COVID-19 in B.C.: Surge in new cases sets another record, as Dr. Bonnie Henry warns social events may be restricted

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      British Columbia is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, which may result in more restrictions being implemented in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

      At today’s briefing, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province has reached a “critical time” as we enter influenza season.

      As mentioned in her news release yesterday, she once again emphasized that social gatherings, including weddings and other celebrations, are directly linked to increased case numbers, resulting in clusters and outbreaks that are spreading to the healthcare system.

      What they are seeing, she said for example, are events that are being planned for thirty to forty people but wind up experiencing unexpected developments, such as extra guests arriving, plans changing, or difficulties in limiting the number of attendees. At these events, she said, guests have wound up mixing and interacting, which leads to transmission.

      Event organizers are also informing her that they are experiencing pressure or problems in controlling numbers of people and she added issues related to party buses and limousines are arising once again, as well as people attending multiple events with different groups of people. 

      While she thanked the majority of people for doing the right thing and she recognized the importance of these social events, she also issued a warning.

      “While I am reluctant to do so, if there is a major source of transmission, additional measures can and will be put in place if they’re needed,” she said.

      She explained that could include adding conditions for wedding licenses, placing restrictions on numbers of people for indoor gatherings, or using other measures that would prevent large transmission events from developing.

      In addition, she said they are seeing transmission related to businesses and large workplaces—in lunchrooms, carpools, and work interactions.

      Accordingly, she asked employers to review their workplace safety plans as WorkSafeBC, environmental health teams, and enhanced enforcement will increase inspections in the coming weeks.

      She reminded people to keep social numbers limited, with a maximum of six contacts outside immediate households.

      Daily update: October 22

      Henry announced that there are 274 new cases (including one epi-linked case) in B.C. today.

      This is the third time this week that the province has set a record for new case counts. The previous records were 174 new cases confirmed on October 19, followed by 203 new cases reported yesterday (October 21).

      Active cases continue to climb for yet another consecutive day. The province is now up to 1,920 active cases—up 154 cases since yesterday.

      Also once again, hospitalized cases only increased by one patient, this time to 71 people in hospital, with 24 patients in intensive care units (also once again an increase of three patients).

      Public health is monitoring 4,425 people (due to exposure to confirmed cases), which an increase of 131 people from yesterday.

      There aren’t any new community outbreaks.

      Although Henry didn’t announce any new healthcare outbreaks during the briefing, one new healthcare outbreak—at the Dr. Al Hogg Pavilion (15521 Russell Avenue) at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock—was later announced in her daily news release.

      The outbreak at the Weinberg Residence Senior Home in Vancouver has been declared over.

      Active outbreaks are now in 20 healthcare facilities (18 longterm care facilities and two intensive care units). There have been 950 cases (546 residents and 404 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks during the pandemic.

      With no new deaths announced, the death toll remains at 256 people who have died during the pandemic.

      A cumulative total of 10,114 people (82 percent of all cases) are now considered recovered.

      During the pandemic, there has been a cumulative total of 12,331 cases reported in B.C., including:

      • 6,725 in Fraser Health;
      • 4,260 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 644 in Interior Health;
      • 365 in Northern Health;
      • 249 in Island Health;
      • 88 people from outside Canada.
      École de l’Anse-au-sable in Kelowna

      School outbreak

      The province declared its first outbreak at a school—at at École de l’Anse-au-sable (675 Lequime Road) in Kelowna—yesterday.

      In this outbreak, Henry said that three cases were identified yesterday but that number has grown to a total of five cases today, with 160 people at home in self-isolation.

      The cases are unlinked transmissions within the school, which Henry explained means that how these individuals contracted COVID-19 (or identifying which individuals transmitted the virus to other individuals) remains to be determined during the ongoing health investigation.

      Henry pointed out that with over 2,000 schools in the province, there have been 213 exposures events in schools, which includes six clusters. (She explained that clusters defined as more than one person, who has been exposed, has been confirmed with COVID-19 within a school.)

      She said that approximately one-third of cases have been among staff while two-thirds have been among students, and the majority have been in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, which have the largest numbers of schools and students.

      She also pointed out that the majority of the exposure events in schools have not led to transmission to anyone else testing positive.

      École Anne-Hébert Elementary School in Vancouver

      School exposures

      Vancouver Coastal Health added two schools with new exposures, both in Vancouver:

      • John Henderson Elementary (451 E 53rd Avenue) had an exposure on October 13;
      • École Anne-Hébert Elementary School (7051 Killarney Street) had exposures on October 15 and 16.

      Meanwhile, Fraser Health added eight schools with new exposure events.

      In Burnaby, Lakeview Elementary (7777 Mayfield Street) had exposures from October 13 to 14.

      In Coquitlam, École Banting Middle School (820 Banting Street) had exposures from October 13 to 14.

      In Surrey, Senator Reid Elementary (9341 126th Street) had an exposure on October 13.

      In Port Moody, Port Moody Secondary (300 Albert Street) had an exposure on October 13.

      In Langley, two schools were added:

      • Dorothy Peacock Elementary (20292 91a Avenue) had an exposure on October 9;
      • Langley Secondary School (21405 56th Avenue) had exposures from October 13 to 15.

      In Abbotsford, two schools were added:

      • Mountain Elementary (2299 Mountain Drive) had an exposure event from October 6 to 8;
      • Dave Kandal Elementary (3351 Crestview Avenue) had exposures on October 15 and 16.

      Island Health reported its second exposure incident in a school, which is also in Port Alberni: Wood Elementary (4111 Wood Avenue) in Port Alberni, with an exposure on October 19. (The only previous exposure in a school on Vancouver Island was at Alberni District School in Port Alberni on September 14, 15, 17, 18, and 22).

      Dorothy Peacock Elementary in Langley

      Stores and flights

      Sobeys announced on October 21 that an employee at Safeway (2315 West 4th Avenue) in Kitsilano in Vancouver, who last worked at the location on October 18, has tested positive.

      Fraser Health has listed an exposure event at the Jolly Coachman Pub (19167 Ford Road) in Pitt Meadows from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October 9 to 11; 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on October 12; and 5 to 11 p.m. on October 14.

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

      • October 14: WestJet 637, Calgary to Abbotsford, affected rows 9 to 15;
      • October 16: Lufthansa 492, Frankfurt to Vancouver, affected rows 18 to 24;
      • October 19: Air Canada 8484, Vancouver to Edmonton, affected rows 7 to 13.

      Anyone in the affected rows should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days from the flight date and if you develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and call 811 (if in B.C.) or your local healthcare provider for testing information.

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