COVID-19 in B.C.: Lifting longterm care restrictions; active cases increase most in Interior Health; and more

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      For a second consecutive day, active cases increased, after weeks of decreases.

      Also again, active cases increased mostly in Interior and Vancouver Coastal Health, joined by Island Health.

      Meanwhile, some long-awaited news about restrictions at longterm care facilities was announced today.

      Longterm care facilities

      At the first news conference with B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix since in-person briefings ended, Henry and Dix announced the lifting of restrictions on visitations to healthcare facilities.

      Dix pointed out that in today’s COVID-19 update (see below), there aren’t any healthcare outbreaks listed in any longterm facilities in the province.

      He noted that there have been restrictions in longterm care since March 2020, and that on June 30 of last year, changes were made to allow social visits, and then on March 21 of this year, further changes expanded visits, thanks to the success of immunizations reducing transmissions.   

      Henry pointed out that some of the first cases in B.C. were among seniors at longterm care facilities, in addition to the first death from COVID-19 in Canada.

      Henry explained that the decision to restrict visitation “very severely” to these facilities to protect residents was “an incredibly difficult decision to make when we know that social connection is so, so important for seniors’ health and well-being”. Yet she also called it a “necessary and important step for protecting people in these most vulnerable situations” until a vaccine became available.

      Dix announced that as of July 19, the following changes will apply to longterm care and assisted-living facilities:

      • visitors won’t need to schedule or book time to make visits, and limits on visitors for each resident will be removed;
      • fully immunized visitors can visit residents without wearing masks;
      • larger and facility-wide social events or gatherings can begin again;
      • indoor gatherings may include residents and staff from all units of a facility, while outdoor gatherings may include family and friends;
      • adult day programs and in-facility respite can resume.

      At the same time, Dix said that preventative measures (visitor screening, sign-in lists, mask wearing, handwashing, physical distancing, and more) will remain in place and new protective measures will be implemented, which recognizes that risk still remains present:

      • a new health order requires all longterm care and seniors' assisted living facilities to provide public health with information on all residents, staff, personal service providers, and volunteers to determine their immunization status;
      • workers who aren’t fully vaccinated must wear a mask at work and undergo regular rapid testing;
      • volunteers and personal service providers entering longterm care facilities must be fully vaccinated;
      • visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated must wear masks (fully vaccinated visitors must wear masks in common areas).

      Henry also said that visitors will need to provide proof of immunization upon arrival at facilities.

      If an outbreak occurs at these facilities, Henry said that restrictions will be implemented and visitations will be suspended.

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

      B.C. update: July 8

      Henry said that although some case numbers have been increasing, the numbers remain low.

      In addition, she said they are seeing clusters of transmissions occurring in smaller communities, particularly in “pockets of unvaccinated people”. She said there remain challenges in getting vaccines out to some communities in places like the Interior and Northern B.C., and that there are issues like heat, wildfires, and smoke to deal with.

      In addition, she said that she expects case number increases to slow down as public health manages cases and vaccinations increase.

      Today, the B.C. Health Ministry announced that there 59 new COVID-19 cases in the province.

      Currently, there are currently 649 active cases, which is an increase of 25 cases since yesterday.

      By region, the new and active cases include:

      • 21 new cases in Fraser Health (175 total active cases, a decrease of two cases since yesterday);
      • 19 new cases in Interior Health (175 total active cases, or an increase of 12 cases since yesterday);
      • 10 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health (236 total active cases, or six more cases than yesterday);
      • seven new cases in Island Health (22 total active cases, which is seven more cases than yesterday);
      • two new cases in Northern Health (30 total active cases, or two more cases than yesterday);
      • no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada (11 total active cases).

      At the moment, there are 74 individuals are currently in hospital (a decrease of 12 cases) and 19 of those patients are in intensive care units (one fewer person since yesterday).

      Sadly, there has been one new death (in Interior Health), which brings the total fatalities during the pandemic to a cumulative total of 1,760 people who have died of COVID-19-related reasons.

      With 36 more recoveries, a cumulative total of 145,491 people have now recovered.

      B.C. has now recorded a cumulative total of 147,915 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

      In the provincial immunization program, B.C. has administered 5,497,150 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

      As of today, 78.4 percent (3,635,811) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose and 40 percent (1,854,387) have received their second dose.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Today, Northern Health declared the outbreak over at Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek, which was originally declared on June 11. In this outbreak, two residents tested positive and one of them died.

      Currently, there are three active outbreaks in:

      • acute care: Laurel Place at Surrey Memorial Hospital, Eagle Ridge Hospital in Fraser Health, and Royal Inland Hospital in Interior Health;
      • long-term care: none
      • assisted or independent living: none

      None of the five regional health authorities declared any new healthcare or community outbreaks, and didn't list any new public exposure events or business closures.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following four flights to its public exposure lists (affected row information is listed at the BCCDC website when available):

      • June 24: Turkish Airlines 75, Istanbul to Vancouver;
      • June 28: WestJet 170, Vancouver to Edmonton;
      • July 4: Turkish Airlines 75, Istanbul to Vancouver;
      • July 4: WestJet 188, Kelowna to Calgary.
      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.