COVID-19 in B.C.: Stricter enforcement coming as B.C. hits among highest case numbers during pandemic

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      Although a second wave was predicted for the fall, the summer isn't even over and B.C. has already been hitting high numbers of COVID-19 cases, some ranking among the highest recorded during the pandemic so far. In addition, there are new healthcare outbreaks, new deaths, and a record number of active cases.

      From Vancouver, Health Minister Adrian Dix presented the B.C. COVID-19 update today (August 17) with deputy provincial health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson. (Gustafson will be delivering B.C.’s public health updates this week in the place of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.)

      In response to the constantly rising numbers, Dix emphasized that the effort to stop the spread of the virus because this pandemic—“that we’re all tired of”—won't be "ending soon”, and is expected to be continuing throughout 2021 into 2022.

      As numerous British Columbians express concerns about case numbers, Dix briefly mentioned that a new enforcement strategy is under development, with further details to come.

      Daily update: August 17

      Gustafson provided updates for August 14 to 17.

      From August 14 to 15, there were 100 new cases (which Gustafson is the second-highest number of new cases reported in B.C. during the pandemic); followed by 88 new cases from August 15 to 16; and an additional 48 new cases from August 16 to 17, for a total of 236 new cases over the three time periods (which includes 10 epi-linked cases).

      Currently, there are 743 active cases, which is the highest total during the pandemic.  

      The number of hospitalized cases has dropped from 12 on August 14 down to four people, with three of those patients in intensive care units.

      There are now 2,286 people are under active public health monitoring, which is an increase of 260 people from 2,026 individuals on August 14.

      Over the pandemic, the cumulative provincial total is now at 4,594 cases, with 1,419 in Vancouver Coastal Health; 2,425 in Fraser Health; 154 in Island Health; 405 in Interior Health; 117 cases in Northern Health; and 74 among people who live outside Canada. 

      Unfortunately, there are two new healthcare outbreaks.

      On August 16, Fraser Health confirmed an outbreak at the Czorny Alzheimer Centre longterm care facility (16850 66th Avenue) in Surrey. One staff member, who is now in self-isolation at home, was confirmed positive. 

      The other outbreak is at the Arbutus Care Centre (4505 Valley Drive) in Vancouver, which had restrictions imposed on August 14.

      Meanwhile, the outbreak at Joseph and Rosalie Segal Family Health Centre has been declared over.

      There are now 10 active outbreaks, with nine in longterm care facilities and one in acute care units. During the pandemic, there have been 690 cases (415 residents and 275 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks. 

      There aren’t any new community outbreaks but potential public exposure events continue on (see below).

      The Haida Gwaii outbreak, declared on July 24, has had 26 confirmed cases as of August 14, and all have recovered except for one person, according to Northern Health.

      Unfortunately, there are two new deaths (both in Fraser Health). The province’s total fatalities is now at 198 deaths.

      A total of 3,653 people have now recovered from COVID-19.

      B.C Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Stricter enforcement to come

      On August 13, Dix had warned that enforcement would be conducted over the weekend to ensure health measures were being practiced. Today, Dix said that Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health teams visited 128 banquet halls, and that there were six locations that were identified as of concern, where they will be ensuring that health guidelines are followed.

      Dix said that WorkSafeBC also conducted its own inspections over the weekend.

      He added that three previously announced food and beverage or nightlife venues—Pierre’s Champagne Lounge, West Oak Restaurant, and Ivy Lounge at the Trump Tower Vancouver—were shut down as they are “associated with a significant number of cases of COVID-19” and won't reopen until approved by health authorities.

      Dix said that ministries are meeting to develop a “more comprehensive approach to increase enforcement”, which will use “officers beyond public health” and will involve municipalities, health authorities, WorkSafeBC, and police, as well as stricter penalties.

      He said this approach will come into effect later this week, with details to be announced by the B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth this week.

      When asked about the issue of parties held at private residences, Dix said it is an issue of concern and that it is currently under consideration.

      Public exposure incidents 

      Loblaw stated on August 16 that a staff member at Dennis’s No Frills (1916 Como Lake Avenue, Coquitlam) tested positive for the coronavirus. The last day the employee worked at the location was on August 11.

      Northern Health issued an alert today that anyone who attended the It Is Time Canada prayer-gathering event in Deadwood, Alberta, from July 30 to August 2 may have been exposed to COVID-19.

      Northern Health identified the event after contact tracing, and has since confirmed 17 cases (10 are active and seven have recovered). Of these cases, 12 attended the event while the others are secondary exposures. Meanwhile, 24 close contacts are in isolation. The majority of the cases are in the Fort St. John area.

      Anyone who were at these locations need to reduce contact with others while monitoring themselves for symptoms for 14 days, and to immediately self-isolate and seek testing if symptoms appear.

      When asked about transmission outdoors in B.C., Gustafson said that there has only been one outdoor exposure incident that B.C. has issued a public alert about. She added that the number of transmissions that have taken place outside remains “very, very limited”.

      B.C Health Minister Adrian Dix (with deputy provincial health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson)
      Province of British Columbia

      Air flights

      Once again, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has added several more flights, including five domestic flights.

      On WestJet flight 714 from Vancouver to Toronto on August 3, anyone in rows 7 to 13  may have been affected. In addition, WestJet flight 720 from Vancouver to Toronto on August 3 lists rows 4 to 10 as being affected.

      Also on August 3, anyone in rows 20 to 26 on Air Canada flight 224 from Vancouver to Calgary may have been affected.

      A few days later, anyone on Air Canada flight 122 from Vancouver to Toronto on August 7 may have been affected (rows not specified).

      Then on August 9, anyone in rows 2 to 4 and 12 to 15 on Air Canada flight 243 from Edmonton to Vancouver may have been affected.

      One international flight is listed.

      Air India flight 1143 from New Delhi to Vancouver on August 9 as being connected to COVID-19. Affected rows are not specified.

      Anyone who was on these flights should monitor themselves for symptoms for a minimum of 14 days after the flight date. Anyone who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolate and contact 811 (if in B.C.) or local healthcare authorities to arrange for testing.

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