COVID-19 in B.C.: New health order amendments, modelling update, vaccination appointment expansion, and more

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      Today is a national day of observance to reflect upon all the lives lost and challenges during the pandemic.

      It is also the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      At today’s briefing, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, along with Health Minister Adrian Dix, presented a modelling update that provided a look back over the past year.

      Henry also announced some amendments to her provincial health orders, and Vancouver Coastal Health expanded the age groups eligible to call in to make vaccination appointments (see below).

      Modelling update

      Taking a look over the past few months, Henry explained with graphs that B.C. experienced a peak in cases in early December, which then declined.

      She pointed out that there was an upswing following the winter holiday season.

      A downward trend then followed until about mid-January but she noted that cases have begun to slowly climb again and the seven-day average has been increasing in recent weeks.

      Something that shows glimmers of hope is that Henry also pointed out that hospitalizations and deaths have either levelled off or decreased, and that those curves are diverging from the overall curve of case numbers.

      Although she said that the majority of concerns remain in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions (which are B.C.’s most populous regions), she warned that they have seen increases and waves in all parts of the province.

      The two main transmission situations, she said, remain among small gatherings, including social events such as birthday parties or meeting indoors, and at workplaces, particularly in situations where workers cannot properly physical distance.

      In contrast to seniors being mostly affected in the early stages of the pandemic, the highest numbers of cases are among those aged 19 to 39 years old and 40 to 59 years old. She added that there has been an increase in deaths among those in their 30s.

      “That is a tragedy that we now know can be prevented,” she said.

      Later, Henry paused as she became choked up when speaking about the losses that we have experienced over the past year and the importance of reaching out to and connecting with young people.

      Public health orders

      With spring break coming up and the weather slowly warming up, Henry announced that she had amended public health orders to permit outdoor social gatherings of up to 10 people.

      Nonetheless, she emphasized that all health precautions still need to be practised, including physical distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands.

      She also clarified that there aren’t any changes to indoor gatherings, and that people should continue to avoid social indoor gatherings, like dinner parties and similar events that have led to transmissions.

      She added that restrictions on food and beverage establishments and retail settings remain in effect.

      After consulting with food and beverage industry representatives, Henry said that for St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) she is amending liquor sales for onsite and offsite consumption must cease from 8 p.m. on March 17 until 9 a.m on March 19.

      The temporary restrictions are similar to those introduced for New Year’s Eve, but this time around, Henry is providing more advance notice.

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

      B.C. update: March 11

      Henry said that there are 569 new cases (including three epi-linked cases), which includes:

      • 301 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 140 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 60 in Northern Health;
      • 41 in Island Health;
      • 26 in Interior Health;
      • one person from outside Canada.

      Today, there are 4,912 active cases, which is an increase of 51 cases since yesterday.

      The number of hospitalized cases today—244 people—remains unchanged since yesterday, and 68 of those patients are in intensive care units (two more people since yesterday).

      Public health is monitoring over 8,989 people, which is a decrease of 62 people from yesterday.

      Sadly, there are three new deaths, which raises the cumulative total of fatalities to 1,397 people who have died.

      With 520 recoveries since yesterday, there is now a cumulative total of 79,829 people have recovered.

      B.C. has confirmed a cumulative total of 86,219 cases since the pandemic began last year.

      Variants and vaccines

      There are 11 new COVID-19 variants cases, for a cumulative total of 638 variants cases and 89 are those are active cases.

      The cumulative total includes:

      • 588 cases of the B117 (U.K.) variant;
      • 36 cases of the B1351 (South Africa) variant;
      • 14 cases of the P1 (Brazil) variant.

      As of today, 366,791 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., and 87,009 of those are second doses.

      Although there were delays in call centres taking vaccination appointments when phone lines opened on March 8, Telus and the provincial government have been working to address the problems.

      As a result, although the next age group was not scheduled to start until Monday (April 15), Vancouver Coastal Health, which experienced the most technical problems earlier this week, has accelerated its schedule.

      Effective today, Vancouver Coastal Health announced that it is expanding the eligibility of those who can now call 1-877-587-5767 to book a vaccination appointment to include:

      • anyone 85 years and above (anyone born in 1936 or earlier) who lives in Richmond, Vancouver, North Vancouver and West Vancouver;
      • anyone 80 years or above (anyone born in 1941 or earlier) who lives in Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton, and Bowen Island;
      • Indigenous people who are 65 years or above (born in 1956 or earlier).

      Outbreaks and exposures

      The good news is that there aren’t any new healthcare or community outbreaks.

      Even better news is that two outbreaks have been declared over.

      Interior Health declared the healthcare outbreak at Westsyde Care Residences in Kamloops to be over. In this outbreak, a total of 13 staff members and 17 residents tested positive, and two residents died.

      Also, Interior Health declared an outbreak at Highridge Home and Singh House group homes in Kamloops as over. A total of eight staff members and five residents tested positive in this outbreak.

      There are 17 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities, including nine at longterm care facilities and eight in acute care facilities.

      Further good news is that none of the five regional health authorities listed any new potential public exposure events.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has added the following nine flights to its lists of public exposure events:

      • March 2, Air Canada/Jazz 8550, Vancouver to Regina;
      • March 5, WestJet 706, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • March 5, WestJet 3176, Abbotsford to Calgary;
      • March 6, Air Canada 306, Vancouver to Montreal;
      • March 7, Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • March 7, Air India 185, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • March 7, Air Canada 306, Vancouver to Montreal;
      • March 7, WestJet 3115, Calgary to Victoria;
      • March 8, WestJet 3231, Calgary to Abbotsford.

      For affected row information, visit the BCCDC website.

      T&T Supermarket reported that a part-time staff member who tested positive last worked on March 8 at the 101T–15277 100th Avenue in Surrey.

      Sobeys listed the 800 McBridge Boulevard location of Safeway in New Westminster as having a staff member who tested positive and who last worked at the store on March 7.

      Meanwhile, Loblaw added three stores to its list of locations with staff members who tested positive.

      One store was Real Canadian Superstore, where two employees who tested positive last worked on March 5 at the 333 Seymour Boulevard location in North Vancouver.

      The other two stores were Shoppers Drug Mart locations:

      • one employee who tested positive last worked on March 6 at the 130–20395 Lougheed Highway store in Maple Ridge;
      • an employee who tested positive last worked on March 6 at the 101–12080 Nordel Way location in Surrey.
      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.