COVID-19 in B.C.: Province at precarious point, several vaccine delays, 18 flights with exposures, and more

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      Although B.C. has recently managed to avoid large increases in case numbers, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke today about the urgent need to do more to bring case numbers down further.

      In recent weeks, she said B.C. has plateaued at about 500 new cases per day, but this remains too high and that we remain at a "very risky time" where "it takes very little for it to skyrocket" but that it also takes very little additional effort to prevent it from doing so. 

      “This leaves us at a precipice, at a brink, where we can see a rapid take off, particularly if we start to see any of these new variants start to transmit in our community,” she said.

      She said if case numbers increase, there will be more strains on healthcare workers, and more restrictions will be required.

      “When we have lots of people infected, even young people become severely ill, end up in hospital,” she said.

      She asked for everyone’s help in bending the curve down, which includes not traveling and practising all the health measures that have been emphasized over the past year.

      "The sooner we get our numbers down, the sooner we can get back to those things that we want in our lives," she said.

      Vaccination delays

      Due to delays in the delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, Henry said no Pfizer vaccine will be received this week, as previously expected.

      Unfortunately. Henry said that there also won’t be any new Moderna vaccine shipments received this week.

      “We have to manage our supply within the limited amounts that we have,” she said.

      Moreover, she said they found out this past weekend that the amounts expected to receive in first week in February have been “dramatically reduced” and that they do not yet know how much, if any, vaccine will be received in the following two weeks in February.

      Due to the “extremely limited supply over the next two weeks”, she said that they have decided to delay second doses up to Day 42 during this period of time.

      She said this will help to address immunizing residents in longterm facilities and outbreaks in healthcare facilities.

      When it comes to reactions to vaccines, Henry said that so far, there have been 56 reports of adverse events after immunization.

      She said there were 10 anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reactions) reports, which includes one hospitalization, but all individuals have recovered. She said there were 16 other allergic reactions, and one case of Bell’s palsy, or paralysis of part of the face.

      There haven’t been any deaths as a result of immunization.

      As of today, 119,850 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and that includes 3,193 second doses.

      Vaccine queue jumpers

      Much outrage has been expressed in reaction to news reports about a Vancouver couple who flew to the Yukon to receive the vaccine at the remote First Nations community of Beaver Creek.

      Although the couple is facing fines, their vaccinations took doses away from local community members, who have been recognized as high risk.

      When B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked at today’s B.C. COVID-19 briefing about what she thinks of this incident, she condemned the actions of the couple.

      “I think they should be ashamed of themselves,” Henry said. “They put a community at risk for their own benefit and that, to me, is appalling.”

      While she said that she is “very saddened and disappointed” that people would do such a thing, she said she is also “heartened to know that the vast majority of people in Canada and in B.C. do not think that way and know that the approach that we have to protect those who are most vulnerable is one that they support.”

      The couple only obtained one dose and would have to receive a second dose for complete immunization. 

      The individuals have been identified as 55-year-old Rodney Baker, who has subsequently resigned as the CEO and president of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and 32-year-old actor Ekaterina Baker.

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

      B.C. update: January 22 to 25

      Henry announced there were 1,344 new cases (including three epi-linked cases) over the past three time periods.

      By date, that includes:

      • 527 new cases from January 22 to 23;
      • 471 new cases from January 23 to 24;
      • 346 new cases from January 24 to 25.

      By region, there were:

      • 618 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 314 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 234 in Interior Health;
      • 104 in Northern Health;
      • 73 in Island Health;
      • one person from outside Canada.

      The number of active cases has decreased by 87 cases on January 22 to 4,392 active cases today.

      However, hospitalized cases have increased. With 13 more people in hospital since January 22, there are now 328 individuals in hospital, with 68 of those patients in intensive care units (six less people since January 22).

      Public health is monitoring over 6,607 people due to exposure to confirmed cases.

      Tragically, a total of 26 people died over the past three days.

      A cumulative total of 57,831 people have now recovered.

      B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 64,828 cases during the pandemic.

      Henry said today that B.C. has had six children have had multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)—three female and three male cases up to the age of 15 years old. She said all are recovering or have recovered.

