COVID-19 in B.C.: 21 deaths, 18 variant cases, 13 flights and one Whistler pub with cases, and more

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      Case numbers are roughly around the same levels are last week, and many areas are still of concern. In particular, social gatherings remain sources of transmissions. 

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at today's briefing that this past weekend, WorkSafeBC, Vancouver Coastal Health, and public health inspectors were working to increase inspections and enforce regulations in areas where surges have been taking place, such as Whistler.

      From their reports, she said that good plans were in place at establishments but later in evenings, people were gathering in groups at these venues and that it was difficult for staff to prevent people from congregating.   

      Henry said that she will provide a modelling update and an update on provincial health orders on Friday (February 5).

      With Superbowl weekend, Family Day, and Lunar New Year coming up, both B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix emphasized that indoor social gatherings cannot be held and remain risky.

      This past weekend, the Vancouver Police Department announced on January 31 that officers arrested a 42-year-old man who had been alleged to have been repeatedly hosting parties in his three-floor penthouse in Downtown Vancouver. In addition, 77 attendees were fined $230 each.  

      In other news, the Canadian Society for the Advancement of Science in Public Policy has filed a lawsuit against the provincial government and Henry, and is seeking a court declaration that all ministerial orders and public health orders in response to the pandemic be set aside as "unreasonable".

      Variant update

      Today (February 1), Henry provided an update on variant cases in the province.

      She said there are now 14 cases of the B117 variant originally identified in the U.K. Henry said that includes seven new cases confirmed this past weekend.

      She said that eight cases are in Fraser Health. That includes seven cases related to travel (to the U.K., Europe, and more) and one case is a contact of a traveller.

      In terms of locations of these cases, there are four cases on Vancouver Island—one was in a traveller from the U.K. and three were among household contacts of that person.

      One case is in Vancouver Coastal Health and one in Interior Health, and both were travellers from the U.K.

      B.C. has four cases of the B1351 variant originally identified in South Africa. Henry said there are three cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, and one in Fraser Health.

      She said three cases are unlinked (public health is working to determine where the virus was transmitted) and one is a contact of one of these cases.

      Henry said there are three ways that B.C. is looking for variants:

      • random sampling: she said they are conducting surveillance in areas where there are increases in cases, growth, and outbreaks, such as at St. Paul’s Hospital; 
      • international travel: all travellers from international destinations are being tested;
      • specific group targeting: whole genome sequencing for all school-age children and young people, who may be differentially affected.

      As previously reported, an individual who tested positive for the nonvariant virus, who attended the Garibaldi Secondary School in Maple Ridge, has a contact who did test positive for a variant. Consequently, Henry said that approximately 80 people who were present at the school are being tested with rapid testing and PCR to determine if there is any ongoing risk.

      She said that later this week, they will provide more data and details about how they are conducting their increased surveillance for the variants. In addition, she said this information is being factored into “all of the decisions that we have to make together over these next coming weeks”.

      B.C. update: January 30 to February 1

      Henry announced that over the weekend the following new cases:

      • 408 new cases from January 29 to 30;
      • 473 new cases from January 30 to 31;
      • 277 new cases from January 31 to February 1.

      That’s a total of 1,158 new cases, including four epi-linked cases, over the three time periods.

      By region, that includes:

      • 493 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 295 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 194 in Interior Health;
      • 98 in Northern Health;
      • 78 in Island Health;
      • no one from outside Canada.

      Active cases have continued to decline. Currently, there are 4,134 active cases, which is 423 less cases since January 29.

      At the moment, there are 289 people in hospital (three less cases since January 29), with 79 of those patients in intensive care units (five more people since January 29).

      Tragically, a total of 21 people died over the past three days. Dix said that there were four deaths from January 29 to 30, 14 from January 30 to 31, and three from January 31 to February 1.

      The total number of fatalities is now at 1,210 people who have died during the pandemic.

      Public health is monitoring 7,242 people for exposure to confirmed cases.

      A cumulative total of 61,117 people have recovered.

      As of today, 138,892 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 4,491 of those are second doses.

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

      Outbreaks and exposures

      There’s one new healthcare outbreak at the Westsyde Care Residences (2980 Westsyde Road) in Kamloops. Interior Health stated today that there are nine residents and three staff members who have tested positive.

      Meanwhile, healthcare outbreaks have been declared over at two facilities:

      • Burnaby General Hospital;
      • Brookside Lodge in Surrey.

      Henry said there are currently 32 active healthcare outbreaks in 24 longterm care facilities and eight acute care facilities.

      Vancouver Coastal Health added another establishment in Whistler to its list of places with exposure events. Amsterdam Café Pub (4232 Village Stroll, Whistler) had potential exposures during operating hours  from January 11 to 17; on January 19, 21, 23; and from January 24 to 25.

      Loblaw announced that four of its stores had staff members who tested positive.

      One of them was Wholesale Club (5335 Kingsway) in Burnaby, where an employee who tested positive last worked on January 28.

      The other three were Real Canadian Superstore locations:

      • one employee who last worked on January 22 at the 14650 104th Avenue store in Surrey;
      • one employee who last worked on January 27 at the 2855 Gladwin Road store Abbotsford;
      • three employees who last worked on January 18 and 22 at the 100–2210 Main Street store in Penticton.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 13 flights to its list of domestic and international flights confirmed with COVID-19:

      • January 20: Air Canada 128, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • January 21: WestJet 3040, Cranbrook to Calgary;
      • January 24: Air Canada 202, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • January 24: American Airlines 1539, Dallas to Vancouver;
      • January 24: Aeromexico 696, Mexico City to Vancouver;
      • January 24: WestJet 186, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • January 25: WestJet Flight 126, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • January 26: WestJet Flight 3111, Calgary to Kamloops;
      • January 26: Air Canada 255, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • January 26: WestJet 3019, Calgary to Nanaimo;
      • January 26: American Airlines 1539, Dallas to Vancouver;
      • January 27: WestJet 129, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • January 27: AeroMexico 696, Mexico City to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

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