COVID-19 in B.C.: Problems with private parties, choir and band guidelines, and more flights with cases

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      At today’s B.C. COVID-19 update, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix discussed how numerous new cases have been linked to private parties.

      Also, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued health guidelines for choirs and musical performances, and more flights have been confirmed with COVID-19 cases.

      Meanwhile, B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has once again extended the provincial state of emergency, this time until August 18.

      Daily update: August 4

      Dr. Henry provided updates for the four time periods since the last update, on July 31.

      The rate of new cases has alternated between high numbers and the average over the past months.

      She said that from July 31 to August 1, there were 43 new cases.

      From August 1 to 2, 29 new cases were reported. 

      Then, from August 2 to 3, an additional 46 new cases were confirmed, followed by 28 cases from August 3 to 4.

      That’s a total of 146 cases (including four epi-linked cases) over four days.

      The cumulative provincial total, over the course of the pandemic, is 3,787 cases.

      So far, there have been 1,119 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health; 1,989 in Fraser Health; 146 in Island Health; 377 in Interior Health; 91 in Northern Health; and 65 among people who live outside Canada. 

      Currently, there are 319 active cases. Dix said that about 90 percent of the active cases are in Metro Vancouver, including 195 in Fraser Health and 78 in Vancouver Coastal Health.

      The number of hospitalizations has gone up slightly, from five on July 31 to eight today (with four of those patients in intensive-care units). Dix said there are five patients in Fraser Health, two in Interior Health, and one in Vancouver Coastal Health.

      He pointed out that the number of hospitalized cases continues to remain low—a far cry from the peak of the pandemic in early April, when there were 149 people in hospital and 72 in critical care.

      Unfortunately, there has been one new health-care outbreak in the assisted-living facility at the Maple Ridge Seniors Village, which has a single staff case. 

      The outbreak at Mission Memorial Hospital has been declared over. However, there remain three active health-care outbreaks, all in long-term care facilities. 

      The Fraser Valley Packers outbreak now has confirmed 74 cases.

      Dr. Henry said there are 24 cases involved in the Haida Gwaii outbreak, but luckily there haven’t been any hospitalizations so far.

      The good news is that there are no new deaths, leaving the total number of fatalities at 195.

      A total of 3,273 people have recovered from the virus.

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

      Private parties

      Dr. Henry said that most of the new cases over the past month have been related to private gatherings or small parties; travel within B.C. or Canada, or from outside Canada; and workplaces.

      She said the common factor among these cases involves people engaging in activities in close contact with others, including talking, laughing, joking around, and sharing drinks and food—frequently indoors, which tends to be higher-risk. However, they also do not endorse large gatherings outdoors, such as the recent drumming gathering at Third Beach in Vancouver.

      She said public health has been able to determine the source of transmission for the majority of the cases, and many involve overlapping social circles, particularly at private parties. (Dr. Henry has stated several times that one of her main concerns is about cases that cannot be traced to a source.)

      “We also know that going to private parties, at this time, is not something we should consider doing,” Dix said. He urged people not to go to such private events, especially if there are people attending who are unfamiliar, for the remainder of the summer.

      Choirs and bands 

      Some of the most enjoyable social and arts activities have become among the riskiest things to do during the pandemic.

      Numerous cases around the world, including in Washington state, Alberta, and Germany, have illustrated the dangers of singing, which can project droplets and possibly aerosols containing the coronavirus. 

      Of particular concern are choirs, as several incidents have resulted not only in large numbers of infections but also deaths, despite participants practising usual health measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene. 

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has posted health guidelines for choirs and bands. 

      To minimize the risks of singing, the BCCDC recommends that groups of adults and children should not exceed 50 people, should sing outdoors, and should not share equipment (or should clean and disinfect it if necessary between use by different people), in addition to the usual health measures (physical distancing, proper hygiene, recording the names and contact information of all participants, and more).

      Unfortunately, the BCCDC advises seniors and vulnerable individuals not to participate in singing.

      The same advice applies to performing with musical instruments. If any equipment needs to be shared, the BCCDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting it between users.

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

      Air travel 

      Yet again, more flights to and from B.C. have been confirmed with COVID-19 cases.

      All three of them were domestic flights.

      Air Canada Flight 311 from Montreal to Vancouver on July 24 was confirmed with the coronavirus. Affected seats include those in rows 1 to 4 and 12 to 14.

      Air Canada Flight 204 from Vancouver to Calgary on July 27 was confirmed as linked to COVID-19. Affected seats include rows 18 to 24.

      Meanwhile, Air Canada Flight 343 from Ottawa to Vancouver on July 29 was also listed as linked to the coronavirus. 

      Affected seats include rows 4 and 12 to 17. 

      Anyone on these flights should monitor themselves for 14 days after the flight while minimizing contact with others. Anyone who does develop symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call 811 (or their local health authority) to arrange for testing.

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