Although a news release was scheduled for today’s daily B.C. COVID-19 update, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry decided to hold an in-person news briefing instead because of a number of new developments around the province, and because she wanted to “give some important message to people as we head into another summer weekend”.
Several outbreaks have taken place across the province, including at a hotel and hospital in Vancouver, a construction site in northern B.C., and in the Okanagan.
Daily update: July 17
Dr. Henry announced that there are 28 new cases, which surpasses the recent high of 25 cases on July 10.
That brings the cumulative total to 3,198 cases over the course of the pandemic, with 1,032 in Vancouver Coastal Health; 1,676 in Fraser Health; 136 in Island Health; 235 in Interior Health; 68 in Northern Health, and 51 among those who live outside Canada.
Currently, there are 207 active cases, with 18 of those in hospital. (Two patients are in intensive-care units.)
Once again, there are no new deaths, leaving the total fatalities at 189.
A total of 2,802 people have now recovered.
There is one new health-care outbreak, at the neonatal ICU in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Dr. Henry said one infant has tested positive for the coronavirus, but is not showing signs of illness. She said that children and infants generally do well despite infection and that there have been no severe illness reported among infants in Canada.
There are less than 10 people in the exposed group at St. Paul’s, she said, adding that no one has become “very ill”. Contact tracing is under way and a health investigation is looking into how the virus was introduced.
Dr. Henry said that the maternity unit remains operating and a backup neonatal ICU has been set up.
Meanwhile, there remain three health-care outbreaks, one in a long-term care facility and two in acute-care units (Mission Memorial Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital). The outbreak at Maple Hill long-term care facility in Langley has been declared over. A total of 401 residents and 255 staff have tested positive in health-care outbreaks.
Today, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) issued a public notification about potential COVID-19 exposure Vancouver at the Sandman Suites at 1160 Davie Street in the West End from July 7 to 16.
Dr. Henry said one of their concerns is that health-care workers were staying at the hotel.
VCH stated that there is no risk to anyone at the hotel outside those dates and that there is no ongoing risk to the community.
Anyone who may have been exposed is asked to monitor themselves for symptoms and limit contact with others over the virus incubation period (14 days). Anyone who develops symptoms is asked to self-isolate immediately and call 811 to arrange for testing.
Okanagan and Northern Health outbreaks
There are four cases linked to the previously reported Krazy Cherry Co. farm outbreak in Oliver.
Dr. Henry stated that two cases involve temporary foreign workers (one of whom has been confirmed to have been exposed to the virus here) and two involve farm family members.
She also said that this outbreak may be related to the Kelowna cluster.
There are now 35 cases linked to the Kelowna outbreak, which took place from June 25 to July 6 and involved individuals from Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, Interior Health, and Alberta.
“This is one of the more concerning issues to us because we recognize that there have been a number of events that happened there,” she said, “and we need people to start thinking about how we can socialize safely over the coming weeks.”
She said more cases are expected in the near future, as those who were exposed have, after the incubation period, begun developing symptoms.
Meanwhile, Northern Health and B.C. Hydro also confirmed that one worker from Alberta at the Site C work camp in Fort St. John, B.C. has tested positive.
Dr. Henry said a small number of contacts have been isolated, in addition to the positive individual, who had no interactions with the local community.
Spread the message, not the virus
Dr. Henry said that these flare-ups are primarily among people in their 20s and 30s and are “directly connected” to social events.
“It is not necessarily unexpected, but it is a warning to us that we need to do more to keep things in balance,” she said, which is why she felt she needed to speak today.
While Dr. Henry said she isn’t very adept at social media, she recently took over the social media of Hollywood star Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) as part of an awareness campaign.
“Now I am asking you to be my voice, and our voice, on social media,” she said. “Use your influence. Share a message with your friends, with your connections around the province, and that message is to make sure that we don’t let COVID steal our summer.”
She said that, like using condoms, sunscreen, or driving safely, “We need to play safe and stay safe”.
What can help contact tracers, she said, is having contact information for all individuals you interact with so public health can reach anyone exposed in a fast and efficient timeframe to contain the spread of the virus.