COVID-19 in B.C.: New variant detected, vaccine call centre problems, nail salon exposure, and more

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      Case numbers remain around similar levels as previous days, which are—as both B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have previously pointed out—remain too high.

      What’s more, the P1 variant, which was first detected in Brazil, has now arrived in B.C. (more details below) for a total of three variants of concern present in the province.

      Yesterday (March 8), phone lines at health call centres opened to start taking requests for vaccination appointments. However, the huge volume of calls encountered problems getting through on lines, long wait times, and disconnected calls.

      Dix said that almost 15,000 people booked appointments by the end of March 8.

      News 1130 reported that Dix took responsibility for the problems but said the functional issues arose from Telus. Telus President and CEO Darren Entwistle issued an apology and stated that the company is working to rectify the problems, and have been increasing the number of agents taking calls.

      Meanwhile yesterday (March 8), B.C. Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang issued a statement to announce that all postsecondary institutions will prepare for in-person return to classrooms in the autumn.

      B.C. update: March 9

      In a joint statement, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced there are 550 new cases (including 11 epi-linked cases) in B.C. today. 

      By region, that includes:

      • 319 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 133 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 52 in Northern Health;
      • 36 in Interior Health;
      • seven in the Island Health;
      • three people from outside of Canada.

      Today, there are 4,869 active cases, which is only 15 more cases since yesterday.

      With nine more people admitted to hospitals, there are currently 249 hospitalized cases, and 68 of whom are in intensive care units (two more patients since yesterday).

      Public health is monitoring 8,971 people, which is 248 more people since yesterday.

      Sadly, there are two new COVID-19-related deaths. The total number of people who have died of COVID-19-related causes in B.C. during the pandemic is now at 1,393 deaths.

      With an additional 533 people having recovered since yesterday, a cumulative total of 78,770 people have now recovered.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 85,119 cases.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      Variants and vaccines

      Since yesterday, B.C. has had 182 new COVID-19 variant cases.

      The total number of variant cases is now at 576 cases, with 113 of those cases currently active.

      The total number of variant cases include:

      • 530 cases of the B117 (U.K.) variant;
      • 33 cases of the B1351 (South Africa) variant;
      • 13 cases of the P1 (Brazil) variant.

      As of today, 343,381 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 86,938 of those are second doses.

      For those interested in finding out more about the vaccination program, CBC Vancouver is holding a townhall from 7 to 8 p.m. tomorrow (March 10), which will feature a panel that will include Henry and Dix.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Fleetwood Place in Surrey, where one resident and one staff member tested positive.

      Meanwhile, two healthcare outbreaks have been declared over: Fleetwood Villa in Surrey and Glacier View Lodge in Courtenay, where Island Health stated that only one staff member tested positive.

      Fraser Health listed potential COVID-19 exposure events at White Sparkle Nails (1125 Nicola Avenue) in Port Coquitlam from February 20 to 23 and 25 to 28. Start times were 10 or 11 a.m. until 5, 6:30 or 7 p.m. For more specific time information, visit the Fraser Health public exposures webpage.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following four flights to its lists of potential COVID-19 exposures:

      • February 27: Air Canada 114, Vancouver to Toronto;
      • March 5: Aeromexico 9644, Mexico City to Vancouver;
      • March 5: Air India 185, Delhi to Vancouver;
      • March 5: Sunwing 2858, Mexico City to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

      T&T Supermarket stated that a part-time staff member who tested positive last worked on March 6 at the 101T-15277 100th Avenue store in Surrey.

      Loblaw listed three more stores with staff members who tested positive.

      Two were Shoppers Drug Mart locations:

      • one employee who tested positive last worked on March 1 at 8525 River District Crossing in Vancouver;
      • an employee who tested positive last worked on March 4 at the 885 West Broadway store in Vancouver.

      In addition, an employee who tested positive at the Real Canadian Superstore (333 Seymour Boulevard) in North Vancouver last worked at the location on March 5.

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