COVID-19 in B.C.: 35 new deaths and over 2,000 new cases on weekend; health orders extended into January; and more

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      New case counts remained above 600 per day over the weekend and the death count on one day matched a previous record high.

      There are also six new healthcare outbreaks, and 10 stores and three flights with confirmed cases.

      Meanwhile, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced an extension for her health orders, talked about the arrival of the first vaccines,

      Health order update

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today that the health measures she had announced on November 19 have been extended until midnight January 8.

      That means social interactions remain limited to household members, all social gatherings and events remain suspended, and travel is not permitted for sports.

      One new exception Henry has made is for drive-through, drop-off, or drive-in services or events, such as drop-off toy drives.

      For any of these events, all attendees must remain in their vehicles, which must have household members only within each vehicle. A maximum of 50 vehicles can be in attendance at any such event.

      Adult team sports (indoors and outdoors) and group fitness remain restricted indefinitely. Child and youth sport can continue with restrictions.

      However, she said that group fitness may begin to operate after new guidelines are issued.

      All workplaces must review and update COVID-19 safety plans.

      She said in making her decision upon the extension, they did consider the upcoming holiday season, including Hanukkah which begins on Thursday (December 10).

      “So, yes, it was to signal that this is not the time plan large family gatherings, whether it’s for Christmas or New Year’s or other holidays through this next period of time,” she said. “We cannot afford—when we’re this close to being able to protect people—to have a surge of cases early in the new year that would again test and strain our healthcare system and put people at risk.”

      She said these measures will get us through this critical period and save lives.

      Case numbers

      While Henry said the rate of increase has been steep, particularly in the Lower Mainland, she did add that over the past few days, there has been a levelling off of case numbers.

      In a presentation with graphs, she said that looking at the seven-day average, the case counts per day have peaked and begun to decline.

      In addition, she said hospitalizations, which lag by a few weeks after new cases, have begun to peak. She said the people in hospital are receiving the care they need but it is putting a strain on the healthcare system.

      Accordingly, she said the health measures put in places are starting to have an effect.

      However, she added that we are not yet at a point where restrictions can be lifted.

      Vaccine arrival

      Henry said there’s good news to share: the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in B.C. next week, which will be a small amount but will start the vaccination program.

      As this vaccine has to be stored at about -80 C, there will be limited locations where the vaccine can be kept.

      She said that the initial focus will be on protecting those most at-risk, including healthcare workers in longterm care facilities, emergency departments, intensive care units, and other frontline healthcare areas.

      She said there won’t be enough vaccines within the first few months to make any difference in community transmission.

      Henry said Dr. Ross Brown and Premier John Horgan will join her and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a public briefing about the vaccines later this week.

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

      B.C. update: December 4 to 7

      Henry announced new case numbers for the past three time periods over the past weekend:

      • December 4 to 5: 647 new cases;
      • December 5 to 6: 726 new cases;
      • December 6 to 7: 647 new cases.

      That’s a total of 2,020 new cases for the three-day period.

      By region, that includes:

      • 1,362 in Fraser Health;
      • 304 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 203 in Interior Health;
      • 106 in Northern Health;
      • 45 in Island Health;
      • none among people from outside Canada.

      Currently, there are 9,380 active cases, which is an increase of 330 people since December 4.

      Hospitalizations have increased again.

      That includes 349 people in hospital, which is 11 more people since December 4, and 77 of those patients are in intensive care units (one more than December 4).

      By region, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said that includes:

      • 193 patients in Fraser Health;
      • 89 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 42 in Northern Health;
      • 14 in Interior Health;
      • 10 in Island Health.

      Dix reminded everyone that it’s not just an issue of having available beds but that these numbers of patients place “very significant pressure on our hospitals and staff in those hospitals”.

      There’s also been a significant increase in monitored people over the weekend.

      Public health is now monitoring 10,747 people, which is 1,697 more people than December 4.

      Tragically, there have been 35 new COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 527 people who have died during the pandemic.

      Dix said that by day, that includes:

      • 17 deaths from December 4 to 5—which matches the record high on November 29;
      • 10 deaths from December 5 to 6;
      • eight deaths from December 6 to 7.

