COVID-19 in B.C.: Four more school exposures, and questions about school issues, case count accuracy, and more

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      Again, the new case count remains high while cases in other categories remain about the same.

      Meanwhile, regional health authorities reported there were also four more schools and three domestic flights with potential exposure events, and an outbreak at a food outlet.

      At yesterday's briefing, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry responded to questions about the accuracy of case counts and about transmission in schools.

      In addition, she also pointed out why the number of fatalities is not the only thing people should pay attention to. 

      While B.C. reported its first case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) in a child yesterday, CTV News reported yesterday on the cast of a 31-year-old woman with COVID-19 who was hospitalized for 16 days, required a ventilator, and almost died.

      Although she returned home on October 10, she remains on supplemental oxygen and steroids.

      When asked about this case, Henry said that although so far no one under the age of 40 has died in B.C., no one can predict who will have severe health outcomes

      “We are still learning about this virus,” she reminded everyone. “We do not yet if there are going to be longterm effects, even for people who have mild illness so it is a cautionary tale that all of us need to pay attention to.”

      Daily update: October 16

      In a joint statement for today's update, Henry and Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown announced there are 155 new cases (including nine epi-linked cases) today.

      Active cases increased from yesterday by 19 people to 1,513 active cases today.

      The number of people in hospital continued to decline, decreasing by two people to 72 patients. However, the number of those individuals in intensive care units increased by two patients to 26 of them.

      After yesterday’s decline in the number of people who public health is monitoring, the number increased by 30 individuals to 3,713 people today.

      The good news is that there aren’t any new healthcare facility outbreaks. Also, the outbreak at Kin Village in Tsawwassen has been declared over. Active outbreaks are at 15 longterm care or assisted-living facilities and two acute-care units.

      There is one new community outbreak at Tim Hortons (3340 River Ranch Road) in Merritt.

      Regional health authorities did not post any new public exposure events today.

      Unfortunately, there is one new COVID-19 related death, bringing the total COVID-19-related fatalities to 251 deaths in B.C.

      During the pandemic, there has been a cumulative total of 11,189 cases in the province, including:

      • 5,884 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 4,036 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 240 in the Island Health region, 590 in the Interior Health region, 350 in the Northern Health region and 89 cases of people who reside outside of Canada.

      A total of 9,387 people have recovered.

      Blue Jay Elementary

      School exposures and issues

      At yesterday's briefing, the Georgia Straight asked Henry what teachers should do about situation they’re witnessing in schools that they’re concerned about, such as cohorts intermingling during breaks (and an inability to hold staggered breaks due to limited supervision hours), students touching each other (from holding hands to roughhousing), and lack of physical distancing.

      Henry said these things need to be “worked out on a class-by-class and school basis”, that teachers need to work with their school community to ensure they have what they need, and she encouraged teachers to speak with principals or superintendent of school boards.

      “We’ve seen a number of exposure events…[but] we’ve not seen transmission within the school setting so that tells us that the risk in the school setting is still quite low and it is a reflection of what is happening in our community,” she said.

      When the Straight asked about what special education assistants should do about having to work physically close to students with diverse or special needs, particularly those who may spit, drool, or cough, she said these are not new things to address.

      “We know there are people who work with special needs children in the school environment every year and there are always concerns about health and safety and how to manage that so each individual child and their assistant needs to have a plan for how they’re going to manage things,” she said. “And, yes, we do have plans in place for every classroom, every school, to make sure that risk of transmission is minimized.”

      Four more schools have been added to regional health authority lists of school exposure incidents.
      Fraser Health has added three schools to its list.

      In Delta, Richardson Elementary (11339 83 Avenue) had exposures on October 1, 5, 6, 8, and 9.

      In Abbotsford, Blue Jay Elementary (30995 Southern Drive) had an exposure event from October 7 to 9.

      In Langley, Douglas Park Community School (5409 206 Street) had an exposure event from October 8 to 9.

      Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health added one school to its list.

      Vancouver College (5401 Hudson Street) had an exposure event from October 7 to 9.

      Vancouver College

      Questioning case counts

      When Henry was asked yesterday about how the results of private tests might impact the province’s case counts, she said it’s unclear to her as some of those test results are included.

      “There has been a change of what has been included and in some cases they are and some are not,” she said. “So we have been looking at that and, yes, the positivity rate in those is quite low, of course, because most of those tests are done in asymptomatic people.”

      When asked if B.C. has stopped sharing information about how many healthcare workers have tested positive, Henry said B.C. has not stopped sharing that information.

      “We’ve not been reporting on it on an ongoing basis—it takes some time to do that analysis—but we do provide that information and certainly provide it on request,” she explained. “One of the things that we’ve been doing nationally is we’ve been revising our cases definitions and focusing some of our surveillance on what are the important things we want to collect more detailed data on.”

      Air travel

      The B.C. Centre of Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following three flights confirmed with COVID-19 to its list:

      • October 9: Air Canada flight 115, from Toronto to Vancouver with affected rows 1 to 4;

      • October 11: WestJet flight 195, from Calgary to Victoria, with affected rows 1 to 7;

      • October 14: Air Canada flight 241, from Edmonton to Vancouver, with affected row 24 to 28.

      Anyone in the affected rows on these flights should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days following the flight date.

      If you develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your healthcare provider or (if in B.C.) call 811 for an assessment and testing information.

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