

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      At the daily B.C. COVID-19 update today (April 23), B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed more outbreaks, including one at another food processing facility and two at acute care facilities in the Lower Mainland, and one at a longterm care facility in the Interior.

      Meanwhile, Dr. Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix also talked about collecting racial data related to the pandemic and the importance of reopening the province.

      Daily update

      In today’s provincial update, Dr. Henry stated that there are 29 new cases adding to the province’s cumulative total, which is now at 1,824 cases.

      Since the pandemic began, there have been 755 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 760 cases in Fraser Health, 111 on Vancouver Island, 156 in Interior Health, and 42 in Northern Health.

      There is one new outbreak involving a single staff member at a longterm care facility in the Interior Health region and two new outbreaks in Metro Vancouver acute care facilities, one at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver and another at Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge.

      That includes 347 cases (217 patients and 130 staff) in acute or longterm care facilities.

      The good news is that 10 outbreaks at longterm care facilities are now over.

      However, there is a new community outbreak at the Superior Poultry Processors in Coquitlam, which Dr. Henry is a related operation of Vancouver’s United Poultry Company, which has an outbreak that was announced on April 21.

      Dr. Henry said that there are some shared staff between the two facilities.

      At the Coquitlam facility, there have been two confirmed cases so far but the investigation remains ongoing.

      At the Mission institution correctional facility, there are now 78 cases among inmates and staff.

      Currently, there are 103 patients in hospital, with 44 of them in intensive care units.

      With four new deaths (one in Fraser Health and three in Vancouver Coastal Health), the provincial total of fatalities is now at 94 deaths. 

      A cumulative total of 1,092 people have now recovered.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      Identity information

      When asked if B.C. collects data based on racial identity, Dr. Henry said that the province does collect information for the Aboriginal Data Standard (which includes individuals who identify as First Nations, Inuit, or Métis) for all communicable diseases in the province.

      While she said that B.C. doesn’t collect data for any other racial or ethnic groups. she added that they have discussed and have been actively talking about this topic.

      “There’s been an evolution around this pandemic where it’s been imported cases from places around the world so it may not reflect necessarily the impact on our population but it certainly is an important measure for us to be aware of and we’re thinking about how we can do that, for sure,” she said.

      She acknowledged that other places do so but explained that places like the United States does because of challenges in accessing healthcare.

      One identity-based area that she said they do collect data for is related to the “unintended consequences of the actions that we have been taking around this pandemic”.

      She said they know that people who are facing housing challenges or are of a lower socio-economic status “will be more affected” by both the health and economic crises that are currently being experienced “so we want to be able to measure that”.

      Restarting B.C.

      Dix said that in the coming days and weeks, he and Dr. Henry will be talking more about changes that will take in the next phase in addressing the virus.

      While he stressed the need to continue following advice and orders, he also emphasized the need to increase social and economic activity that “we all need as social beings” and as essential and integral parts of dealing with the pandemic.

      “Shutting down COVID-19…means opening up B.C.,” he said. “One is a prerequisite for the other. Easing up on our efforts too soon makes it too easy for COVID-19, too easy for it to spread, too easy for it to claim more of our seniors and elders, and too easy for it to undo all of the sacrifice we’ve made together.”

      He warned, though, that it won’t necessarily be an easy ride but will require more effort.

      “That work will require us to work closely together but it will be as difficult a period as the previous period,” he said while stating that he hopes B.C. is able to achieve its goals. “We need to renew B.C. without rebooting the virus.”

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