COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 600 new cases again; vaccination schedule advances, mass clinics launch; and more

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      The new case count has remained stubbornly high over the past few weeks. And today, the case count has gone high again.

      In addition, case numbers in all other categories have increased since yesterday.

      Meanwhile, once again, B.C.’s immunization program is advancing ahead of schedule due to progress, and a regional health authority is launching mass immunization clinics.

      In other news, as concerns continue on about anti-Asian sentiment magnified by the pandemic, UBC Asian Studies will be presenting a webinar entitled The Deadly Intersections of COVID-19, about how the pandemic interacts with racial and global inequalities, tomorrow (March 24).

      Immunization acceleration

      B.C. announced today that those with existing medical conditions who are at higher risk from COVID-19 will be able to book appointments starting on Monday (March 29).

      Approximately 200,000 people in B.C. (who are 16 years and above) will be eligible to receive their first doses in the coming weeks.

      This group, also known as those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), includes those with various forms of cancer, transplant recipients, and people with severe respiratory conditions.

      In the next few days, those identified as CEV will receive a mailed letter on how to book an appointment and the letter must be taken to their appointment.

      Those who believe they are in the CEV group but haven’t received a letter by April 15 can contact the provincial call centre or visit the provincial online booking system (which will launch on April 6) to find out if they are on the list.

      CEV–based booking will run simultaneously as age-based booking continues on.

      The revised age-based call-in schedule is as follows:

      • age 76 (born in 1945): Wednesday (March 24) at noon;
      • age 75 (born in 1946): Thursday (March 25) at noon;
      • age 74 (born in 1947): Friday (March 26) at noon;
      • age 74+, and CEV population (must have invitation letter to book): Monday (March 29) at noon.

      Mass immunization clinics

      The B.C. health region hardest hit by the pandemic has been, and continues to be, Fraser Health, which is also the most populous area of the province.

      The regional health authority is now taking further steps to ensure that vaccinations are conducted in the area efficiently.

      Fraser Health announced today that it has launched five new mass immunization clinics.

      The clinics are located at:

      • Chilliwack: Chilliwack Mall;
      • Cloverdale: Cloverdale Recreation Centre;
      • South Surrey: South Surrey Recreation Centre;
      • Coquitlam: Coquitlam Poirier Forum;
      • Delta: North Delta Recreation Centre.

      The Delta location is currently open for appointments for while the others are available for booking appointments starting on March 29. The clinics will remain open during Phases 3 and 4 of the provincial immunization program.

      Four more clinics are being prepared to launch at:

      • Langley: Langley Events Centre;
      • Burnaby: Fortius;
      • New Westminster: Anvil Centre;
      • Surrey: Guildford Recreation Centre.

      As clinics become active, they will be listed at the Fraser Health website, and some previous clinics may be closed down or repurposed.

      B.C. immunization executive lead Dr. Penny Ballem (right), with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      B.C. update: March 23

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix stated in a news release that there are 682 new cases (including 15 epi-linked cases) today.

      That includes, by region:

      • 333 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 229 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 76 in Interior Health*;
      • 23 in Northern Health;
      • 19 in Island Health;
      • two people from outside of Canada.

      *Something to note is that 36 of the new cases in Interior Health are historic cases from 2020 that were identified through a data review.

      Active cases continue to increase. Currently there are 5,409 active cases, which is 119 more cases since yesterday.

      Also still increasing are hospitalized cases. With 11 more people admitted to hospitals since yesterday, there are now 314 individuals in hospitals, with 83 of them in intensive care units (three more since yesterday).

      Public health is currently monitoring 9,488 people, which is an additional 158 people since yesterday.

      Sadly, there has been one new COVID-19-related death, for a total of 1,438 people who have died in B.C. during the pandemic.

      With 561 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 86,307 people have now recovered.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 93,253 cases.

      Variants and vaccines

      Today, there are 144 new variant cases in B.C., which brings the total to 1,510 cases.

      Of these cases, 171 are active.

      The total includes:

      • 1,357 cases of the B117 (U.K.) variant (117 new cases);
      • 110 cases of the P1 (Brazil) variant (25 new cases);
      • 43 cases of the B1351 (South Africa) variant (two new cases).

      As of today, 557,508 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca-SII vaccines have been administered in B.C., and 87,168 of those are second doses.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      The good news is that there aren’t any new healthcare or community outbreaks. In addition, none of the five regional health authorities posted any new public exposure events.

      Henry and Dix stated that the outbreak at Revera Sunwood Retirement Community in Maple Ridge has been declared over.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 11 flights to its public exposure lists:

      • March 8: WestJet 720, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • March 9: WestJet 139, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • March 10: WestJet 112, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • March 10: Air Canada 63, Vancouver to Seoul;
      • March 12: WestJet 141, Edmonton to Vancouver;
      • March 12: WestJet 724, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • March 17: Air Canada 63, Vancouver to Seoul;
      • March 18: WestJet 3220, Vancouver to Kelowna;
      • March 20: Air Canada 106, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • March 21: Air Canada 45, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • March 21: Air Canada 551, Los Angeles to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is listed at the BCCDC website.

      McDonald’s listed two new locations which had staff members who tested positive:

      • an employee who tested positive last worked on March 22 at 3605 Gellatly Road in West Kelowna;
      • one employee who tested positive last worked on March 22 at 8685 120 Street in Delta.

      Loblaw added four stores with staff members who tested positive.

      Three locations were Shoppers Drug Mart stores:

      • an employee who tested positive last worked on March 13 at 152–8180 No. 2 Rd, Unit 152, Richmond
      • one employee who tested positive last worked on March 19 at 102–22441 Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge;
      • an employee who tested positive last worked on March 20 at 11939 240th Street in Maple Ridge.

      The fourth location was Park Royal City Market at 845 Park Royal North in West Vancouver, where an employee who tested positive last worked on March 18.

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