COVID-19 in B.C.: Province's approach and fines questioned, travel restriction issues, and more

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      Case numbers and the number of deaths remain around similar levels as previous days.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had stated at yesterday's in-person briefing that current levels remain too high, and therefore are suspectible to rapid increases.

      However, in response to Henry’s request at yesterday’s briefing (January 25) for British Columbians to do more to help bring down case numbers, some organizations and individuals are taking issue with this approach.

      B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau questioned what more people could do when they are already doing as much as they can.

      CBC News reported that Furstenau said government needs to show what they will do that will match the efforts of citizens at a time when everyone is exhausted and have made sacrifices.

      Henry and Adrian Dix did clarify what Henry was asking for in today's B.C. COVID-19 update news release.

      "For the many who have been doing your part, you may be asking, 'What more can I do?'," the joint statement reads. "Be the voice of support and encouragement for those who may be wavering in their resolve."

      In addition, Henry and Dix zeroed in on addressing those who have not been practising health measures.

      "For the few who have chosen to put aside the public health precautions we all need to follow and make exceptions for themselves, now is your time to join or rejoin us in our efforts," they stated. "It is never to late to be a part of the team who is making a difference every day across our province."

      Communities like Rossland, an outdoor recreation destination in the West Kootenays, has asked the province for a stronger policy to discourage interregional and interprovincial non-essential travel.

      B.C. Premier John Horgan previously said that the province did look into travel restrictions but cannot completely ban travel from other provinces, for legal reasons. However, he did state that the province may impose stronger restrictions on non-essential travel if necessary.

      Meanwhile at the federal level, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference today (January 26) that, in response to the circulation of COVID-19 variants, more federal travel restrictions will be coming. Premiers of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba have all called for stricter travel measures.

      Health officials believe that there may now be over 100 cases of the U.K. variant in Barrie, Ontario.

      B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau

      Fines and penalties

      At a news conference today (January 26), B.C. Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was asked if he is considering increasing fines in light of several high-profile examples of people not following provincial health orders or guidelines.

      Like B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has previously said, Farnworth emphasized that the “vast majority” of British Columbians are following the rules.

      Farnworth didn’t state whether or not an increase in fines were under consideration but explained that there is a structure for fines in place that is “being realigned with the Emergency Program Act”, which allows for fines up to $10,000. He added that police are able to add various charges that have significant penalties.

      Regarding the case of two Vancouverites—55-year-old Rodney Baker and his 32-year-old wife Ekaterina Baker—flying to a remote First Nations community in the Yukon to receive vaccinations, Farnworth was blunt in his criticism of the couple.

      “Frankly, I think what we saw yesterday of individuals flying to the Yukon was probably one of the most despicable things that I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “It shows a complete lack of any sort of ethical or moral compass on people who would do such a thing and, what we have also seen, they have paid a pretty high price, losing a $10-million a year job. As they should.”

      In wake of the news, Rodney Baker resigned from being the CEO and president of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.

      The two doses that the couple received would’ve gone to members of the community, which has been identified as high risk due to several factors, and Henry had explained that the vaccine is in extremely limited supply in B.C. in the coming weeks due to delays and reductions in supplied amounts.

      Global B.C. reporter Richard Zussman reported that the Bakers won't receive their second doses in B.C. until they become eligible by age like all other British Columbians. 

      Another incident involved Vancouver police issuing $2,500 in fines to an individual for charging attendees to attend a makeshift nightclub at a condo.

      Farnworth called his behaviour “unacceptable” and pointed out that the individual could face further charges as police review his case further.

      Henry has explained at previous briefings that the province is taking an educational approach as its main focus, with penalization as a last resort.

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

      B.C. update: January 26

      Henry and Dix announced in today's joint statement that there are 407 new cases (including three epi-linked cases) in B.C.

      By health region, that includes:

      • 169 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 124 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 54 in the Interior Health;
      • 38 in the Northern Health;
      • 22 in the Island Health;
      • no one from outside Canada.

      Active cases continue to decline, with 132 less cases since yesterday to 4,260 active cases today.

      Hospitalized cases have also dropped by 15 patients to 313 individuals currently in hospital, with 71 of those patients are in intensive care units (three more than yesterday).

      Public health is monitoring over 6,450 people due to exposure to confirmed cases.

      Tragically, B.C. has had 14 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the total fatalities during the pandemic to 1,168 people who have died.

      A cumulative total of 58,352 people have now recovered.

      As of today, 122,359 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 4,105 of those are second doses.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      The good news is that there aren’t any new healthcare facility outbreaks.

      In addition, the outbreak at German-Canadian Care Home in Vancouver is now over.

      Northern Health announced a public exposure event from January 19 to 21 at Active Support Against Poverty (1188 6th Avenue). Anyone who visited the shelter is asked to monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the date of visit.

      Vancouver Coastal Health previously listed one Vancouver eatery and two restaurants in Whistler with public exposure events, and it has added one more in Whistler. The Longhorn Saloon (4280 Mountain Square, Whistler) had potential exposures during operating hours from January 16 to 25.

      Loblaw announced that a staff member who tested positive last worked on January 21 at the Real Canadian Superstore (100–2210 Main Street) location in Penticton.

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

      • January 15: Air Canada/Jazz 8622, Vancouver to Winnipeg;
      • January 21: Air Canada 224, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • January 22: WestJet 141, Edmonton to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website. 

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