      By region, Dix said that includes:

      • 23 deaths in Fraser Health;
      • nine in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • two in Interior Health;
      • one in Island Health.

      A total of 27,287 people have recovered.

      B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 38,152 cases during the pandemic, which includes:

      • 24,261 in Fraser Health;
      • 9,725 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 2,265 in Interior Health;
      • 1,084 in Northern Health;
      • 724 in Island Health;
      • 93 people from outside Canada.
      Crofton Manor

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Unfortunately, there are six new healthcare outbreaks:

      • Crofton Manor (2803 West 41st Avenue) in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health imposed restrictions on the fourth floor on December 2;
      • Bradley Centre (45600 Menholm Road) in Chilliwack, where Fraser Health stated that two staff members tested positive as of December 5;
      • Chilliwack Lifestyles
      • Lakeshore Care Centre (657 Gatensbury Street) in Coquitlam, where Fraser Health stated that one resident tested positive as of December 5; 
      • assisted-living facility Village by the Station (270 Hastings Avenue) in Penticton, where Interior Health stated one resident and one staff member tested positive as of December 5;
      • extended care facility McKinney Place (911 McKinney Road) in Oliver, where Interior Health stated that eight residents tested positive as of December 6.

      The good news is that five healthcare outbreaks have been declared over at the following facilities:

      • assisted-living facility Hawthorne Seniors Care Community in Port Coquitlam;
      • assisted-living facility Sunset Manor in Chilliwack;
      • longterm care facility Valleyhaven Care Home in Chilliwack;
      • Lakeview Care Centre in Vancouver, where Vancouver Coastal Health lifted restrictions on November 26;
      • Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge.

      Currently, there are 65 active healthcare outbreaks, including 57 longterm care facilities and eight in acute-care facilities.

      Henry said that active healthcare outbreaks currently involve 1,697 active cases—1,073 residents and 605 staff.

      Of particular concern is a community outbreak at a mink farm in the Fraser Valley, where Fraser Health confirmed that eight people have tested positive. Fraser Health has not identified the name of the farm, and has not yet confirmed if transmission occurred between animals and humans. Animal testing is underway.

      A mutated form of the virus, related to minks, has been reported at mink farms in Europe, which has raised concerns that this mutation may affect the effectiveness of vaccines.

      Meanwhile, none of the five regional health authorities added any new public exposure events.

      Stores and flights

      The following retailers are companies that publicly list positive cases among staff present at their workplace. Other retailers do not list positive cases.

      Sobeys announced that an employee who tested positive last worked on December 2 at the 8860 152nd Street location of Safeway in Surrey.

      Loblaws listed eight of its stores that had staff who tested positive.

      Two employees who tested positive last worked on November 23 and 29 at Joti’s No Frills (310 West Broadway) in Vancouver.

      Real Canadian Superstore had four locations with staff members who tested positive:

      • one employee who last worked on November 28 at the 45779 Luckakuck Way location in Chilliwack;
      • one employee who last worked on November 30 at the 350 Southeast Marine Drive location in Vancouver;
      • one employee who last worked on December 1 at the 4700 Kingsway location at Metrotown in Burnaby;
      • one employee who last worked on December 1 at the 2210 Main Street location in Penticton.

      Three locations of Shoppers Drug Mart had staff members who tested positive:

      • one employee who last worked on November 29 at the 7155 Kingsway location in Burnaby;
      • one employee who last worked on December 1 at the 16050 24th Avenue location in Surrey;
      • one employee who last worked on December 3 at the 2871 Livingstone Avenue in Abbotsford.

      T&T Supermarket stated that an employee who tested positive last worked on November 30 at the Metrotown location (147–4800 Kingsway).

      Meanwhile, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control added three domestic flights to its list of flights confirmed with COVID-19:

      • November 23: WestJet 3101, Calgary to Fort St. John, affected rows not provided;
      • December 3: WestJet 141, Edmonton to Vancouver, affected rows 5 to 11;
      • December 4: Air Canada 305, Montreal to Vancouver, affected rows 1 to 3.

      Over the wekeend, all five regional health authorities added new exposure dates to a total of 73 schools. For full details, see this article

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