COVID-19 in B.C.: Kelowna church outbreak, bus assault over mask dispute, school exposure clarification, and more

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      New, active, and monitored cases are either lower and have decreased below last week’s levels, which are encouraging signs.

      Nonetheless, some troubling areas remain, as there are new deaths, three more healthcare outbreaks, a church-related outbreak in the B.C. Interior, two First Nations reporting several cases, three more flights with cases, and three more schools with exposure incidents.

      There was also an assault on a bus due to a conflict over mask-wearing.

      Meanwhile, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided some clarification about public health approaches to exposure incidents in schools.

      Daily update: September 25 to 28

      New case counts over the weekend were somewhat lower than last week.

      From September 25 to 26, there were 68 new cases; 125 new cases from September 26 to 27; and 74 new cases from September 27 to 28 for a cumulative total of 267 new cases (including 10 epi-linked cases) for those three time periods.

      Again, the number of active cases continue to decline—down from 1,349 cases on September 25 to 1,302 active cases today.

      Of those cases, 69 people are in hospital (with 22 of those patients in intensive care units). That’s up from 62 people (19 ICU patients) on September 25.

      Hospitalized cases include 32 people in Vancouver Coastal Health, 30 in Fraser Health, five in Northern Health, one in Interior Health, and one person who lives outside Canada.

      Public health is monitoring 3,372 people (for exposure to confirmed cases), a decrease of 161 people from 3,533 people on September 25.

      Tragically, there have been three new deaths over the weekend, which includes one person in Vancouver Coastal Health, one person in Fraser Health, and one person in Island Health. The total number of fatalities is now at 233 people who have died.

      When asked about the individual who died in Island Health, she said this person died at home and tested positive for COVID-19 after his death.

      The cumulative total number of cases for the province during the pandemic is now at 8,908 cases. That includes:

      • 4,555 cases in Fraser Health;

      • 3,226 in Vancouver Coastal Health;

      • 531 in Interior Health;

      • 303 in Northern Health;

      • 206 in Island Health;

      • 87 people who live outside Canada.

      A total of 7,346 people have recovered during the pandemic.

      Witset News and Events

      Healthcare and community outbreaks

      Unfortunately, there are three new healthcare outbreaks.

      Once again, the Holy Family Hospital (7801 Argyle Street) in Vancouver has another outbreak. This location had two previous outbreaks.

      A second is at Thornebridge Gardens retirement residence (649 8th Avenue) in New Westminster.

      The third is at Harrison West at Elim Village (9025 160 Street) in Surrey, which previously had an outbreak in April.

      The outbreak at Burnaby Hospital is now over.

      There are 16 active outbreaks at healthcare facilities, with a cumulative total of 837 people (335 staff and 500 residents) involved in healthcare outbreaks during the pandemic.

      For the first time in a while, there is a new community outbreak.

      Henry said there are five cases linked to the Calvary Chapel (2870 Benvoulin Road) in Kelowna. Potential exposures took place at the 10:30 a.m. services held (including in the Ann Rauser Hall) on September 13 and 20.

      Anyone who attended the church at these times on these dates is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

      Nak'azdli Whut'en First Nation, located near Fort St. James, confirmed that there were 13 cases as of on September 24 while Witset First Nation near Smithers confirmed 14 new cases as of September 25.

      Loblaw stated that an employee who tested positive last worked at the Shoppers Drug Mart at Evengreen Mall (8962 152nd Street) in Surrey on September 18.

      Meanwhile, Sobeys announced today that employees at two Safeway locations in Metro Vancouver tested positive.

      One employee last worked at the 3410 Kingsway store in Vancouver on September 24 while another employee last worked at the 15355 24th Avenue location on September 23.

      Richmond News reported that an employee at the Canada Post processing centre in Richmond who tested positive last worked there on September 20. The centre was cleaned and sanitized.

      Over the weekend, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added three flights confirmed with COVID-19 to its list:

      • September 16: Air India flight 1143, from Delhi to Vancouver (affected rows not reported);
      • September 17: WestJet flight 725, Toronto to Vancouver, affected rows 22 to 28;
      • September 18: Air Canada flight 45, Delhi to Vancouver. affected rows 12 to 14 and 31 to 33.

      Anyone at these locations, in the affected rows, or on these flights on the specified dates should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after the date of visit or flight. If symptoms develop, immediately self-isolate and contact 811 for testing information.

      Bus assault during mask dispute

      Metro Vancouver Transit Police are investigating an alleged assault on a bus near 96th Avenue and 120th Street in Surrey around 9:30 a.m. on September 26

      When a male suspect entered the bus without a mask, another male passenger offered him a mask. When the suspect declined the offer, the male passenger asked the suspect if he was exempt from the mandatory mask policy.

      The male suspect then became enraged. When the passenger stood up to confront the suspect, the suspect allegedly punched the passenger in the head, which led to a physical fight.

      Afterward, the suspect fled from the bus.

      The passenger was taken to hospital for a cut above his eye.

      Any witnesses are asked to contact Metro Vancouver Transit Police.

      Transit police are also reminding the public to physically distance from passengers who aren’t wearing a mask rather than questioning or confronting them.

      Gladstone Secondary

      Schools and public health

      Regional health authorities added three more schools with exposure events to their lists.

      Vancouver Coastal Health added Gladstone Secondary (4105 Gladstone Street) in Vancouver, with potential exposure dates of September 16 to 18, and September 21 to 22.

      Fraser Health added two schools in Surrey: Earl Marriott Secondary (15751 16th Avenue) in Surrey with exposures dates of September 17, 18, 21, and 23; and Rosemary Heights Elementary (15516 36th Avenue) with a potential exposure on September 21.

      After confusion arose last week when Vancouver Coastal Health was reported as diverging from the provincial policy of posting all schools with exposure incidents on regional health authority websites, Henry affirmed today that all health authorities are following the province-wide policy.

      “Across the province, all health authorities will be posting exposure events—so that’s somebody’s who tested positive who is in the school environment during their infectious period, so when they could have potentially exposed to others,” she said.

      She said if a staff member or student has not been at school during their infectious period, those cases won’t be posted online.

      Henry said that while there have been exposure events in schools, there haven’t been any transmission events or outbreaks that have taken place in schools yet.

      She clarified that just because an exposure event has taken place at a school, it doesn’t mean that other students need to remain at home.

      “I would encourage parents to recognize that exposure events do not mean that your child has been exposed to COVID-19,” she said. “Unless you’ve had a call directly from public health, you don’t need to worry about that and we’re being very transparent in putting up where those exposures might have happened so that everybody knows that public health is on it and that we’re working with you and that we’re working with the school and that we know who needs to be isolated and who doesn’t.”

      Henry explained that public health staff conduct risk assessments for every case, including how long individuals have been exposed to a confirmed case, in order to determine who are considered close contacts.

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