COVID-19 in B.C.: Dr. Bonnie Henry on back-to-school concerns, inflammatory syndrome in children, and more

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      After COVID-19 case numbers remained level or decreased yesterday compared to the day before, today’s numbers revealed slight increases but remained roughly on par.

      B.C. has begun reporting suspected cases of the inflammatory syndrome in children and youth that has been observed around the world.

      The BCCDC has also added maps of the geographic distribution of cases across the province by health service delivery area (to be updated once a week) and by local health area (to be updated once a month).

      Meanwhile, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry responded to health and safety questions about schools.

      Daily update: August 27

      Henry confirmed 68 new cases today, which include four epi-linked cases. That’s a slight increase from 62 new cases yesterday.

      There are currently 906 active cases, which is an increase of 10 cases from yesterday’s number of 896 cases.

      Of those cases, 22 people are in hospital (seven patients are in intensive care units)—an increase of one person. B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 19 are in Fraser Health and three are in Vancouver Coastal Health.

      The number of people who public health is monitoring has risen once again, from 2,730 people yesterday to 2,810 individuals today—an increase of 80 people.

      The good news is that there aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks and the outbreak at Arbutus Care Centre has been declared over. There remain 11 active healthcare outbreaks (nine are in longterm care facilities and two are in acute care), with a cumulative total of 714 cases (432 residents and 282 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks during the pandemic.

      However, there is one new community outbreak.

      Henry said the outbreak, involving seven cases, has occurred at a construction site at a water treatment facility in Elkford, B.C. She said that the location, which was following COVID-19 regulations for industrial sites, is separate from the local community and that Interior Health confirmed that there isn’t any risk to the public.

      The provincial cumulative total, over the course of the pandemic, is now at 5,372 cases. That includes 1,737 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health; 2,818 in Fraser Health; 173 in Island Health; 429 in Interior Health; 137 in Northern Health; and 78 cases among people who live outside Canada.

      Unfortunately, there is one new death, raising the total fatalities to 204 people who have died.

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

      Inflammatory syndrome in children

      As of today, Henry said they will start reporting suspected cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children and teenagers (MISC) so they can monitor it, and stated there are eight suspected cases, which are the first such cases in this province.

      Symptoms include prolonged fever, red eyes, abdominal pain, swollen blood vessels (including cardiac involvement), vomiting or diarrhea, skin rash, and fatigue or lethargy, Henry said.

      “This is something that has arisen as being associated in some parts of the world with COVID-19,” she said, but she added that there also other possible causes of it.

      She said that there were five males and three females, with an average age of 4 years. All cases were hospitalized (two were in intensive care) but all have fully recovered.

      These cases are suspected, she explained, because the individuals didn’t test positive for COVID-19, didn’t have antibodies, and had no known exposures to confirmed COVID-19 cases.

      She said all the of the cases were reported by the B.C. Children’s Hospital, and that they’ve been monitoring for MISC since March after it was first identified.

      Henry explained that the case definitions of MISC have changed across Canada and previously only lab-confirmed cases or those linked to a confirmed COVID-19 case were reported. She said it remains a rare condition around the world, and that they are still trying to learn more about it.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, with Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Back to school

      B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming announced yesterday (August 26) that all school districts in the province have posted their health and safety plans on their websites.

      When Henry was asked about COVID-19 in schools, she said that while she expects there will likely be some cases in schools, she said they have to ensure that everything is done to minimize that and “managing them quickly and efficiently” as they have in the past.

      As she said there are very low levels of virus spread in most communities in the province, even where there is some community spread, she said they expect to see similar low levels in school.

      “What happens in school reflects what’s happening in the community,” she said, noting that this has been observed around the world.

      She said she doesn’t expect to see widespread outbreaks or superspreader incidents occurring in schools, as have been seen in other jurisdictions, based on previous experiences here.

      She said from students attending schools in June, they learned what works and what doesn’t work on operational levels in the school system. She said there were introductions of some cases into schools in June but that public health was able to manage these cases without transmissions.

      “We are living with this virus for a long time so we need to work together, we need to use our imagination and innovation, and we need to work with kids and with the adults in our schools,” she said.

      When asked if delaying the start of school by two weeks would help, Henry said she thought that would only prolong some anxieties and that there are “good, solid plans in place”.

      Air travel

      While health authorities haven’t added any new potential community exposure incidents to their lists, the BCCDC has added three more flights connected with COVID-19.

      Two are international flights. One is Air India flight 1143 from Delhi, India, to Vancouver on August 5. The second is Aeromexico flight 696 from Mexico City to Vancouver on August 21.

      Affected rows weren’t specified for either of these flights.

      The third flight is domestic. Air Canada flight 250 from Vancouver to Edmonton on August 16. Anyone in rows 17 to 23 may have been affected.

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