COVID-19 in B.C.: X-Men's Olivia Munn recruits Dr. Bonnie Henry, First Nations health, and B.C. wildfire smoke study

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      Fortunately, once again, there aren't any new COVID-19 outbreaks in B.C. or spikes in case numbers. In addition, newly released health data reveals that local efforts have helped to protect First Nations people in B.C. from the coronavirus.

      Meanwhile, Hollywood is setting the stage for B.C.'s provincial health officer to make her debut.

      Daily update: June 26

      For the B.C. COVID-19 update today (June 26), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix released a joint statement (which they issue instead of an in-person briefing on Fridays) that states there are 10 new confirmed cases, for a cumulative total of 2,878. (The news release states that the total includes a data correction of one case from yesterday’s report.)

      So far, there have been 969 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,514 in Fraser Health, 131 in Island Health, 199 in Interior Health, and 65 in Northern Health during the pandemic.

      Currently, there are 159 active cases in B.C., with 17 individuals in hospital. (Five of those patients are in intensive care units.)

      There aren’t any new health-care or community outbreaks.

      An outbreak at Nicola Lodge in Port Coquitlam has ended, leaving five long-term-care facilities and one acute-care facility with active outbreaks. Meanwhile, two community outbreaks remain active.

      Unfortunately, there is one new death, for a total of 174 British Columbians who have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

      A total of 2,545 people have now recovered.

      First Nation Health Authority acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald

      First Nations health

      Today, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) released data about COVID-19 testing and confirmed cases among First Nations people in B.C.

      FNHA stated that 5,434 First Nations people were tested for COVID-19 between January 1 and June 14, and 87 individuals had tested positive COVID-19 as of June 14.

      Of those cases, 42 people live on reserve, 19 people were hospitalized (there are no current cases in hospital), and 81 people have since recovered. 

      Sadly, three people have died.  

      Overall, the data reveals that First Nations in B.C. have fared better than the rest of the provincial population during the pandemic, which can be attributed to the response from and efforts by First Nations communities.

      “It is a success to build on, but we need to be more watchful than ever to ensure we continue to protect the most vulnerable among us," FNHA acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald stated in a news release. “Thankfully, we are seeing our communities continuing to rise to the challenge, and while the remoteness of many communities has helped protect them to date, there are no guarantees where this previously unknown virus is concerned." 

      Although Dr. Henry and Dix stated that they were “encouraged by this outcome”, they also recognized the challenges, difficulties, and sacrifices that people have had to face.

      “The need to put aside important cultural gatherings to maintain a safe physical distance and to limit visitors has had a great social, mental, and economic impact on many,” they said in their joint statement. “It also reminds us of the resilience that First Nations communities continue to display in the face of hardships.”

      Last week, however, reports emerged about discrimination against Indigenous people in B.C.'s health-care system.

      An investigation is under way into claims that health-care workers played a game to guess the amount of blood-alcohol concentration levels of Indigenous patients.  

      UBC School of Population and Public Health PhD student Jiayun Angela Yao

      Wildfire smoke study

      While many people may be preoccupied with the pandemic, we’re also in B.C.’s wildfire season.

      In fact, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last times B.C. declared states of emergency were for the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons.

      Luckily, this year rainfall and moisture from snowmelt have helped to limit the number of fires started so far.

      However, smoke from wildfires remains a concern during the pandemic.

      Earlier this year, B.C. took measures to reduce or restrict burning in various areas of the province, as smoke is known to negatively affect immune systems and the coronavirus is a respiratory illness.

      While the negative impact of smoke on health has been long known, a UBC study published on June 24 has found how quickly wildfire smoke has an impact on respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

      For the study, researchers examined ambulance dispatches, paramedic assessments, and hospital admissions for respiratory, circulatory, and diabetic conditions (involving over 670,000 ambulance dispatch calls from over 500,000 individuals) with exposure to fine particulate matter during wildfire seasons in B.C. from 2010 to 2015.

      What researchers discovered is that the odds of ambulance dispatches (related to respiratory and cardiovascular conditions) increased after only one hour after exposure to fine particulate matter during B.C. wildfire season.

      In addition, the study’s lead author, Jiayun Angela Yao, stated in a news release that another new finding is that health complications for people with diabetes increased within exposure to wildfire smoke.

      As wildfire smoke can exacerbate respiratory viral infections, the researchers say public health needs to quickly take actions to limit exposure to smoke during the pandemic.

      “Anyone with pre-existing heart and lung disease and diabetes is especially vulnerable and should consider purchasing air cleaners, and ensuring that they have adequate supplies of medication at home,” Yao stated.

      Olivia Munn as Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse

      Olivia Munn and Dr. Henry

      While British Columbians may already think of Dr. Henry as a superhero, who would’ve thought she would become a member of the X-Men?

      Well, she’s not actually joining the team. (We can always keep our fingers crossed that she’ll play X-Men’s mutant expert Dr. Moira MacTaggert in a future film.)

      However, a Hollywood star who did appear in an X-Men film is teaming up with Dr. Henry to help fight COVID-19 by tackling the foes of misinformation and confusion.

      On Tuesday (June 30), Olivia Munn, who played Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse, will hand the reins of her social media over to Dr. Henry.

      “There are some people you need to hear from right now and it isn’t me,” Munn said in a news release. “I am handing over my account to an expert on all things COVID-19.”

      Olivia Munn

      It’s part of the Pass the Mic initiative, in which celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Danai Gurira, and Hugh Jackman allow medical experts and frontline workers—like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Columbia University’s Dr. Tsion Firew, London School of Economics director Minouche Shafik, doctor and former U.S. senator Bill Frist, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala—to take over their social media. 

      Pass the Mic is part of ONE’s ONE World Campaign, which is calling for a global COVID-19 response.

      Munn is no stranger to B.C., having shot the sci-fi-thriller feature The Predator and the TV series Six here.

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