COVID-19 in B.C.: Dr. Bonnie Henry says lower new case counts may be due to less testing over holidays

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      The good news is that over the holiday weekend, new COVID-19 case counts in B.C. remained around 500 or less.

      Unfortunately, there’s a catch: B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at today’s B.C. COVID-19 briefing that she believes that part of the reason that numbers are down is because people haven't been testing as much over the holiday weekend.

      She said testing has been reduced by as much as 50 percent in some places.

      “Partly it’s people don’t want to be tested and have to isolate before this holiday, which is worrisome,” she said, “because we know that people are getting together—some people—and even it’s just your household, you may bring this into your household and spread it to them.”

      She said they expect testing to increase after the holidays and will likely see more cases after the incubation period.

      U.K. variant

      After Ontario confirmed Canada’s first two cases of the U.K. variant on December 26, B.C. confirmed its first case of the U.K. variant on December 27—an individual from the Island Health region had travelled from the U.K. On the same day, Ottawa also confirmed a case. Alberta confirmed its first case yesterday (December 28).

      Today, Quebec confirmed its first case while the first case in the U.S. was found in Colorado.

      Henry said that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has been looking over cases from previous weeks to determine (with genome sequencing) if there were any signs of the variant. However, so far, B.C. has only found the one previously mentioned case, who remains in isolation.

      B.C. update: December 25 to 29

      Henry announced there were a total of 2,206 new cases (including 25 epi-linked cases) over the past five time periods. By date, that includes:

      • December 24 to 25: 512 new cases;
      • December 25 to 26: 447 new cases;
      • December 26 to 27: 424 new cases;
      • December 27 to 28: 441 new cases;
      • December 28 to 29: 382 new cases.

      By region, that includes:

      • 1,375 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 378 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 238 in Interior Health;
      • 171 in Northern Health;
      • 44 in Island Health;
      • no one from outside Canada.

      As before Christmas, active cases continue to decline. Currently, there are 7,580 active cases, which is 1,285 less people since December 24.

      However, the number of hospitalizations has increased. With an additional 32 people since December 24, there are now 373 people in hospital, with 80 of those cases in intensive care units (two more than December 24).

      Public health is monitoring 9,414 people (due to exposure to confirmed cases), which is 318 less people than December 24.

      Unfortunately, over the past five days, there have been 74 deaths, which brings the cumulative total fatalities to 882 people who have died during the pandemic.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said that by day, that includes:

      • December 24 to 25: 25 deaths;
      • December 25 to 26: 14 deaths;
      • December 26 to 27: 14 deaths;
      • December 27 to 28: 11 deaths;
      • December 28 to 29: 10 deaths.

      He said by region that includes:

      • 36 people in Fraser Health;
      • 23 people in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 10 people in Interior Health;
      • five people in Northern Health.

      There weren’t any deaths from Island Health or among people from outside Canada.

      A cumulative total of 41,175 people have recovered.

      Since the pandemic began, B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 50,815 cases, which includes:

      • 32,260 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 11,913 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 3,749 in Interior Health;
      • 1,890 in Northern Health;
      • 901 in Island Health;
      • 102 among people from outside Canada.
      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Vaccinations

      Henry said that there are now 11,930 people in B.C. who have been vaccinated.

      Of those immunizations, she said two people had allergic reactions to the vaccine, which she said “is not unexpected”, based on what has been seen elsewhere. Both people, who were healthcare workers, have been treated and have recovered.

      While Ontario has been under criticism for closing vaccination clinics during the holidays, B.C. had reduced hours or closed some vaccination clinics over the holiday weekend.

      When Henry was asked about B.C.’s approach, she said she believes that they have done a lot of vaccinations over the past week and that because it is a “fussy” vaccine, a lot of time was spent training people how to safely administer the vaccine.

      The Moderna vaccine is scheduled to arrive in B.C. this week.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Henry said there are 64 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities—56 in longterm care facilities and eight in acute care facilities.

      New healthcare outbreaks have been declared at:

      • Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence (100 Eleventh Street) in Nanaimo, where Island Health declared an outbreak on December 27 and one resident had tested positive as of December 28;
      • Brookside Lodge in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated that two staff members have tested positive as of December 28;
      • The Emerald at Elim Village in Surrey, where Fraser Health stated that one resident and three staff members, as of December 26;
      • Rideau Retirement Residence in Burnaby, where Fraser Health stated that five residents and two staff members as of December 28;
      • Heritage Square in Vernon, where Interior Health stated that four staff members and six residents as of December 27;
      • Noric House in Vernon, where Interior Health stated that one staff member and five residents tested positive as of December 28;
      • University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George;
      • the respiratory unit at Vancouver General Hospital, where Vancouver Coastal Health had imposed restrictions on December 24 after patients tested positive (a specific number was not provided).

