COVID-19: As B.C. reopens, Dr. Bonnie Henry explains virus-monitoring measures and inflammatory disease in children

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      Over the long weekend, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provided updates on May 16 and 18.

      With the commencement of phase two of the province’s reopening plan today (May 19), Dr. Henry acknowledged the physical, financial, and other forms of stress and anxieties that this time period can bring.

      In light of increase stress, Dr. Henry reminded anyone who is experiencing family or intimate-partner violence can find support at VictimLinkBC and 1-800-563-0808. Youth can contact Kids Help Phone is available by phone, text, and online at 1-800-668-6868 or kidshelpphone.ca.

      Both Dr. Henry and Dix also expressed their sympathies to family and friends of Capt. Jennifer Casey of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and wishes Capt. Richard MacDougall a speedy recovery.

      Daily update

      Yesterday (May 18), Dr. Henry said that from May 16 to 17, there were eight new cases, followed by eight more new cases from May 17 to 18.

      This total of 16 new cases brings the cumulative provincial total to 2,444 cases.

      Of those cases, 335 cases are active, with 47 hospitalized individuals (12 of these patients are in intensive care units).

      So far, there have been 882 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,195 in Fraser Health, 126 in Island Health, 181 in Interior Health, and 60 in Northern Health.

      Unfortunately, there have been two new deaths, one in Vancouver Coastal Health and another in Fraser Health, for a total of 143 individuals who have died from COVID-19 in B.C.

      There aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks but there remain 14 active outbreaks at longterm care facilities and five acute-care units with active cases.

      A total of 1,966 people have recovered.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix (with Dr. Bonnie Henry)
      Province of British Columbia

      New cases in phase two

      When asked what might cause the province to revert back to phase one, Dr. Henry said she remains confident about the measures they have in place.

      “They [the measures] may seem overly restrictive to many people, and that is intentional,” she said. “That is intentional because we want to start slowly and methodically and thoughtfully and watch carefully, and that is what we will be doing over the coming weeks.”

      She had also previously explained that they want to avoid reopening then reclosing various sectors.

      Dr. Henry stated that they will be closely monitoring numbers of new cases, “particularly numbers of new cases that aren’t easily linked to a chain of transmission that we know about”.

      “When we have new cases that arise in the community that we don’t have a link for, those are concerning,” she said.

      As the incubation period for the virus can extend up to 14 days, and most people develop symptoms by around the fifth to seventh day, she said they will be closely watching numbers over the next one to two weeks.

      However, she said they will adjust their approach according to any new developments and that “we may need to extend that period depending on how many new cases we have”.

      What is especially important, she said, is to ensure they have the capacity to test everyone necessary.

      For instance, she said that if they identify a new cluster, they need to be able to conduct rapid testing of everyone who needs it and who has been in contact with a positive case, and be able to follow up on every positive case within 24 to 48 hours.

      She added that they will also be watching the number of people in hospital, which she says is “an indicator of increased transmission in the community”, and intensive care unit capacity to ensure they have surge capacity if necessary.

      She said they are currently testing anyone who has symptoms, but are not doing random testing, which she said is wasteful and had previously explained is ineffective, as it can produce false results.

      In particular, she said they are preparing for respiratory virus season in the autumn.

      “As we go into the fall, our plans over the summer are to ramp up our capacity for testing, to make sure we have an ongoing access to reagents, to swabs, to everything that we need and a strategy so that people can effectively and efficiently get tested if needed,” she said.

      Inflammatory syndrome in children

      As B.C. prepares to reopen schools on June 1, the inflammatory, Kawasaki disease-like syndrome that has been reported in some children in various parts of the world, including in the U.S. (Dr. Henry said 110 cases were reported in New York), the U.K., and Montreal, has raised concerns.

      When asked about this new syndrome, Dr. Henry explained that the mysterious cases, which have been called multi-system inflammatory disease in children (MIS-C), tend to be appearing school-aged children whereas Kawasaki disease tends to affect children five years and younger.

      She added that not all youth with this disease have tested positive for COVID-19 and that it could be part of a recovery from infection.

      An alert had been sent out to pediatricians and infectious disease specialists about MIS-C, she explained, but there haven’t been any cases found in B.C. yet.

      She said that youth, who are much less likely to be infected, represent less than two percent of all COVID-19 cases in B.C., and added that it is more likely for a child to be infected from an adult than an adult from a child.

      So far in B.C., there have been 69 cases of COVID-19 in children under 19 years, with 24 of those cases in children under age of 10 and 45 cases between the ages of 10 and 19.

      Two children under 10 years old required hospitalization and one person between 10 and 19 years old was hospitalized.

      No youth with COVID-19 have been in intensive care units and there haven’t been any deaths among youth in B.C.

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