COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 7,000 active cases; AstraZeneca for those over 55; Whistler update; and more

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      After a weekend of some of the highest new case counts in B.C. during the pandemic, the new case count remains high and numbers in all other categories have continued to their upward climb.

      Despite those unfortunate trends, there are some spots of good news.

      Meanwhile, B.C. announced today that it is extending the provincial state of emergency to April 13. The original declaration was made on March 18, 2020.


      Yesterday, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Canada announced the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine being used for those younger than 55 years old in Canada due to a safety signal being detected among young people in Europe. (For more on the issue, see this article.)

      Today, the B.C. Health Ministry announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine will be used for those aged 55 to 65 in the Lower Mainland starting tomorrow (March 31).

      Immunize BC is partnering with community pharmacies in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health to provide vaccinations ahead of the provincial immunization schedule.

      “We know from the millions of doses used worldwide, and especially in the U.K., it is highly effective and the benefits to those over age 55 far outweigh the very real risks of getting COVID-19," Henry stated in a news release.

      As of March 31, those aged 55 to 65 can call their local pharmacy to book an appointment to receive their vaccine. Drop-in service may be an option at over 150 participating pharmacies. Individuals must take their personal health number (on their B.C. Services Card or CareCard).

      Suspended activities

      Yesterday, Henry also announced new provincial health orders to suspend indoor dining, indoor group physical activity, and indoor religious services, as well as the closure of Whistler resort, until April 19.

      In response, the Vancouver Park Board announced yesterday that it was suspending all adult indoor yoga, fitness, and martial arts group classes.

      What will remain in operation are fitness centres with individual and one-on-one training, pools, arenas, children and youth programs, individual sport programs, and adult outdoor activities with groups of up to 10 people.

      Also, indoor dining at clubhouses at Fraserview, Langara, and McCleery golf courses will be temporarily closed. Meanwhile, express take-out windows with outdoor patios will remain open.


      Vancouver Coastal Health stated today that case numbers at Whistler have increased over the past two weeks.

      From March 22 to 28, there were 218 new cases.

      This follows a surge in cases in Whistler that began in January. From January 1 to March 28, there have been 1,120 cases in Whistler. Thus far, 900 individuals have recovered.

      As previously stated about the previous surge, the vast majority of cases remain among those aged 20 to 39 years old (83 percent) who live and work in Whistler. The most common setting for transmissions remains households and social gatherings.

      Health violations

      In an update on health violations, officers issued 1,570 violation tickets between Aug. 21, 2020, and March 26, 2021.

      That includes:

      • 242 fines of $2,300 to owners or organizers for gatherings and events;
      • 48 violation tickets of $2,300 for violating food and liquor orders;
      • 1,280 tickets of $230 fines each to individuals for not following health orders.

      Police have also issued 128 violation tickets to individuals breaking the Federal Quarantine Act, for a total of $217,494 in fines.

      Fines for individuals who are attending or promoting illegal gatherings, or for abusive behaviour, have doubled from $230 to $575.

      While the number of conflicts related to COVID-19 have been less frequent in recent weeks, Burnaby RCMP stated that a man who was asked to wear a mask allegedly spat in the face of another man on March 22. Officers arrested a 48-year-old West Vancouver man (who has since been released) for failing to wear a face covering and an assault investigation was underway.

      B.C. update: March 30

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced, in a joint statement, that there are 840 new cases (including 18 epi-linked cases) in B.C. today.

      By region, the total includes:

      • 421 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 265 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 67 in Interior Health;
      • 46 in Northern Health;
      • 39 in Island Health;
      • two people from outside of Canada.

      There have been increases in active and hospitalized cases, and monitored people.

      Today, B.C. passed the 7,000 mark for active cases. With an increase of 160 active cases since yesterday, there are now 7,062 active cases.

      Hospitalized cases also increased. Currently, there are 312 individuals in hospitals (13 more than yesterday), and 78 of those patients are in intensive care units (one less person since yesterday).

      The number of people public health is monitoring (for exposures to identified cases) jumped up by 787 cases to a current total of 11,164 people.

      The good news is that there aren’t any new COVID-19-related deaths. That leaves the death toll at 1,455 people who have died in B.C. during the pandemic.

      With 679 recoveries since yesterday, a total of 90,401 people have now recovered.

      B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 99,035 cases during the pandemic.

      Variants and vaccinations

      Today, Henry and Dix stated that there are 320 new variant cases, which increases the cumulative total of 2,553 cases.

      Of those cases, 313 are currently active.

      The total includes:

      • 2,134 cases of the B117 (U.K.) variant (219 new cases);
      • 370 cases of the P1 (Brazil) variant (100 new cases);
      • 49 cases of the B1351 (South Africa) variant (one new case).

      In B.C.’s immunization program, 724,193 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., and 87,319 of those are second doses.

      Outbreaks and exposures

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

      Also, none of the five regional health authorities added any new public exposure events.

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

      • March 18: Air Canada 292, Vancouver to Fort St. John;
      • March 22: Air Canada 306, Vancouver to Montreal;
      • March 23: Air Canada 306, Vancouver to Montreal;
      • March 26: Air Canada/Jazz 8079, Vancouver to Victoria;
      • March 26: Air Canada/Jazz 8212, Prince George to Vancouver;
      • March 26: West Jet 136, Vancouver to Calgary;
      • March 26: West Jet  3387, Calgary to Kelowna.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

      McDonald’s had one location with a staff member who tested positive at 3444 East Hastings Street in Vancouver, where the employee last worked on March 25.

      Loblaw listed three stores with staff members who tested positive.

      One was at the Real Canadian Superstore at 2855 Gladwin Road in Abbotsford, where an employee who tested positive last worked on March 26.

      Also, an employee who tested positive last worked on March 27 at the Real Canadian Superstore at 32136 Lougheed Highway in Mission.

      Another employee who tested positive last worked on March 29 at the Shoppers Drug Mart at 525 Highway 97 South in West Kelowna.

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