      Fraser Health declared healthcare outbreaks over at PICS Assisted Living in Surrey and Courtyard Terrace Seniors Community in Burnaby on December 26; Agassiz Seniors Community in Agassiz on December 28; and Fort Langley Seniors Community in Fort Langley today.

      Northern Health declared the healthcare outbreak at North Peace Seniors Housing Society apartments in Fort St. John over as of December 25. A total of 15 individuals tested positive in the outbreak, and involved six individuals requiring hospitalization and the death of one resident.

      In addition, Northern Health declared the community outbreak at the LNG Canada Project site in Kitimat, which began on November 19 (and where JGC Fluor, or JFJV, is the prime contractor), over as of December 25. A total of 56 employees tested positive in this outbreak, and no new cases have been reported since December 2.

      This outbreak is separate from a second outbreak declared on December 17, which hasn’t had any new cases since December 14.

      Stores and flights

      Sobeys had two Safeway locations with staff members who tested positive:

      • one employee who last worked on December 19 at 1780 East Broadway in Vancouver (this employee is different from the previously reported employee at this location who last worked on December 14);
      • an employee who last worked on December 22 at 580 Clarke Road in Coquitlam.

      Loblaw had six stores with staff members who tested positive.

      Two stores were Shoppers Drug Mart locations:

      • one employee who last worked at 32390 South Fraser Way in Abbotsford on December 25;
      • one employee who last worked on December 20 at 10351 100th Street in Fort St. John.

      Another store was Your Independent Grocer (1650 Lonsdale Avenue) in North Vancouver, where an employee last worked on December 19.

      The four remaining stores were Real Canadian Superstore locations:

      • two employees who last worked on December 17 and 21 at 19851 Willowbrook Drive in Langley;
      • two employees who last worked on December 18 and 24 at 3000 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam;
      • one employee who last worked on December 18 at 3185 Grandview Highway in Vancouver;
      • several employees (number unspecified) who worked (no dates specified) at 14650 104th Avenue in Surrey.

      Since the last update was provided on December 24, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 38 domestic and international flights to its lists of flights confirmed with COVID-19:

      • December 7: Air Canada 44, Vancouver to Delhi;
      • December 14: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • December 16: WestJet 320, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • December 16: WestJet 3290, Prince George to Vancouver;
      • December 17: Swoop WO106, Abbotsford to Hamilton
      • December 18: WestJet 3169, Edmonton to Vancouver;
      • December 18: WestJet 3287, Vancouver to Prince George;
      • December 19: WestJet 325, Calgary to Kelowna;
      • December 19: Air Canada 214, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • December 19:  Air Canada/Jazz 8622 , Vancouver to Winnipeg;
      • December 19: Air France 74, Paris to Vancouver;
      • December 19: Air Canada 244, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • December 19: Air Canada 63, Vancouver to Seoul
      • December 19: WestJet 325, Calgary to Kelowna;
      • December 20: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • December 20: WestJet 253, Calgary to Kelowna;
      • December 20: Air Canada 971, Puerto Vallarta to Vancouver;
      • December 20: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • December 20: WestJet 253, Calgary to Kelowna;
      • December 20: WestJet 3109, Calgary to Nanaimo;
      • December 21: Air Canada 127, Toronto  to Vancouver;
      • December 21: Air Canada/Jazz 8408, Kelowna to Calgary;
      • December 21: Air Canada 8574, Vancouver to Saskatoon;
      • December 22: Pacific Coastal Airlines 8P715, Vancouver to Campbell River;
      • December 22: Air Canada/Jazz 8352, Vancouver to Penticton;
      • December 22: WestJet 725, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • December 22: WestJet 3169, Edmonton to Vancouver;
      • December 22: WestJet 3106, Terrace to Vancouver;
      • December 22: Air Canada 3, Vancouver to Tokyo;
      • December 23: Japan Airlines 17, Vancouver to Tokyo;
      • December 23: Air Canada 241, Edmonton to Vancouver;
      • December 23: Nippon Airways 115, Vancouver to Tokyo;
      • December 23: Harbour Air 220, Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour;
      • December 23: Air Canada 8737, Saskatoon to Vancouver;
      • December 24: Air Canada 123, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • December 25: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • December 25: Air India 185, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • December 26: Air Canada 3: Vancouver to Tokyo.

      Also, one bus was reported with COVID-19:

      • December 20: EBUS No. 5725, from 4:20 to 9 p.m., from Abbotsford to Kelowna.

      Affected row information for the listed flights is available at the BCCDC website.

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