COVID-19 in B.C.: New case numbers surge to levels not seen since March

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      British Columbia’s control over the spread of COVID-19 is slipping as the province's new case count hit levels that haven't been seen since March.

      Meanwhile, the provincial government also announced that it will boost the number of contact tracers in the province.

      The B.C. Education Ministry also announced a phased-in approach to schools starting in September. For more details, see this article

      Daily update: August 12

      In a joint statement, Henry and Dix announced that there are 85 new cases in B.C. (which includes two epidemiologically linked cases). That’s almost double the amount of yesterday’s number at 46 cases.

      "The majority of these cases are young people in the Lower Mainland and their exposures have been at events in the community,” Henry and Dix stated. “The cases we are seeing today reflect exposures from a week to 10 days ago.”

      They also stated that a “significant number of cases” are also connected to travel from outside B.C.

      It is the third highest number of new cases since the pandemic began. The second highest amount was on March 23 with 88 cases and the peak was on March 25 with 91 cases.

      The only other dates that came close to today’s number was on March 30 with 82 cases and on April 24 with 72 cases.

      At a news conference today with Premier John Horgan about increasing the number of contact tracers (see below), Henry said that public health teams have been able to reach about 98 percent of contacts of all confirmed cases and there are very few unlinked cases (or cases in which they remain uncertain of how the virus was transmitted).

      B.C. Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix

      Now there are 531 active cases in the province, which is up from 472 cases yesterday. Today's number includes eight people in hospital, with five of those patients in intensive care units.

      The cumulative total for the province during the pandemic is now at 4,196 cases, which includes the following breakdown by health authority region:

      • 1,273 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 2,203 in Fraser Health;
      • 150 in Island Health;
      • 394 in Interior Health;
      • 104 in Northern Health;
      • 72 cases of people who live outside Canada.

      Unfortunately, B.C. has also broken its 11-day stretch without any deaths. One new COVID-19-related death has occurred, bringing the total fatalities to 196 people who have died.

      There aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks, leaving active outbreaks at seven longterm care facilities and one acute-care facility.

      Also, there aren’t any new community outbreaks. However, there is one new community exposure event.

      Vancouver Coastal Health reported a potential COVID-19 exposure incident at Levels Nightclub (560 Seymour Street) from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on August 4 and 7. Anyone who was at this location during these specified times should reduce contact with others and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days. If symptoms develop, individuals are asked to immediately self-isolate and call 811 to arrange for testing. 

      Today is one of the only days over the past few weeks that there haven’t been any new flights confirmed with COVID-19 cases.

      A total of 3,469 people who tested positive during the pandemic have since recovered.

      B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      Contact tracers wanted

      Prior to this pandemic, many people may not have heard of contact tracers and the role they play in public health.

      Contact tracers work with anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to find out who their contacts might be to break any possible chains of transmission of the virus and provide followup.

      B.C. announced today that it will hire about 500 more health professionals to temporarily boost the ranks of contact tracers, as the province prepares for respiratory illness season to overlap with the pandemic.

      "This role becomes even more crucial to contain the spread as we continue to open up our schools, economy and social activities, and as we prepare for the upcoming cold and flu season this fall,” Henry explained.

      Some individuals in these positions will also support other public health services, including providing education in communities and possibly immunizing for influenza or other diseases.

      A reduction in the number of flu cases will help to relieve provincial laboratory testing infrastructure while ensuring B.C. hospitals have available acute-care capacity.

      "These new contact tracers will provide an extra layer of protection by jumping into action as soon as there is an outbreak, and will start their detective-style work to find out who may be infected in order to protect all British Columbians,” Premier John Horgan stated in a news release.

      Provincial Health Services Authority and regional health authorities will recruit health professionals. Candidates are anticipated to begin work in September and continue until March, possibly with extensions.

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