COVID-19 in B.C.: New travel rental guidelines, blueberry plant outbreak, and more flights with cases

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      While the number of new cases surged on Friday, numbers on subsequent days lowered.

      Meanwhile, there are cases in B.C.'s food industry, and some more domestic and international flights have been confirmed with cases.

      At today’s B.C. COVID-19 daily update, Dr. Henry revealed the specific details about changes to travel guidelines and both she and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix answered questions about the province’s testing strategy and out-of-province license plates.

      Daily update: July 27

      Dr. Henry provided updates for the past three time periods since the last update on July 24.

      From July 24 to 25, there were 36 new cases, which is the highest number since July 17.

      Then from July 25 to 26, there were 21 new cases, followed by 24 new cases from July 26 to 27.

      That’s a total of 81 new cases over three days (which include seven epi-linked cases).

      The cumulative provincial total is now at 3,500 cases (over the course of the pandemic), which includes:

      • 1,064 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 1,800 in Fraser Health;
      • 143 in Island Health;
      • 353 in Interior Health;
      • 80 in Northern Health;
      • 60 among people who reside outside Canada.

      There are currently 264 active cases, with 11 patients in hospital (three of those individuals are in intensive care units). Of those in hospital, Dix said that there are four patients in Vancouver Coastal Health, five in Fraser Health, and two in Interior Health.

      Without any new healthcare outbreaks, there remain one active outbreak in a longterm care facility and two in acute care units. There have been 260 staff and 404 residents who have tested positive in these outbreaks, for a total of 664 cases in healthcare.

      Sadly, there are two new deaths—both are longterm care residents in Vancouver Coastal Health. The total fatalities is now at 193 people who have died.

      A total of 3,043 people have recovered.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Community outbreaks

      Dr. Henry said there is one new community outbreak at Fraser Valley Packing, a blueberry packing plant in Abbotsford.

      According to Fraser Health, 15 employees have tested positive as of today. The first case tested positive on July 23. All cases and close contacts have been ordered to self-isolate.

      The plant remains in operation but at reduced capacity and Fraser Health has inspected the facility.

      According to Loblaw, an employee at a Real Canadian Superstore in Surrey (at 14650 104th Avenue) has tested positive for the virus. The last date the employee worked at the store was on July 15, and all employees who worked closely with the individual are being asked to self-isolate while self-monitoring for symptoms.

      In addition, Loblaw also confirmed that a staff member at Shopper Drug Mart in Orchard Park (at 2271 Harvey Avenue) in Kelowna also tested positive. The individual last worked at the location on July 20.

      Meanwhile, there are now 14 confirmed cases linked to the Haida Gwaii outbreak.

      Dr. Henry said that there are over 1,010 people who are self-isolating after being identified as being exposed to COVID-19 and are considered “high risk”. She emphasized that self-isolation is a requirement and “is not optional” during the incubation period.

      “I understand that this is difficult, especially now in the summer," she said. “Nobody wants this.”

      However, she explained that it is imperative to remain away from family, friends, and workplaces to prevent transmission.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      Travel rental guidelines

      Following revised guidelines for nightlife venues, Dr. Henry announced the amendments she has made for travel rentals, in response to parties being held in these accommodations.

      The order on mass gatherings now limits the number of people in short-term vacation rentals, including house, boat, cabins, yurts, and hotel rooms, to the capacity of the space plus up to a maximum of five visitors.

      The property owner will be responsible for ensuring that the guidelines are adhered to, and that contact information is collected for all involved (including guests and visitors).

      Dr. Henry clarified that the maximum number of 50 people for an event does not apply to workplaces and schools.

      Out-of-province license plates

      When asked about people reporting seeing license plates from outside B.C., Dr. Henry reiterated what she has said before, adding “I know this to be a fact”.

      She said that many Canadians have been returning from living in the U.S. “And who would blame them, considering what’s happening now,” she added.

      Some have returned to take care of elderly family members.

      “We need to respect that,” she said. “We do not know everybody’s story and I think we need to pay attention to the fact that we all are in this together, whether our license plate is from somewhere else, whether it’s from Alberta, whether it’s from California, or whether it’s from here.”

      Air travel

      Once again, more flights have been confirmed with coronavirus cases.

      Among international flights, a fourth flight from Mexico City to Vancouver has been confirmed to be linked to a COVID-19 case.

      Those in rows 19 to 25 on Aeromexico flight 696 on July 22 should monitor themselves for 14 days after the flight and limit contact with others.

      Anyone who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolate and contact 811 for testing.

      Previous Aeromexico flights on the same route with coronavirus cases took place on July 8, 15, and 17.

      Meanwhile among domestic flights, two Air Canada flights from Montreal to Vancouver have had confirmed cases.

      One was flight 311 on July 13 while the second was flight 305 on July 20.

      Affected rows were not specified. Anyone on these flights should monitor themselves for 14 days following the flight while reducing contact with others. Anyone who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolate and contact 811 for testing.

      In addition, anyone in rows 11 to 17 on WestJet flight 3312 from Kelowna to Edmonton, which also had a confirmed case, should do the same.

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

      Asymptomatic testing

      When asked yet again about B.C.’s testing strategy, Dr. Henry said that testing had already been expanded and that includes testing people who are asymptomatic, but only in specific situations such as longterm care facilities (where all residents and staff are tested) and workplaces.

      She said they also test close contacts in any COVID-19 exposure events who are asymptomatic.

      As she has previously stated, widespread asymptomatic testing can be problematic.

      “It has been shown around the world that doing testing of asymptomatic people who have very low risk means that you get way more false positives than anybody who truly who has the disease and that creates a burden on our system and unnecessarily uses resources,” she said.

      Instead, she said they’re doing testing where it can make the most difference.

      “We’re focussing on making sure we have the tests available for the people who need it and we can do broad testing when it’s needed,” she said.

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