COVID-19 in B.C.: Uptick in cases; and sports centres, childcare, school, and 19 flights with exposures

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      Although B.C. has been heading in the right direction in recent weeks, there are some area of concern developing.

      Although case numbers have been slowly trending downward, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that numbers still remain higher than where they need to be.

      In addition, she said that there are increases in some regions. While cases are stabilizing in Interior Health, she said there continue to be some challenges in some communities in  Northern Health.

      Most concerning, she said, is that B.C. is “starting to see an uptick” in case numbers in Vancouver Coastal Health and particularly Fraser Health (which reflects activity that has happened over the past two weeks).

      She added that the reproductive rate of the virus has started to increase, which means “that we are not having those safe interactions as much as we need to be” and that we need to prevent further transmission events.

      Meanwhile in health violation news, Richmond RCMP shut down two karaoke bars on the weekend. In addition to violating provincial health orders, singing has been deemed a risky activity during the pandemic due to the projection of droplets.

      The B.C. government announced today that it is extending the provincial state of emergency until March 2. The state of emergency was originally declared almost one year ago on March 18, 2020.

      B.C. update: February 12 to 16

      Henry provided updates for the past four time periods over the Family Day long weekend.

      B.C. had a total of 1,533 new cases (including six epi-linked cases), which includes (by date:

      • 452 new cases from February 12 to 13;
      • 431 from February 13 to 14;
      • 348 from February 14 to 15;
      • 302 from February 15 to 16.

      By region, that includes:

      • 856 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 392 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 135 in Northern Health;
      • 92 in Interior Health;
      • 58 in Island Health;
      • no one from outside of Canada.

      Active cases continued to decline—today there are 4,189 active cases, which is 158 less people since February 12.

      However, hospitalized cases rose over the weekend—up five people since February 12 to 231 people in hospital today, with 74 patients in intensive care units (13 more people since February 12).

      Public health is monitoring 7,136 people for exposures to identified cases.

      Tragically, there were 26 deaths over the weekend. B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said that includes:

      • 10 deaths from February 12 to 13;
      • five deaths from February 13 to 14;
      • seven deaths from February 14 to 15;
      • four deaths from February 15 to 16.

      A cumulative total of 1,314 people have died in B.C. during the pandemic.

      Over the course of the pandemic, a cumulative total of 68,705 people have recovered.

      Variants and vaccines

      Henry said there are now 60 cases of variants of concern:

      • 40 cases are of the B117 variant (U.K.);
      • 19 of the B1351 variant (South Africa);
      • one of the B1525 variant (Nigeria).

      In the last case, the B1525 variant, which was previously considered a “variant under investigation” as research into this variant was underway, is now considered a “variant of concern”.

      A total of 171,755 doses of the vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 22,914 of those are second doses.

      Henry said that Pfizer deliveries have resumed this week after a suspension of shipments.

      Henry said that they have examined data from the U.K., Israel, Canada (including Quebec and some longterm care homes in B.C.), the delay of a few weeks between the priming dose and the second dose (or booster dose) “does not have a negative impact on vaccine effectiveness”.

      Regarding the time period between the first and second doses of the vaccine, Henry explained that as the body is developing antibodies and immune response is building after the first dose, that process is sustained for a few weeks and can potentially result in a stronger and longer lasting protection.

      Although she said it’s too early to know how long protection will specifically last, she added that we do know that it does last for several weeks.

      Based on monitoring of those in longterm care homes in B.C. who have been vaccinated and have been connected to those with COVID-19, Henry said that up to three weeks after the initial dose, the vaccine provided up to almost 90 percent effectiveness in protection from the virus.

      Henry called this “incredibly exciting and positive news”, as she said it something rarely seen in vaccine programs.

      She explained that many of the deaths in longterm care facilities we’re currently seeing are related to outbreaks that occurred before the immunization program was initiated. However, she said that we aren’t seeing the same rapidity of outbreaks prior the the vaccination program.

      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:

      • Eden Gardens in Nanaimo, where Island Health stated that one staff member and one resident tested positive as of February 15;
      • Wexford Creek in Nanaimo, where Island Health stated on February 14 that one staff member tested positive;
      • Shaughnessy Care Centre in Port Coquitlam.

