COVID-19 in B.C.: Whistler becomes hotspot for new cases, criticism of Vancouver queue jumpers, and more

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      While B.C. has been warned that everyone needs to help bring case counts down, case numbers continue to remain on par with previous days.

      Meanwhile, Whistler has become a hotspot for new cases and calls are being made for the Vancouver couple who obtained immunizations in the Yukon to make amends for their actions.

      Vancouver queue-jumping couple

      The fallout from a wealthy Vancouver couple flying to the Yukon to receive vaccinations at a remote high-risk First Nations community continues on.

      Over this past week, B.C. Premier John Horgan, Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have all publicly criticized and condemned the actions of Rodney and Ekatertina Baker.

      Canada’s Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller was reported to have called their stunt "maybe the dumbest thing I've seen in a long while” at a news conference on January 27. He suggested that “perhaps reparations are due at some level”.

      "There's certainly a gesture of individual reconciliation and contrition that can be exercised, and certainly communities in need like White River First Nation would more than appreciate that,” he said.

      Several First Nations leaders are calling for stronger penalties.

      The Assembly of First Nations’ Yukon regional chief Kluane Adamek stated in a news release on January 26 that both Rodney Baker and the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (from which Baker resigned as CEO and president after news about his actions emerged) have a “moral debt to White River First Nation that needs to be repaid” and that reparations should be determined for and by the community.

      “These actions are a blatant display of disrespect and an exemplification of true privilege and entitlement; a selfish millionaire and his wife stole doses of the vaccine from a vulnerable population, and put an entire community, nation, and region at risk," Adamek said.

      White River First Nation from Beaver Creek, Yukon, where the couple received their vaccinations, had issued a news release on January 23 to call upon the Yukon government and RCMP “to pursue a more just punishment” beyond the four fines of 500 each that the couple had been issued.

      The couple may also face up to six months in jail.

      They have not yet been reported to have apologized to the community.

      A courtdate for them to appear in a Whitehorse courtroom has been reported to have been set for May 4.

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

      B.C. update: January 28

      In a joint statement, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced 546 new cases (including five epi-linked cases). That includes:

      • 218 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 174 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 70 in Interior Health;
      • 51 in Northern Health;
      • 30 in Island Health;
      • three people from outside of Canada.

      The number of active cases continues to increase. With 156 more cases since yesterday, there are now 4,455 active cases today.

      However, hospitalized cases continue to decrease. With 12 less people in hospital since yesterday, there are currently 291 people in hospital, and 75 of those patients (one more since yesterday) are in intensive care units.

      Public health is monitoring 7,176 people for exposures to confirmed cases.

      Sadly, there are 12 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the cumulative total of COVID-19-related fatalities in B.C. to 1,184 people who have died.

      A cumulative total of 59,141 people (89 percent) have recovered.

      B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 66,265 cases during the pandemic. By region, that includes:

      • 39,961 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 15,187 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 6,080 in Interior Health;
      • 3,334 in Northern Health;
      • 1,568 in Island Health;
      • 135 people from outside of Canada.

      As of today, 127,255 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 4,185 of those are second doses.

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

      Outbreaks and exposures

      There are two new healthcare facility outbreaks:

      • the Bradley Centre longterm care facility at Chilliwack General Hospital (45600 Menholm Road);
      • Concord by the Sea.

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

      • an acute care unit at Chilliwack General Hospital;
      • KinVillage longterm care in Tsawwassen;
      • KinVillage West Court assisted living in Tsawwassen;
      • Rideau Retirement Residence in Burnaby;
      • The Mayfair in Abbotsford;
      • Morgan Place in Surrey.

      Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has placed restrictions at Holy Family Hospital (7801 Argyle Street) in Vancouver today.

      VCH also issued an update today about the increased number of cases in Whistler. Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton had previously issued a message on January 21 to alert community members of a “concerning increase” in case numbers and to ask for everyone’s participation in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

      VCH stated that from January 1 to 26, VCH confirmed 288 cases in Whistler, and that the majority of cases involve individuals in their 20s and 30s who live, work, and socialize together.

      So far, there haven’t been any hospitalizations involved in any of these cases.

      Whistler previously experienced a surge in November, which resolved in early December.

      As reported yesterday, there are now six food and beverage establishments that VCH has listed as having had potential public exposure events this month. VCH states that these events are considered low risk.

      In addition, CBC News reported today that 12 employees at Fairmont Chateau Whistler have tested positive.

      Stores and flights

      Sobeys reported an employee who last worked on January 24 at Safeway (220–800 Carnarvon Street) in New Westminster has tested positive.

      Loblaw reported four of its stores had staff members who tested positive.

      Two stores were Real Canadian Superstore locations:

      • three employees who last worked on January 15 and 22 at the 100–2210 Main Street location in Penticton;
      • one employee who last worked on January 16 at the 8195 120th Street location in Delta.

      One Shoppers Drug Mart employee who tested positive last worked on January 23 at the 4376 27th Street location in Vernon.

      In Vancouver’s West End, two employees who tested positive last worked on January 23 and 24 at Your Independent Grocer (1255 Davie Street).

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

      • January 19: Air Canada 128, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • January 20: Air Canada 234, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • January 23: Air Canada 551, Los Angeles to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

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