COVID-19 in B.C.: Five more schools with cases, Dr. Bonnie Henry on provincial election, and more

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      At today's B.C. COVID-19 update, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the talk of the province—that B.C. Premier John Horgan called for an election to be held on October 24.

      Meanwhile, new COVID-19 case counts in B.C. remained higher than 100 each day over the weekend, and there were several deaths and a new healthcare outbreak.

      Five more schools and nine flights have confirmed cases, and Henry also answered questions about changes to lists of COVID-19 symptoms for children.

      B.C. election

      Although Henry usually begins her updates by listing off the case counts, right off the top she delved into issues about the B.C. election instead.

      She assured British Columbians that the province’s COVID-19 response will continue uninterrupted by the election. Also, the daily B.C. COVID-19 update will continue to be provided Mondays to Fridays.

      In addition, Dix will no longer be a part of the daily B.C. COVID-19 updates during the election.

      “It would not be appropriate for him to be on the campaign and have the opportunity to speak publicly twice a week, but he will very much be involved in ensuring that the ongoing management of the crisis, along with Minister [Carole] James, who is the caretaker minister during this period,” Henry explained.

      Henry said she and Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown will be meeting with Dix and James to ensure everyone remains update with the pandemic and to ensure active, ongoing management for any issues that arise.

      When asked if Premier John Horgan asked for her advice about calling an election, she said he did not and that she would not expect him to do so, as she explained that she is not part of that political process.

      “My role is to provide advice on the health of the population and to put in measures that are needed to ensure that activities that need to happen can happen in our community, and that is what I will continue to focus on,” she said.

      She said that she has been working with Elections B.C. since March (when municipal elections had been scheduled for that month) to ensure guidelines are in place for any potential election during the pandemic.

      The guidelines cover what political parties need to do to keep everyone involved safe during the campaign and how election processes need to be conducted to ensure safety.

      Henry explained that she provides the parameters for the guidelines but each political party develops their safety plan. She added that they are not orders from her as a provincial health officer, therefore they are not enforceable. However, she said they will be monitoring the parties and provide advice and guidance as needed.

      Tomorrow (September 22), Henry and chief electoral officer Anton Boegman will present specific details.

      B.C. Premier John Horgan
      Province of British Columbia

      Daily update: September 18 to 21

      Henry provided updates for the past three time periods since the last update on September 18.

      From September 18 to 19, there 121 new cases; followed by 117 new cases from September 19 to 20; and 128 new cases from September 20 to 21. A total of 366 new cases (including seven epi-linked cases) were reported over the weekend.

      There are 1,987 active cases (rising from 1,803 active cases on September 18), with 60 people in hospital (21 of those patients are in intensive care units)—which remains about the same as September 18.

      Public health is monitoring 3,233 people, which has increased from 3,075 individuals on September 18.

      There is one new healthcare outbreak in Yaletown House (1099 Cambie Street) in Vancouver, where one staff member has tested positive. However, the outbreak at Queen’s Park Care Centre (315 McBride Boulevard) in New Westminster has been declared over.

      Currently, there are active outbreaks in 12 longterm care facilities and three acute care facilities. Thus far, there have been 813 individuals (484 residents and 329 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks.

      There weren't any new community outbreaks announced.

      Unfortunately, there were four new deaths over the weekend. That includes two people in Vancouver Coastal Health, one in Fraser Health, and one in Northern Health. The total number of fatalities from COVID-19-related causes during the pandemic is 227 people who have died.

      During the pandemic, there has been a cumulative total of 8,208 people who tested positive for COVID-19.

      That includes 2,945 in Vancouver Coastal Health; 4,211 in Fraser Health; 508 in Interior Health; 255 in Northern Health; 203 in Island Health; and 86 cases among people who live outside Canada.

      There are now 5,972 people who have recovered.

      School exposures and child symptoms

      Five more schools have reported cases on their premises.

      Fraser Health reported that there were potential exposure incidents at three Surrey schools: Queen Elizabeth Secondary on September 14, L.A. Matheson Secondary School on September 16, and Tamanawis Secondary School on September 17.

      Interior Health has reported that a student case was at J. Alfred Laird Elementary School in Invermere on September 14 to 15.

      Northern Health reported there there was a potential exposure incident at Quesnel Junior Secondary in Quesnel from September 10 to 11.

      There haven’t been any cases reported by Vancouver Coastal Health or Island Health yet.

      However, North Shore News reported today that there is one school on the North Shore where it is unclear whether or not teachers and students are at risk.

      Sentinel Secondary School in West Vancouver, is reportedly working with Vancouver Coastal Health to determine if there was any exposure to any members of the school community after an individual tested positive.

      Meanwhile, when Henry was asked why some symptoms have been removed from a checklist of COVID-19 symptoms (including headache, sore throat, or fatigue), she explained that there are some symptoms by themselves specifically for children, such as a slight runny nose without any other symptoms, “that is not a reason for a child…to necessarily stay home from school”.

      She said there are some symptoms that should definitely require a student to remain at home, including fevers or coughs, that are “much more likely to be associated with something that might be transmissible to others”.

      However, she said that if parents have children who have single symptoms, they can keep the child at home to monitor them. 

      “We know that children often have very mild symptoms that are—runny nose, not feeling well today—that clear up very quickly and are not indicative of COVID,” she said. 

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

      Air travel

      Health authorities didn’t list any new exposure incidents.

      However, the Delta Optimist reported that a fifth McDonald’s location in the Lower Mainland—1285 Cliveden Avenue in Delta—had temporarily closed on September 18 for sanitization after two employees tested positive.

      Anyone who visited the restaurant on September 11 or 14 is asked to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after the date of visit. Anyone who develops symptoms should self-isolate immediately and call 811 to find out about testing.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has added nine flights confirmed with COVID-19 to its ongoing list:

      September 2: Air India flight 1143, from New Delhi to Vancouver;

      September 10: Swoop flight 200, from Abbotsford to Edmonton;

      September 10: WestJet flight 138, from Vancouver to Calgary;

      September 10: Air Canada flight 123, from Toronto to Vancouver;

      September 10: Philippine Airlines flight 116, from Vancouver to Manila;

      September 13: West Jet flight 709, from Toronto to Vancouver;

      September 13: Air Canada flight 127, from Toronto to Vancouver;

      September 14: Air Canada flight 575, from Los Angeles to Vancouver;

      September 14: Flair Airlines flight 8156, from Vancouver to Regina.

      For affected row information, visit the BCCDC webpage.

      Anyone on these flights or in the affected rows should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after the flight date while monitoring for symptoms.

      If you develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and call 811 for testing.

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