COVID-19 in B.C.: Eight more schools with variant cases, dose interval extension questions, and more

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      B.C.'s decision to extend the time period between the first and second doses has raised questions.

      Today, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke again about the issue and answered questions about extending the interval between doses up to four months (16 weeks), which she had announced yesterday (March 1) during a news conference about Phase 2 and 3 of the B.C. immunization program.

      Canada's chief science adviser Mona Nemer had told CBC News on March 1 that the extension of the interval is “possible” but that “it amounts right now to a basically population level experiment” that should be done with clinical trials.

      When asked about U.S chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci advising against extending the interval, Henry clarified that Fauci’s recommendations apply to the U.S. because they have sufficient vaccine supplies that they could use within that time frame.

      She added that the U.K. has also extended its interval, and that B.C. has used the data from the U.K. about “real-world effectiveness”.

      She pointed out that the limited vaccine availability in B.C. within the short-term is “quite different from the U.S.” and that because Canada has ongoing transmission “in quite a serious way”, the decision to extend the interval “makes sense for us” in a critical time period.

      In addition, she said that Nemer was not involved in B.C.’s decision-making process and “perhaps didn’t under the context that this decision was made in”.

      She added that they will continue their studies to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccine.

      Meanwhile once again, the B.C. government announced that it is extending the provincial state of emergency—this time to March 16.

      B.C. update: March 2

      Henry said that over the past seven days, a data system problem has been resolved. Consequently, an additional 254 cases have been added, which will be reconciled on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) data webpage. 

      Henry said there are 438 new cases (including nine epi-linked cases) in B.C. today. By region, includes:

      • 249 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 137 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 19 in Island Health;
      • 17 in Northern Health;
      • 16 in Interior Health;
      • none among people from outside Canada.

      Currently there are 4,679 active cases, which is an increase of 215 cases since yesterday.

      With seven more people admitted to hospitals, there are now 243 hospitalized cases, and 63 of those patients are in intensive care units (two patients fewer than yesterday).

      Public health is monitoring 8,445 people—an increase of 235 more people since yesterday.

      Sadly, there have been two new deaths. B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said that one person died in the Northern Health region and the other person died in the Fraser Health region.

      The total number of fatalities during the pandemic is now at 1,365 people who have died.

      A cumulative total of 75,255 people have now recovered.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 81,367 cases.

      As of today, 283,182 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 86,537 of those have been second doses.

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

      Variants and schools

      Since the last variant update yesterday, there have been 22 new variant cases confirmed, for a cumulative total of 182 cases. Currently eight cases are active.

      Henry said that the total number of cases includes:

      • 159 cases of the B117 variant (U.K.);
      • 23 cases of the B1251 variant (South Africa).

      By region, that includes 124 cases in Fraser Health and 50 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health.

      She said nine of the cases have required hospitalization (only one case remains in hospital).

      About 20 to 25 percent of the cases remain unclear how individuals acquired these viruses.

      Fraser Health announced today (March 2) that COVID-19 variant cases have been detected at eight more schools:

      • A.J. McLellan Elementary in Surrey;
      • Frost Road Elementary in Surrey;
      • North Surrey Secondary in Surrey;
      • Princess Margaret Secondary in Surrey;
      • Sullivan Heights Secondary in Surrey;
      • Marlborough Elementary in Burnaby;
      • Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary in Port Coquitlam;
      • École Maple Creek Middle School in Coquitlam.

      All of the schools will remain open as health investigations and both rapid and mass testing continues.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Good news: there aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks.

      Currently, there are 16 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities, which include eight in longterm care facilities and eight in acute care facilities. At the moment, healthcare outbreaks involve 292 residents and 156 staff members (for a total of 448 cases).

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added four flights to its lists of public exposures:

      • February 20: Air Canada 115, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • February 22: Air Canada 202, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • February 24: Air Canada 314, Vancouver to Montreal;
      • February 27: Air Canada 311, Vancouver to Montreal.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

      Loblaw reported that one employee who tested positive last worked on February 25 at the Nielsen's Your Independent Grocer (18765 Fraser Highway) in Surrey.

      Sobeys stated that a staff member who tested positive last worked on February 26 at the Safeway at 780–2601 Westview Drive in North Vancouver. 

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