COVID-19 in B.C.: Almost 700 new cases, adult team sports suspended, and more

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      Yet again, the new case count and number of deaths remained high.

      There are three new healthcare outbreaks, and three stores and three flights with confirmed cases.

      At today's in-person B.C. COVID-19 briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed issues about adult and youth sports. 

      She also said that they are progressing with their province’s immunization strategy, and an emergency operations coordinating committee has been established to lead the management and delivery of vaccines.

      In addition, Fraser Health announced that it will open a new test collection centre in Surrey at 3800 King George Highway, at TransLink’s South Surrey Park and Ride at the junction of Highway 99. This site will process between 500 and 700 tests per day and offer drive-in testing seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

      Adult team sports suspended

      Henry had said at yesterday’s briefing (December 2) that she was adding adult sports to restrictions.

      She had given the example of a B.C. hockey team, comprised of older adults (she had declined to specify where they were from) that, against provincial health orders prohibiting travel for sports, took a trip to Alberta. Upon their return, numerous individuals tested positive and spread the virus in their B.C. communities, impacting businesses and families.

      In addition, she said that it wasn’t a unique example and that there were other similar incidents across the province.

      “We continue to see that indoor group activities—whether for fitness or team sports—are much higher risk right now,” Henry had said on December 2.

      The provincial health orders have been amended and all indoor and outdoor team sports, for individuals over 19 years and older, are suspended.

      That includes basketball, cheerleading, combat sports, hockey, martial arts, netball, team skating, soccer, volleyball, bowling, curling, lacrosse, ultimate, rugby, football, baseball, softball, and more.

      When she was asked why sports for those 18 years and younger are permitted, she explained that sports for young people have not had the same level of risk and transmission that adult sports have had.

      Additionally, she said these adult sports also serve as social gatherings, which they are trying to prevent.

      When asked about delays in her orders appearing online, she said the orders have to undergo legal review and that sometimes the wording is changed to legal language, which is why she is asking to people to focus on the intent of the order, which is to “reduce opportunities for this virus to spread”, particularly in situations that are identified as high risk.

      Henry’s orders remain in place until Monday (December 7), at which time she will announce whether or not they will be extended, expanded, or revised.

      Revised guidelines for indoor group fitness activities will be made available sometime next week, according to Henry.

      Province of British Columbia

      Health order defiance

      Incidents continue to arise in various parts of B.C. involving individuals or organizations disobeying health orders.

      On Vancouver Island, West Shore RCMP stated on December 2 that police responded to a report on November 30 about a man causing a disturbance at a gas station in Langford.

      Upon arrival, officers learned that the man refused to wear a mask in the store, refused to leave, and became belligerent. RCMP arrested the 40-year-old man, who continued his belligerent and uncooperative behaviour. He was charged for failing to wear a face covering, which has a $230 fine, and a court date is scheduled for causing a disturbance.

      Then on December 1, officers found a video posted on social media showing the same man being verbally abusive to staff at Starbucks in View Royal also on November 30. Consequently, police issued a second $230 fine to him.

      West Shore RCMP spokesperson Const. Nancy Saggar called his behaviour “grossly ignorant” and “unacceptable”.

      In other news, the Globe and Mail reported that three churches in B.C. defied provincial health orders to cancel all in-person religious gatherings last weekend.

      Langley RCMP arrived at the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley to find a service underway. When fhe congregation did not disperse after officers asked them to do so, RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the church.

      In the Fraser Valley on November 29, B.C. RCMP reportedly responded to reports about two churches where services were being held and congregations also didn’t disperse when instructed to do so. However, police did not fine these churches but are working with other parties, including the Crown, to determine next steps.

      B.C. update: December 3

      Henry announced there are 694 new cases, including three epi-linked cases.

      For a regional breakdown, that includes:

      • 462 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 114 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 82 in Interior Health;
      • 23 in Northern Health;
      • 10 in Island Health;
      • none among people from outside Canada.

      Active cases continued to grow in number—this time by 162 cases since yesterday—to a current total of 9,103 active cases.

      A hopeful sign is that after yesterday’s stabilized hospitalized cases, the number decreased by 12 people to today’s total of 325 people in hospital, with 80 of those patients in intensive care units (one more person since yesterday).

      The number of people whom public health is monitoring had a significant jump—up 648 people to a current total of 10,849 people. 

      However, there were 12 new deaths for a second consecutive day, which brings the total fatalities to 481 people who have died during the pandemic.

      A total of 24,928 people have recovered.

      B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 35,422 cases during the pandemic, which includes:

      • 22,472 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 9,278 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 1,981 in Interior Health;
      • 928 in Northern Health;
      • 669 in Island Health;
      • 94 people from outside Canada. 
      University of Northern British Columbia

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Unfortunately, there are three new healthcare outbreaks:

      • Baillie House (11762 Laity Street) in Maple Ridge, where Fraser Health stated that four residents and one staff member has tested positive (not Baillie House in Merritt, B.C.);
      • Gateway Lodge (1488 20th Avenue) in Prince George, where Northern Health declared a precautionary outbreak in the Cedar Wing (upper west wing, second floor) after one staff member tested positive;
      • University of Northern B.C. Hospital (1475 Edmonton Street) in Prince George, where Northern Health declared a precautionary outbreak among staff and patients in a family medicine unit but there is no evidence ongoing transmission.

      Active outbreaks are now in 64 health facilities, including 56 in longterm care facilities and eight in acute care units. There are 1,517 active cases—958 residents and 559 staff—involved in healthcare outbreaks.

      Henry and Dix’s joint statement also said that a community cluster in the broader Salmo area has been contained. Interior Health had previously issued a public bulletin that it had identified a community cluster involving 23 cases in the region south of Nelson as of November 19. These cases were linked to social gatherings.

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

      Loblaw reported three stores have had staff members who tested positive.

      One was at a Real Canadian Superstore (7550 King George Boulvard) in Surrey, where an employee who tested positive last worked on November 28.

      The other two stores were Shoppers Drug Mart locations—one at 202–370 East Broadway in Vancouver, the second at 8962 152nd Street in Surrey—which each had one employee who tested positive and last worked on November 30.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added three domestic flights confirmed with COVID-19 to its list:

      • November 19: WestJet flight 188, Kelowna to Calgary, affected rows 14 to 20;
      • November 24: WestJet flight 3342, Calgary to Kelowna, affected rows 7 to 13;
      • November 28: WestJet flight 725, Toronto to Vancouver, affected rows 1 to 5.

      Meanwhile, 44 schools had new exposure dates, see this article

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