COVID-19 in B.C.: New cases soar near 1,300; new variant strategy and workplace health order announced; and more

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      Over the past two weeks, B.C. has repeatedly set and broken through new record case counts. Today, yet again, the province reached a record number of new cases—this time hitting close to the 1,300 mark.

      In addition, active and hospitalized cases, and monitored people, have all increased since yesterday.

      Plus, a new provincial survey has been launched to collect feedback about how the pandemic is affecting people (see below).

      Variant strategy revised

      Today (April 8), B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gave a presentation about variants of concern in the province.

      Henry said that B.C. has gone from having a few dozen strains of COVID-19 in March 2020 to over 100 in March of this year.

      While B.C. has conducted full genome sequencing in order to confirm variant cases, she said that B.C. no longer needs to do additional testing for the B117 (U.K.) variant because it's now the dominant strain that is spreading throughout the province, particularly in the Fraser Health region.

      In addition, she said that the P1 (Brazil) variant has also been found in many clusters and chains of transmission throughout the province as well, and that they no longer needs to spend time understanding that.

      Instead, Henry said that they now need to shift their testing strategy so that the genome sequencing capacity can be used for “more systematic testing and sampling for all of the strains to make sure we’re not missing another important one that may be arising”.

      She said they need to focus on understanding “which strains are going to be replacing others, which strains are increasing, and whether there’s other concerning ones that are coming now”.

      The new strategy, she explained, will end sequencing for confirmation. She said that they will assume that the positive cases will be the variants and anyone who is positive needs to be treated as if they have a variant

      However, she said they will continue surveillance over time to understand what is changing, and that will be reported in weekly surveillance reports from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

      She said this strategy will help them understand:

      • how to manage transmission, clusters, and outbreaks, and how to manage them;
      • determine what proportion of travellers have the variants;
      • monitor what elements are making a difference in managing the pandemic in B.C., including reinfections, vaccine failures, and variants which may not respond to vaccinations.

      New workplace health order

      Henry talked about workplaces in many sectors across the province have continued to be sites of ongoing transmission chains, clusters, and outbreaks, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

      She announced a new workplace closure order, which allows WorkSafeBC inspectors to operate under the Public Health Act, and if workplaces with three or more workers are involved in transmission at that workplace, public health can close that workplace for 10 days or more, as one measure to help limit transmission. (At large or complex worksites, the closure may be restricted to specific areas where transmission occurred.)

      WorkSafeBC can now serve the closure notice for that workplace, and support the workplace in reviewing and enhancing safety plans at the workplace.

      For places that cannot close for public interest (such as police stations, firehalls, schools, shelters, transportation, distribution hubs, grocery stores, and others), those will be under the guidance of public health.

      Henry said they will have a public list of closed workplaces and dates for reopening.

      She said this will help to avoid entire sector closures.

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

      B.C. update: April 8

      Henry noted that the following numbers, due to delay in the reporting data lab system, may be adjusted once confirmed.

      Henry announced that there are 1,293 new cases in B.C. today, which is a new record. By region, that includes:

      • 645 in Fraser Health;
      • 448 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 80 in Interior Health;
      • 69 in Island Health;
      • 51 in Northern Health;
      • no one from outside of Canada.

      The previous record for new cases was 1,077 on April 3.

      Currently, there are 9,184 active cases, which is a jump of 456 more cases since yesterday.

      As of today, there are 336 hospitalized cases (six more than yesterday), with 101 patients in intensive care units (a decrease of three patients since yesterday).

      The number of people being monitored has had a significant increase. Public health is now monitoring 15,203 people for exposures to identified cases, which is 601 more people since yesterday.

      Sadly, there are two new COVID-19-related deaths. B.C. Health Minister said there was one death in Vancouver Coastal Health and one death in Interior Health. The total number of people who have died during the pandemic is now at 1,493 individuals.

      A cumulative total of 97,462 people (90 percent) have now recovered, which includes 836 recoveries since yesterday.

      B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 108,278 cases during the pandemic.

      A total of 995,001 doses in B.C. have now been administered, and 87,564 of those are second doses.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Vancouver Coastal Health had imposed restrictions on the fifth floor at the Joseph and Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre (Segal Centre) at Vancouver General Hospital on April 5. Today, VCH declared an outbreak at the centre, after two clients tested positive. 

      Fraser Health has declared outbreaks over at Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge and Fleetwood Place in Surrey.

      Currently, there are 11 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities, including four in longterm care facilities and seven in acute care facilities.

      The good news is that no new community outbreaks were declared and none of the five regional health authorities listed any new public exposure events.

      Loblaw listed two Real Canadian Superstore locations with staff members who tested positive:

      • four employees who tested positive last worked on March 25 and 27, and April 1 at the 333 Seymour Boulevard store in North Vancouver;
      • two employees who tested positive last worked on March 27 and April 5 at the 19800 Lougheed Highway store in Pitt Meadows.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 15 flights to its lists of public exposures:

      • March 26: WestJet 126, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • March 29: WestJet 3105, Vancouver to Terrace;
      • March 30: WestJet 126, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • March 31: WestJet 301, Montreal to Vancouver;
      • March 31: Air Canada/Jazz 8182, Fort St. John to Vancouver;
      • April 1: Swoop 183, Edmonton to Abbotsford;
      • April 1: WestJet 126, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • April 1: WestJet 320, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • April 1: WestJet 4706, Terrace to Vancouver;
      • April 2: Swoop 184, Abbotsford to Edmonton;
      • April 4: Air Canada 212, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • April 4: Air India 185, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • April 4: WestJet 164, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • April 5: Air Canada 234, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • April 5: WestJet  3312, Kelowna to Edmonton.

      Affected row information is listed at the BCCDC website.

      New survey

      Henry said a second survey is being launched for people to share feedback on how the pandemic has affected individuals.

      The previous Your Story, Our Future survey, which over 4,000 people responded to, helped health officials understand what people were experiencing during the pandemic.

      The Speak Round 2 survey is available at the BCCDC website.

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