COVID-19 in B.C.: Pandemic data update, crackdown on parties, and new social influencer campaign

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      For a second day, new case numbers remain far higher than counts over previous weeks.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presented an update on data at today’s B.C. COVID-19 briefing that showed that the province's curve continues to trend upward and that most of new cases are among young adults.

      Meanwhile, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced some forthcoming developments to their approach, including enforcement and a new social media strategy.

      In addition, several cases have been confirmed at supermarkets, a dance studio, a mall, several flights, and Trump Tower.

      Daily update: August 13

      Dr. Henry announced 78 new confirmed cases today. (Yesterday, the new case count jumped up from 46 on August 11 to 85 cases to reach levels not seen since March and April.)

      The cumulative provincial total during the pandemic is now at 4,274 cases, with:

      • 1,306 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 2,242 in Fraser Health;
      • 150 in Island Health;
      • 398 Interior Health;
      • 106 in Northern Health;
      • 72 cases among people who live outside Canada.

      Currently, there are 578 active cases, including nine people in hospital (four of those patients are in intensive care units).

      There are currently 1,878 people who are in isolation due to potential COVID-19 exposures.

      As there aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks, there remain seven active outbreaks in longterm care facilities and one in acute care, for a cumulative total of 679 cases (409 residents and 270 staff) during the pandemic.

      There is one new community outbreak, which has taken place at the Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver, B.C. where three staff members have tested positive.

      Thankfully, there aren’t any new deaths today, leaving the total fatalities at 196 deaths.

      A total of 3,500 people have recovered.

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

      Community exposure incidents

      Vancouver Coastal Health has added Ivy Lounge (third floor at 1161 West Georgia Street) at Trump Tower Vancouver to the list of locations where potential COVID-19 exposures have taken place. The incident occurred from 10 p.m. on August 7 to the closing time at 2 a.m. on August 8.

      Sobeys has listed two Safeway locations in Surrey where four COVID-19 cases may have been present:

      • August 4: employee last worked on July 30 at 8860 152nd Street;
      • August 9: employee last worked on August 1 at 8860 152nd Street;
      • August 11: employee last worked on August 1 at 8860 152nd Street;
      • August 11: employee last worked on August 1 at 12825 16th Avenue.

      Harbour Dance Centre (third floor, 927 Granville Street) stated that one of its instructors tested positive for the coronavirus on August 11, who likely contracted the virus at a dance community party on August 2.

      In addition, a student tested positive after returning from China. Although the source of infection remains unclear, the student may have been asymptomatic while at Harbour Dance.

      Anyone who was attending the following classes should take precautions:

      • Advanced Choreography at 8 p.m. on August 4;

      • Advanced Choreography at 1:45 p.m. on August 6;

      • Jazz Funk at 2 p.m. on August 7;

      • Intro Hip-Hop at 12:45 p.m. on August 8.

      The dance studio closed on August 11 for cleaning and plans to reopen after 10 days with new policies.

      CTV News reported today that potential exposure incidents may have taken place at Bell Mobility and Saje Natural Wellness stores located in the Pacific Centre mall (701 West Georgia Street). Dates and full details have not been specified yet.

      Several more flights have been confirmed with COVID-19:

      • July 24: Air Canada flight 119 from Toronto to Vancouver, rows 12 to 18;
      • July 27: WestJet flight 186 from Vancouver to Edmonton, rows 2 to 8;
      • July 29: KLM flight 681 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Vancouver, rows 31 to 35;
      • July 30: WestJet flight 186 from Vancouver to Edmonton, rows 6 to 12;
      • August 7: Aeromexico flight 696 from Mexico City to Vancouver, rows 14 to 20.

      Anyone who was at these locations or on these flights should minimize contact with others while monitoring themselves for symptoms for 14 days after the specified dates. Anyone who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call 811 for testing.

      B.C. curving upwards

      Henry presented a modelling update for July 31 to August 6.

      Within this time period, there were eight people hospitalized for a total of 550 patients (14 percent of all cases), and the average age is 69 years old.

      There has only been one death in August so far. The average age for fatalities (five percent of all cases) has been 85 years old.

      The average age of all cases is 48 years old.

      Although many people remain concerned about schools restarting soon, Henry showed that cases amongst children remain low.

      So far, there have only been 78 cases (two percent of cases in B.C.) among children under 10 years of age, with two of those having to be hospitalized.

      From those aged 10 to 19 years old, there have been 162 cases (four percent of cases), with only one case requiring hospitalization.

      None of these cases have required intensive care and there haven’t been any deaths amongst these groups.

      Both of these age groups have been below the percentages that they represent in the overall population in the province (nine percent for children under 10 years of age and 10 percent for those from 10 to 19 years of age). 

      In contrast, young adults (20 to 39 years old) now represent a “disproportionate proportion of our cases”, with 35 percent of all cases are within this age range compared to their population representation of 27 percent.

      The main exposure sites for young adults have shifted from transmission within households to places like bars, nightclubs, and social events (from about 20 percent in Phase 1 to 60 percent of cases in Phase 3).

      Like younger age groups, there haven’t been any deaths in this age range.

      Henry expressed concerns about the curve continuing to climb upward but she emphasized British Columbians are capable of helping to change this direction.

      “Right now, we have it within our ability to make the changes we need to bend that curve back down,” Henry said and reminded everyone to practice the measures that she has repeated at every briefing, from physical distancing to maintaining small numbers of contacts.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix (with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry)
      Province of British Columbia

      Social media

      Henry said that they do use research on social media to observe what is happening.

      She pointed out that there are also many things circulating on social media that are incorrect—she said she received numerous outraged messages that, upon investigation, turned out to be in relation to something occurring in 2017.

      Meanwhile, Dix said that he will be meeting with influencers on various platforms to create a network that will help “to extend the reach of the messages that we’re putting out and allow people, and encourage people, to put the messages in their own terms that Dr. Henry has delivered”.

      One area that will be addressed will be private parties which he said have been “a significant source of problems”. He said that messages will include discouraging people from attending parties where there isn’t physical distancing and alcohol is present.

      He added that they are asking everyone to be influencers because people most likely impacted are “people who you love and the people you know closely”.

      Crackdown on parties

      Dix issued a warning to anyone thinking of holding parties.

      “I want to make it clear that this weekend, that if you have banquet halls where private parties take place, you will be seeing environmental health officers and people in public health, and it’s our expectation that the limits on the number of people at parties will be in place this weekend everywhere in B.C. that we can get at,” he said. “We’re going to ensure that that expectation is followed everywhere, and should it not be followed, inevitably, consequences must follow.”

      Dix pointed out that Interior Health only had two active cases before a widespread outbreak related to Canada Day long weekend incidents. After that, the number of active cases, he said, shot up into the 80s in early July.

      However, health authority teams and local communities worked together and there are now only 13 active cases in the region, Dix said.

      “Our challenge, in Metro Vancouver, is to also follow that path,” he said.

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