COVID-19 in B.C.: Premier Horgan addresses doing more, travel restrictions, and more

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      While January 25 marked one year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Canada, today (January 27) is the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case to be confirmed in B.C.

      At a news conference today, B.C. Premier John Horgan reflected on the past year and answered several questions about issues that have arisen in recent weeks.


      When Horgan was asked if B.C. will consider a 14-day quarantine for travellers entering the province like some other Canadian jurisdictions have done, he said that they previously explained that they have looked into travel restrictions but cannot ban travel outright due to legal considerations.

      Accordingly, he said that he will wait until provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advises him that “there’s a benefit” from stricter travel measures—he said that at the moment, the public health evidence is not yet showing that such a direction is necessary.

      He said that last week, Henry was not finding that interprovincial travel is contributing to significant increases in caseloads.

      That said, he clarified that they haven’t ruled anything out but want to ensure that what they do plan to do can be implemented.

      He pointed out that travel restrictions are easier to implement in places like Manitoba, where he said there are only four roads in and out of the province and one major airport, compared to British Columbia, which has numerous roads and major airports and that it would consequently be a logistical challenge.

      However, he warned anyone coming into B.C. “better behave appropriately” and follow public health guidelines “or we’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks”.

      He pointed out at places like ski resorts the activity of skiing isn’t a problem, the main issue is people coming off slopes and looking for or attending parties or social gatherings.

      “If we see, through public health, that an increase in the number of people from outside of British Columbia is contributing significantly to the increase in community outbreaks, we’ll take action,” he said.

      Doing more

      At the B.C. COVID-19 briefing on January 25, Henry had pointed out that case numbers remain at too high a level, and that B.C. is a precarious point where cases could easily skyrocket. Accordingly, she asked British Columbians to do more to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

      However, this message was not well received by some individuals or organizations. B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furnesteau, for example, questioned what more citizens could do and what the provincial government would do to match increased efforts. 

      When Horgan was asked about Henry’s plea to the public and what the government will do for its part, he clarified that she was addressing “those that are not listening”.

      Henry and Adrian Dix had clarified that in their B.C. COVID-19 joint statement on January 26..

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

      In addition, Henry and Dix addressing those who are ignoring 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."

      Horgan added that despite the “extraordinary hope” that the vaccines provide,  “what Dr. Henry is trying to get across is that we are not out of the woods". 

      Horgan also pointed out that B.C. previously reached out to celebrities like Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen to help out in spreading their message about health precautions to reach people who weren’t listening to Henry during the summer.

      He said that they thank all of those who have been making sacrifices and efforts to practice measures, and noted that we have made great progress.

      “Our appeal to the public is to keep up the good work, thank you for doing that—together we can get through this,” he said.

      Horgan said that Henry will be reviewing her public health orders on February 2, some of which are set to expire on February 5.

      B.C. Premier John Horgan
      Province of British Columbia

      Vaccine queue jumpers

      Outrage in reaction to news about an affluent couple from Vancouver flying to the Yukon to obtain a vaccine from a remote, vulnerable First Nations community continues to reverberate throughout the province, across Canada, and has even garnered international headlines.

      Yesterday, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was bluntly critical of the behaviour of 55-year-old Rodney Baker, the now-former head of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and 32-year-old actor Ekaterina Baker as demonstrating "a complete lack of any sort of ethical or moral compass".

      Today, when Horgan was asked if there is anything that has shaken his outlook in dealing with the pandemic over the past year, he cited the example of the Bakers. 

      “I said that in my Canada, people would step to one side to give a vaccine to someone who was more deserving of it or in more need of it, and 72 hours we hear about the entitled and the elite chartering a private jet to bump someone else out of the queue,” he said. “That’s about as un-Canadian as you can get and that was profoundly disappointing for me on a number of levels.”

      He also pointed out the examples of public officials across Canada who had decided to travel and take vacations as disappointments too.

      However, he said what gives him hope is the fact that heads of government from across the nation have held almost 30 “substantive” meetings over the past year since March, which he said is unprecedented.

      He pointed out that despite all of the country’s geographic, ethnic, linguistic, and other differences, he sees that everyone is capable of working together.

      “We all know and understand that we’re very fortunate to be Canadians and having the examples of the past four years in the United States has reinforced that, I think, for all of us, that we’re all grateful to live above the 49th parallel,” he said.

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

      B.C. update: January 27

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced, in a joint statement, that there are 485 new cases in B.C.

      By region, that includes:

      • 210 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 115 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 83 in Interior Health;
      • 45 in Island Health;
      • 32 in Northern Health;
      • no one from outside of Canada.

      Active cases have increased by 39 cases to 4,299 active cases today.

      Hospitalized cases continue to decrease. With 10 less people since yesterday, there are now 303 individuals currently in hospital, and 74 of those patients (three more since yesterday) are in intensive care units.

      Public health is monitoring over 6,520 people who have been exposed to confirmed cases.

      Sadly there are four new COVID-19 related deaths. The number of deaths is significantly less than previous days, which have been above 10. A cumulative total of 1,172 people have died in B.C. during the pandemic.

      A cumulative total of 58,778 people have recovered.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 65,719 cases.

      As of today, a total of 124,365 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., which includes 4,160 second doses.

      keeperofthezoo/Getty Images

      Outbreaks, clusters, and exposures

      One new healthcare facility outbreak has been declared at Glenwood Seniors Community (1458 Glenwood Drive) in Agassiz, where Fraser Health stated that two staff members have tested positive.

      Meanwhile, the outbreak at Villa Cathay Care Home in Vancouver has been declared now over.

      A new community outbreak has been declared at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre (13777 256 Street) in Maple Ridge. Fraser Health stated that nine individuals in custody and two staff members have tested positive.

      This is the third correctional centre to have an outbreak declared over the past two weeks—the other two were at the North Fraser Pretrial Services Centre in Port Coquitlam and the Surrey Pretrial Service Centre.

      Today, Interior Health declared a community cluster in Fernie.

      Interior Health stated that that a cumulative total of 81 people have tested positive in this region since January 1, and 63 cases are currently active. Also, there isn’t a single location or event linked to the majority of these cases, which appear to be associated with local social gatherings.

      “This week, contact tracing confirms new cases of COVID-19 where people are reporting higher numbers of close contacts which contributes to increased community spread and heightened concern,” Interior Health chief medical health officer Dr. Albert De Villiers stated in a news release.

      Interior Health also provided an update on the Williams Lake community cluster declared on January 20. An additional 46 cases have been confirmed. Since January 1, a total of 314 people have tested positive and 150 cases are currently active.

      Meanwhile, the healthcare outbreak at Cariboo Memorial Hospital also in Williams Lake now has 13 staff members who have tested positive.

      Today, Vancouver Coastal Health added three more food and beverage establishments to its lists of public exposure events (all during operating hours on the specified dates):

      • Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub (170–4320 Sundial Crescent, Whistler) from January 1 to 27;
      • Buffalo Bill’s Bar and Grill (4122 Village Green, Whistler) from January 4 to 27;
      • Black’s Pub (7-4340 Sundial Place, Whistler) from January 5 to 27.

      A total of six restaurants and bars in Whistler have now been listed.

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

      • January 23: Air Canada Flight 254, Vancouver to Kelowna;
      • January 24: WestJet Flight 139, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • January 24: WestJet Flight 3315, Calgary to Comox.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

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