      In addition, health investigations were conducted for 19 additional cases of children but none were found to be associated with COVID-19.

      Variant cases

      Henry said there have been five cases of the U.K. variant detected in B.C. She said all were related to travel or close contact with a traveller, but there hasn’t been any ongoing transmission.

      In addition, she said three cases of the South Africa variant that have been detected in B.C. were community acquired, not associated with travel, and not linked to one another—all of which raise concerns about transmission. Two were in Vancouver Coastal Health and one in Fraser Health.

      She said public health remains concerned and are monitoring for rapid transmission of these variants in the community.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Outbreaks and exposures

      There is one new healthcare outbreak at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (1200 Dufferin Crescent). Island Health stated that two staff members and one patient tested positive and that the outbreak is limited to the east wing on the fourth floor.

      News that provided great relief for many people is that 11 healthcare outbreaks have been declared over, which includes:

      • Bradden Private Hospital in Vancouver;
      • Sunrise of Vancouver;
      • Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge in Richmond;
      • Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre;
      • Avalon Gardens in Langley;
      • Menno Home in Abbotsford;
      • The Harrison at Elim Village in Surrey;
      • Waterford Retirement Residence in Tsawwassen;
      • Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in White Rock;
      • Williams Lake Seniors Village in Williams Lake, where Interior Health stated that one resident and one staff member tested positive;
      • the rehabilitation unit at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George, where Northern Health stated that three patients tested positive.

      Henry said that leaves 38 active healthcare outbreaks in 29 longterm facilities and nine acute care facilities, involving 1,009 residents and 579 staff.

      There is one community outbreak at the Surrey Emergency Response Centre. Fraser Health stated on January 23 that two staff members and 24 clients tested positive in this outbreak.

      Fraser Health also stated on January 24 that the independent Cascade Christian School (45657 Yale Road) in Chilliwack decided to close until February 5 after seven cases were confirmed as of January 24.

      Fraser Health has listed a public exposure event at the Restored House Chapel (107–11267 125A Street) in Surrey from December 30 to January 20. The exposures took place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sundays.

      Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health has added three food and beverage establishments with potential exposure events:

      • Hail Mary’s (670 East Broadway) in East Vancouver during operating hours from January 13 to 16;
      • El Furniture Warehouse (4314 Main Street) in Whistler during operating hours on January 12 and from January 14 to 21;
      • Hy's Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar (4308 Main Street) in Whistler during operating hours on January 13 and January 15 to 16. 

      Stores and flights

      T&T Supermarket reported that two staff members at the Marine Gateway store (458 Southwest Marine Drive) tested positive: one employee who last worked on January 17 and another who last worked on January 21.

      Loblaw reported staff members have tested positive at four of its Real Canadian Superstore locations:

      • one employee who last worked on January 11 at 910 Columbia Street West in Kamloops;
      • two employees who last worked on January 16 and 17 at 1301 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam;
      • one employee who last worked on January 20 at 19851 Willowbrook Drive in Langley;
      • one employee who last worked on January 21 at 100–2210 Main Street in Penticton.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 18 flights to its lists of flights confirmed with COVID-19:

      • January 5: Air Canada 551, Los Angeles to Vancouver;
      • January 9: WestJet 711, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • January 14: West Jet 3170, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • January 16: WestJet 711, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • January 17: WestJet 720, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • January 17: Swoop 418, Toronto to Kelowna;
      • January 18: American Airlines 1539, Dallas to Vancouver;
      • January 18: Air Canada 254, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • January 18: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 681, Amsterdam to Vancouver;
      • January 19: Air Canada 248, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • January 18: Air Canada 115, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • January 19: United Airlines 1641, Denver to Vancouver;
      • January 20: Air Canada 215, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • January 20: AeroMexico 696, Mexico City to Vancouver;
      • January 20: Air Canada/Jazz 8261, Vancouver to Nanaimo;
      • January 21: Air Canada 127, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • January 22: Air Canada/Jazz 8081, Vancouver to Victoria;
      • January 22: Air Canada/Jazz 8245, Terrace to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

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