COVID-19 in B.C.: Vaccines arrive; approximately 700 new cases per day and 50 deaths on weekend; and more

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      Unfortunately, new cases and deaths remained high over the weekend in British Columbia.

      At today’s B.C. COVID-19 briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained why numbers are still high, and she also expressed excitement again about the arrival of vaccines.

      Meanwhile, there are also three new healthcare outbreaks, and 14 flights and seven stores with exposures. 

      Vaccines arrive

      The first vaccine doses—approximately 4,000 of them—arrived in B.C. late on December 13 and vaccinations for healthcare workers will begin tomorrow (December 15) in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health.

      Henry called it “momentous news” and “the first step in our path to protecting people most at risk in our communities and taking the pressure off our healthcare system so that care is available for all of us who need it across the province”.

      She added that vaccine will be delivered to all five health regions next week.

      B.C.’s curve

      When asked about the current case numbers and whether or not she may introduce more health orders, Henry said she isn’t expecting to have to change things.

      She said that the current measures have flattened but not reduced the curve—she explained that’s partly because “we had flattened at fairly high level and there’s still ongoing transmission in those close environments” in workplaces and homes.

      However, she said the measures are “making a difference” as they have seen a “steep decline” in large gatherings or groups.

      She added that they are still facing challenges, such as in the Interior where there are people still having parties or there are large groups living in shared accommodations.

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

      B.C. update: December 11 to 14

      Henry provided updates for the past three time periods.

      New case numbers hovered around the 700 mark for each of the three days:

      • December 11 to 12: 698 new cases;
      • December 12 to 13: 689 new cases;
      • December 13 to 14: 759 new cases.

      That’s a total of 2,146 new cases (including 16 epi-linked cases) over the past three time periods, which includes:

      • 1,474 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 300 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 250 in Interior Health;
      • 91 in Northern Health;
      • 29 in Island Health;
      • two people from outside Canada.

      Currently, there are 10,039 active cases, which is an increase of 450 more people since December 11.

      The number of hospitalized cases increased by 17 people to a current total of 359 people in hospital, with 87 of those patients in intensive care units (the same number as December 11).

      Public health is monitoring 11,177 people, which is a decrease of 831 people since December 11.

      Sadly, the death toll remained high over the weekend. Henry announced there were 49 deaths, which brings the total number of fatalities to 647 people who have died. That surpasses the record 46 deaths on the weekend from November 27 to 30.

      Of the deaths this past weekend, Dix said by region there were 28 deaths in Fraser Health, 18 in Vancouver Coastal Health, and three people in Northern Health.

      A total of 31,207 people have now recovered.

      B.C. has recorded 42,943 cases during the pandemic, which includes:

      • 27,341 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 10,536 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 2,851 in Interior Health;
      • 1,331 in Northern Health;
      • 787 in Island Health;
      • 97 people from outside Canada. 
      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      Outbreaks and exposures

      There are three new healthcare outbreaks:

      • Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge (9580 Williams Road) in Richmond, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on the third floor on December 12;
      • Northern Health declared an outbreak at Jubilee Lodge (475 Edmonton Street) in Prince George on December 12 but did not specify how many cases are involved.
      • Villa Carital (3050 Penticton Street) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on December 11.

      Island Health confirmed today that two additional people—one patient and one staff member—who tested positive are linked to the outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital in Saanichton, which was declared on December. So far, nine staff members and 10 patients have tested positive. While the hospital is closed to acute admissions, the emergency department remains open.

      Meanwhile six healthcare outbreaks have now been declared over:

      • the pathology unit at the Fellburn Care Centre (but Henry said an outbreak remains ongoing in the longterm care facility) in Burnaby;
      • Fleetwood Villa in Surrey;
      • The Residence in Mission;
      • Windermere Care Centre in Vancouver;
      • West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni;
      • Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens long-term care home in Port Alberni.

      Active healthcare outbreaks are in 55 longterm healthcare facilities and seven in acute care facilities, which involve 2,031 cases (1,305 residents and 726 staff).

      None of the five regional health authorities added any new public exposure events. 

      Food, flights, and other locations

      Wingtat Game Bird Packers announced that its food processing location at 9752 186th Street Surrey was temporarily closed on December 11 due to staff members testing positive (the number of individuals was not specified).

      Meanwhile, CBC News reported today that testing is underway at Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna after two employees tested positive and others are in isolation due to exposure.

      Sobeys reported it had staff members who tested positive at four of its Safeway locations:

      • one employee who last worked on December 1 at 220–800 Carnarvon Street in New Westminster;
      • one employee who last worked on December 2 at 8860 152nd Street in Surrey;
      • an employee who last worked on December 5 at 1170 East 27th Street in North Vancouver;
      • one employee who last worked on December 5 at 20871 Fraser Highway in Langley.

      Meanwhile, Loblaw had three stores with staff members who tested positive.

      Two employees who last worked on December 4 and 10 at the Real Canadian Superstore (2280 Baron Road) in Kelowna;

      The other two stores were Shoppers Drug Mart locations:

      • two employees who last worked on December 10 at the 15105 16th Avenue in Surrey;
      • two employees who last worked on December 11 at the 432 Southwest Marine Drive location in Vancouver.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 14 flights confirmed with COVID-19 to its domestic and international flight lists:

      • November 23: Air Canada 26, Seoul to Vancouver;
      • December 2: Air Canada 222, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • December 2: Air Canada 344, Vancouver to Ottawa;
      • December 2: Air Canada 555, Los Angeles to Vancouver;
      • December 2: Air Canada/Jazz 8413, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • December 4: Air Canada 8411, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • December 4: Air Canada 8411, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • December 4: WestJet 3387, Calgary to Kelowna;
      • December 5; Delta 3702, Seattle to Vancouver; 
      • December 5: Flair Air 8186, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • December 5: Flair 8186, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • December 7: Air Canada 103, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • December 8: WestJet 139, Calgary to Vancouver;                                      
      • December 10: Air Canada 551, Los Angeles to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

      Four regional health authorities had a total of 76 schools with new exposure dates—for full details, see this article

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