      The good news is that three healthcare outbreaks have been declared over:

      • Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver;
      • Concord by the Sea in White Rock;
      • Heritage Square in Vernon.

      That leaves 21 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities, including 15 in longterm care facilities and six in acute care facilities and involving 910 cases (561 residents and 349 staff).

      Fraser Health has declared two community outbreaks, both involving children.

      Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Timothy Christian School in Chilliwack on February 13 after 35 staff and students tested positive. This independent school had voluntarily closed on February 4, with a shift to remote learning due to the number of staff needing to isolate themselves due to exposures.

      Fraser Health and the school are working on a plan for students to return to classes by around February 22 at the earliest.

      An outbreak was declared at SFU Childcare Society in Burnaby, which serves children up to age 5, after 24 staff and children tested positive. The outbreak has affected five classes but the other classes remain unaffected and are continuing to operate.

      Meanwhile, Fraser Health has also listed two potential public exposure events in Surrey.

      One was at the West Coast Basketball and Performance Centre (19–5684 Landmark Way) in Surrey at various times from February 1 to 6.

      The other was at St. James's Well Pub (248 Newport Drive) in Surrey from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Trivia Night (February 2).

      Also in the physical activity sector, Vancouver Coastal Health has listed two potential public exposures at Brazilian jiu jitsu centres in Vancouver.

      One was at Gracie Barra Kitsilano (3611 West Broadway) during operating hours from February 1 to 6 and 8 to 10. The second was at Gracie Barra Vancouver (53 East Broadway) during operating hours from February 4 to 6 and 8 to 9, and on February 11.

      Flights and stores

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has added the following 19 flights to its lists of those with COVID-19 exposures:

      • January 31: WestJet 3315, Calgary to Comox;
      • February 3: Air India 185, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • February 3: Cathy Pacific 888, Hong Kong to Vancouver;
      • February 5: WestJet 3241, Calgary to Kamloops;
      • February 6: Air Canada 215, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • February 6: Air Canada 44, Vancouver to Delhi;
      • February 6: WestJet 139, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • February 7: Air Canada 8239, Terrace to Vancouver;
      • February 7: Air Canada 8414, Vancouver to Kelowna;
      • February 9: Air Canada 106, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • February 10: Air Canada 8550, Vancouver to Regina;
      • February 10: Canadian North 5T1501, Terrace to Edmonton;
      • February 11: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • February 11: Air Canada 301, Montreal to Vancouver;
      • February 11: Flair 8101, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • February 11: Air Canada 103, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • February 11: Sunwing Airlines 2860, Mexico City to Vancouver;
      • February 12: Air Canada 306, Vancouver to Montreal;
      • February 12: Air Canada 311, Montreal to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

      Meanwhile, there have been 12 stores added to potential exposure lists.

      T&T Supermarket reported that a part-time staff member who tested positive last worked on February 14 at the Marine Gateway location (458 Southwest Marine Drive) in Vancouver.

      Sobeys stated that one employee who tested positive last worked on February 8 at Safeway (11200–11216 8th Street) in Dawson Creek.

      Loblaw added 10 new stores to its list of locations with staff members who tested positive.

      One staff member at Shipley's No Frills (22427 Dewdney Trunk Road) in Maple Ridge last worked there on February 8.

      An employee at Shoppers Drug Mart who tested positive last worked on February 9 at the 1–4030 200th Street location in Langley.

      Three staff at Sewak's Your Independent Grocer (8200 Bear Paw Trail) in Whistler who tested positive last worked at the location on February 7, 10, and 11.

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

      • two employees who last worked on February 3 and 13 at 14650 104th Avenue in Surrey;
      • two employees who last worked on February 4 and 6 at 19851 Willowbrook Drive in Langley;
      • one employee who last worked on February 10 at 8195 120th Street in Delta;
      • one employee who last worked on February 10 at 7550 King George Boulevard in Surrey;
      • one employee who last worked on February 12 at 3185 Grandview Highway in Vancouver;
      • one employee who last worked on February 12 at (6–291 Cowichan Way) in Duncan;
      • one employee who last worked on February 13 at 910 Columbia Street West in Kamloops.
      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.