COVID-19 in B.C.: Northern Health surge prompts new measures; health minister criticizes protests; and more

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      While the Lower Mainland has been the main locus of concern throughout most of the pandemic, it shifted in recent months to Interior Health and has now moved into Northern Health.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and Northern Health chief medical health officer Dr. Jong Kim held a news teleconference today to address concerns about cases that have been surging in Northern Health.

      But off the top, Dix gave special thanks to and recognition of healthcare workers.

      He later followed up saying, in response to a question about protests held yesterday in B.C., that there are two things that he finds unacceptable.

      One is the targeting of hospitals, and what that meant for both healthcare staff as well as patients, including those in end-of-life situations. He raised concerns about how that also affects people visiting loved ones who are receiving treatment and having trouble accessing parking.

      The second is hateful comments, which he said “do not reflect 98 percent of British Columbians, if not 99 percent”.

      “We have to be, in these times, respectful and generous to one another,” he said. “We have to reflect on the behavior of some, which is unacceptable and I think reflects very, very badly on them.”

      Northern Health

      Dix said that there has been a significant increase in cases in Northern Health and the vast majority of cases in intensive care units in the region are among unvaccinated patients (90 percent).

      He pointed out that although some communities in Northern Health, such as Kitimat (93.5 percent), have among the highest vaccination rates in the province, vaccination rates for those under 55 years of age, there are marked differences between Northern Health and the rest of the province, which he deemed a “significant issue”.

      Henry said that there have been some outbreaks at work sites and industrial camps in Northern Health, such as at Site C, but that the virus has spread rapidly among pockets of unvaccinated people, especially over the past 10 days and has “really exploded quite quickly in a number of communities”.

      Some of the hotspots, she said, have included the Nechako area, Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, and Prince George.

      Kim said about half of the cases are from the Northern Interior region and a quarter of the cases from the northeast.

      Northern Health stated in a news release that the majority of the transmissions are linked to personal social gatherings at private households and gatherings.

      “We need to raise the alarm right now so that people can take those actions over the next few days and weeks to protect themselves and their families, and to go get immunized,” Henry said.

      Henry and Northern Health announced new public health orders that will be effective as of Tuesday (September 7).

      The new measures, which Henry explained focus on the areas of “greatest transmission and risk”, include:

      • personal gatherings at home are limited to one additional family or 5 guests;
      • personal gatherings outside homes can have up to a maximum of 50 people;
      • organized events (including indoor events, outside events with over 200 people, and both indoor and outdoor sporting events with spectators) must have a safety plan.

      These measures are in addition to the guidelines for Step 3 of the B.C. Restart Plan.

      All indoor fitness classes, gyms, recreational facilities, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, pubs, worship services, and educational activities remain unaffected by these changes—Henry said transmission isn’t occurring in these settings.

      The new measures will remain in place until case numbers lower and vaccination rates increase in Northern Health.

      B.C. update: September 2

      The B.C. Health Ministry stated that today’s new case count and total cases are “provisional due to a delayed data refresh and will be verified once confirmed”.

      So for now, the ministry is reporting 801 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

      Currently, there are 5,931 active cases, which is an increase of 58 cases since yesterday.

      Although active cases have been decreasing in Vancouver Coastal Health had been decreasing over the past few days, they resumed increasing. Notably, active cases decreased in Interior Health, which has been contending with the outbreak in the Central Okanagan over recent weeks. 

      The new and active cases include:

      • 267 new cases in Fraser Health, with 1,616 total active cases (112 more cases than yesterday).
      • 237 new cases in Interior Health, with 2,112 total active cases (a decrease of 187 cases).
      • 128 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 1,102 total active cases (60 more cases).
      • 103 new cases in Northern Health, with 553 total active cases (70 more cases).
      • 66 new cases in Island Health, with 541 total active cases (58 more cases).
      • no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada, with seven total active cases (same number as yesterday).

      With 12 more people in hospitals than yesterday, there are now 199 hospitalized cases, and 116 of those patients are in intensive care units (13 more cases than yesterday).

      Tragically, six new deaths—all in Interior Health—have been reported. The overall total of people who have died of COVID-19-related reasons during the pandemic is now at 1,824 fatalities.

      With 660 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 159,560 people who tested positive have now recovered.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 167,654 cases (the B.C. Health Ministry stated that this number is still to be verified).

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Outbreaks and exposures

      Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Northcrest Care Centre in Delta, where one resident and two staff members have tested positive, for a total of three cases so far.

      Fraser Health also declared an outbreak at Menno Home in Abbotsford, where two residents and two staff members have tested positive for a total of four cases. (This outbreak was announced at the same time as the B.C. Ministry update so it was not included on that list.)

      In addition, Interior Health has declared an outbreak at Hillside Village in Salmon Arm.

      Meanwhile, Interior Health declared the outbreak over at Nelson Jubilee Manor in Nelson.

      In an update about the outbreak at Sunset Lodge in Victoria (declared on August 27), Island Health stated that seven more residents and one more staff member have tested positive. As of September 1, a total of 34 cases (20 residents and 14 staff) have been involved in this outbreak so far.  

      Today Northern Health provided an update on the outbreak at the inpatient unit at Fort St. John Hospital, where two more cases have been identified. A total of seven people (four patients and three staff members) have tested positive so far in this outbreak.

      Currently, there are 21 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities, including:

      • longterm care: Heritage Village, Northcrest Care Centre, Menno Home (Fraser Health); Arbutus Care Centre, Brock Fahrni (Vancouver Coastal Health); Village at Mill Creek, Cottonwoods Care Centre, Brookhaven Care Centre, Spring Valley Care Centre, Kamloops Seniors Village, and Hillside Village (Interior Health); and Sunset Lodge (Island Health);
      • acute care: Peace Arch Hospital, Chilliwack General Hospital (Fraser Health); and Fort St. John Hospital (Northern Health);
      • assisted or independent living: Nicola Meadows, Hawthorn Park, David Lloyd Jones, Sun Pointe Village, Hardy View Lodge, and Rose Woods Village (Interior Health).


      From August 25 to 31, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 79 percent of cases and from August 18 to 31, they accounted for 84 percent of hospitalizations.

      Out of a total of 4,861 COVID-19 cases from August 25 to 31, there were:

      • 3,345 unvaccinated people (68.8 percent);
      • 496 partially vaccinated people (10.2 percent);
      • 1,020 fully vaccinated people (21.0 percent).

      Out of a total of 268 hospitalized cases from August 18 to 31, there were:

      • 203 unvaccinated people (75.7 percent);
      • 22 partially vaccinated people (8.2 percent);
      • 43 fully vaccinated people (16 percent).

      Since December, B.C. has administered 7,494,567 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

      As of today, 84.6 percent (3,922,233) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 76.9 percent (3,565,148) received their second dose.

      In addition, 85.3 percent (3,688,115) of all eligible adults have received their first dose and 77.9 percent (3,369,631) received their second dose. 

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