COVID-19 in B.C.: Curve heading in right direction, Superbowl health order question, and more

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      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement that the province is heading in the right direction.

      They stated that transmission of the virus is showing signs of slowing down and that reduced numbers mean that we are “better positioned to deal with the uncertainties of the new variants of concern”.

      They also thanked everyone for their efforts.

      "We're seeing an encouraging trend in our COVID-19 curve,” they stated. “The efforts you are making, combined with the immunization of our long-term care residents and workers, are making a difference.”

      The B.C. government announced today that it has extended the state of emergency (originally declared on March 18, 2020) until February 16.

      Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that has reached a deal with pharmaceutical company Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine at a facility being built in Montreal, which is set to open in July.

      In addition, Trudeau announced federal funding for Vancouver-based biotechnology company Precision NanoSystems to produce its vaccine in a facility that will launch in March 2023.

      Superbowl Sunday

      At a news conference today, B.C. Premier John Horgan was asked if food and beverage establishments should be prepared for last-minute provincial health orders to shutdown for Superbowl Sunday (February 7), like the announcement made one day before New Year’s Eve for alcohol service and sales.

      Horgan said that no one should be holding Superbowl celebrations this weekend. He said they encourage people to enjoy the Superbowl at home with their household bubble.

      “This should not come as a surprise to the sector,” he added.

      Henry and Dix had said at yesterday’s in-person briefing that Superbowl social events and gatherings are not possible (Dix called them a “no go”) this year.

      Henry will be provided an update to provincial health orders on Friday (February 5), when the current temporary orders are set to expire.

      “You don’t need to wait ’til Friday to know that on Sunday, the hospitality sector should not be welcoming large numbers of people into a crowded space or we’re going to see consequences to that as we did with the pseudo-nightclub in Vancouver this week.”

      Horgan was referring to the 42-year-old individual who Vancouver police arrested on January 31 for repeatedly holding social events in a makeshift nightclub in a three-level penthouse in Downtown Vancouver. In addition, all 77 guests in attendance (none of whom were wearing masks) were fined $230 each.

      Gargle test

      Vancouver Coastal Health issued a reminder that 14 COVID-19 test collection sites in the region offer two options: saline gargle or nasopharyngeal swab.

      The saline gargle option, however, necessitates individuals to avoid eating, drinking, vaping or smoking, brushing teeth, or chewing gum for a minimum of one hour before taking the test in order to ensure accurate results.   

      For the gargle test, recipients swish and gargle saline water in their mouth for 30 seconds.

      B.C. update: February 2

      In a joint statement, Henry and Dix announced there are 429 new cases (including 10 epi-linked cases) in B.C. That includes:

      • 202 new cases in Fraser Health (47 percent of new cases);
      • 112 in Vancouver Coastal Health (26 percent);
      • 51 in Interior Health (12 percent);
      • 35 in Northern Health (eight percent);
      • 27 in Island Health (six percent);
      • two people from outside Canada (less than one percent).

      Despite the overall downward trend, active and hospitalized cases have both increased since yesterday.

      Currently, there are 4,542 active cases, which is 398 more cases than yesterday.

      Meanwhile, 294 individuals are in hospital (five more than yesterday), with 82 of those patients (three more than yesterday) in intensive care units.

      Public health is monitoring 7,080 people due to exposure to confirmed cases.

      Sadly, there are eight new COVID-19-related deaths. A cumulative total of 1,218 people have died in British Columbia during the pandemic.

      A cumulative total of 61,129 people who tested positive have recovered.

      B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 68,366 cases during the pandemic, which includes:

      • 40,879 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 15,728 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 6,396 in Interior Health;
      • 3,524 in Northern Health;
      • 1,702 in Island Health;
      • 137 people from outside of Canada.

      As of today, 140,452 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and 5,097 of those are second doses.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry

      Outbreaks and exposures

      There is one new health-care facility outbreak at CareLife Fleetwood Surrey (8265 159th Street) in Surrey.

      Meanwhile, the outbreak at Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna is now over.

      Northern Health stated that as of February 1, 25 residents and 15 staff members have tested positive, and nine residents have died, in the outbreak at Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert, which was declared on January 19.

      Loblaw reported that one employee who tested positive last worked on January 25 at the Real Canadian Superstore (2332 160th Street) in Surrey.

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