COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 400 cases per day, 28 new variant cases, food processing plant outbreak, and more

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      After new case counts remained over 500 for several days last week, new cases over the weekend all remained above the 400 mark.

      Meanwhile this past weekend, news arose about variants detected at seven schools in Metro Vancouver.

      Fraser Health announced that seven schools (six in Surrey, one in Delta) have been confirmed with cases of the COVID-19 variant, including:

      • Woodward Hill Elementary School;
      • AHP Matthew Elementary School;
      • Tamanawis Secondary School;
      • James Ardiel Elementary School;
      • Surrey Traditional Elementary School;
      • Gobind Sarvar School;
      • Hellings Elementary School.

      Today, B.C. deputy provincial health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside held a news teleconference to address these cases.

      Gustafson explained that B.C. public health switched to a new technology about three weeks ago which increased screening of samples for the variant from 20 to 70 percent.

      As a result of this increase in screenings, Gustafson said that there was an according increase in the detection of variants, which were reported over the past week.

      She clarified that these cases were detected over the past three weeks and didn’t all occur at the same time.

      Whiteside has said that so far, testing has indicated that no transmission has taken place.

      Both Whiteside and Gustafson reiterated what B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said in the past—that cases showing up in schools mostly reflect transmission within the community, and very little transmission has actually taken place within schools.

      In response to the situation, Fraser Health announced today that it is boosting its health measures, including testing of all high-risk contacts with or without symptoms, increasing questions and check ups by contact tracers with confirmed cases, use of point-of-case testing, and more.

      B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside (right), with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry

      B.C. update: February 19 to 22

      Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a joint statement today for updates on the past three time periods.

      Over the weekend, there was a total of 1,428 new cases, which includes:

      • 504 new cases from February 19 to 20;
      • 475 new cases from February 20 to 21;
      • 449 new cases from February 21 to 22.

      By region, that includes a total of:

      • 805 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 358 in Vancouver Coastal Health; 
      • 99 in Island Health;
      • 99 in Northern Health;
      • 67 in Interior Health;
      • no one from outside of Canada.

      Currently there are 4,560 active cases, which is 74 more cases than February 19.

      At the moment, there are 223 individuals are in hospitals (six more than February 19), and 63 of them are in intensive care units (two more patients since February 19).

      Public health is currently monitoring 7,768 people.

      Over the past three days, there have been eight new COVID-19 related deaths. The total number of fatalities during the pandemic now stands at 1,335 people who have died.

      A cumulative total of 71,313 people have now recovered.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 77,263 cases.

      Variants and vaccines

      Henry and Dix stated that there have been 28 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants since the last update on February 19. That brings the cumulative total to 101 cases, plus two variants that remain under investigation.

      Out of the total number of cases, four are active while the 97 other cases have recovered.

      The total cases include:

      • 81 cases of the B117 variant (U.K.);
      • 20 cases of the B131 variant (South Africa);
      • two cases of the B1525 variant (Nigeria), which are under investigation. 

      By region, there have been

      • 58 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 38 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • four in Island Heath;
      • three in Interior Health;
      • none in Northern Health;
      • no one from outside of Canada.

      Thus far, 218,726 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 55,057 of those are second doses.

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

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Two outbreaks have been declared at hospitals while an outbreak is over at two other hospitals.

      Vancouver Coastal Health announced on February 21 that it declared an outbreak in a unit at Vancouver General Hospital after five patients and two staff members tested positive.

      Today (February 22), Interior Health announced that it declared an outbreak in a unit at Kelowna General Hospital, where four patients and one staff member tested positive.

      Meanwhile, Interior Health also announced today that outbreaks at two units at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops have been declared over. As of the conclusion of this outbreak, 69 staff and 36 patients tested positive, and four individuals died.

      Henry and Dix stated that the outbreak at Abbotsford Regional Hospital has also been declared over.

      Two outbreaks at longterm care facilities have been declared over at:

      • Carrington Place in Vernon, where one staff member and one patient tested positive;
      • Eagle Ridge Manor in Port Moody.

      Food and flights

      On February 19, Fraser Health declared a community outbreak at the Grand River Foods food processing plant located at 31100 Wheel Avenue in Abbotsford, which it announced it order closed.

      A cluster had originally been detected at the site on February 2. As of February 21, 22 employees tested positive.

      T&T Supermarket had two locations with staff members who tested positive:

      • one part-time employee who last worked on February 15 at the 179 Keefer Place location in Vancouver’s Chinatown;
      • one employee who last worked on February 17 at the 100-2800 East 1st Avenue location in Vancouver.

      Sobeys reported that an employee who tested positive last worked on February 16 at Safeway (200–2 Avenue West) in Prince Rupert.

      Loblaw had four stores with staff members who tested positive.

      One employee who tested positive last worked on February 15 at Michael's No Frills (119–5501 204th Street) in Langley.

      A second location was Shoppers Drug Mart (105–16050 24th Avenue) in Surrey, where an employee who tested positive last worked on February 17.

      The two remaining stores were Real Canadian Superstore locations:

      • two employees who last worked on February 9 and 10 at the Metrotown store (1105 Eaton Centre at 4700 Kingsway) in Burnaby;
      • three employees who last worked on February 12, 13, and 15 at the 6–291 Cowichan Way store in Duncan.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following nine domestic flights with COVID-19 to its lists:

      • February 11: WestJet 706, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • February 12: Flair 8822, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • February 12: Air Canada 124, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • February 13: WestJet 129, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • February 13: WestJet 115, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • February 15: Flair 8821, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • February 15: WestJet 3450, Abbotsford to Calgary;
      • February 15: Air Canada 202, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • February 18: WestJet 115, Calgary to Vancouver.

      In addition, affected row information has been updated for Aeromexico flight 9644 from Mexico City to Vancouver on February 12.

      For affected row information for the above flights, visit the BCCDC website.

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