COVID-19 in B.C.: Exposure at camping event, small gathering concerns, and flights and eateries with cases

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      Although the bad news is that the number of active COVID-19 cases and new cases increased, the good news is that there were decreases or no cases reported in other areas.

      Meanwhile, there was an exposure incident at a camping event in the West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C., and several more flights and food and beverage establishments have been confirmed with cases.

      Also, while much focus has been on large parties, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are now raising concerns about an increase in new cases stemming from small gatherings. 

      In other COVID-19 news in B.C., a coalition of First Nations has formed to ask the B.C. government to provide them with COVID-19 case information, and the B.C. Teachers' Federation is pressing for further changes and health measures in schools.

      Daily update: September 16

      In a joint statement for today’s B.C. COVID-19 update, Henry and Dix announced 122 new cases (including five epi-linked cases), which is approaching levels reported on the weekend (the record high is 139 cases on September 10).

      Currently, there are 1,614 active cases, which is up from yesterday’s 1,590 active cases.

      However, the number of hospitalized cases has finally dropped slightly, from 63 patients yesterday to 60 individuals today (23 of those people in intensive care units).

      The number of people public health is monitoring (due to exposure to confirmed cases) decreased again, from 3,001 people yesterday to 2,966 people today.

      The good news is that there aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks (leaving active outbreaks in 11 longterm care facilities and three acute care facilities) and also no new community outbreaks.

      Thankfully, there aren’t any new deaths. A total of 219 people have died of COVID-19-related causes in B.C. during the pandemic.

      A cumulative total of 5,646 people who tested positive are now considered fully recovered.

      A total of 7,498 cases have been reported during the pandemic in B.C., including:

      • 2,660 in Vancouver Coastal Health;

      • 3,835 in Fraser Health;

      • 485 in Interior Health;

      • 237 in Northern Health;

      • 195 in Island Health;

      • 85 cases of people live outside Canada.

      Exposure incidents

      Interior Health issued a public bulletin today that potential COVID-19 exposure occurred on September 12 and 13 at a group camping event at the Bombi Summit held between Castlegar and Salmo.

      Approximately 150 people attended the event. All participants are asked to monitor themselves for 14 days after the attendance date while reducing contact with others. Anyone who develops symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call 811 for testing information.

      Interior Health stated that although a case hasn’t been confirmed yet to be in attendance, the notice was issued as “the possibility of COVID-19 exposure is increased significantly when large groups gather”.

      In addition, provincial health guidelines set a maximum of 50 people for all events.

      Meanwhile in Vancouver, Brewhall (97 East 2nd Avenue), a craft brewery and eatery in the Olympic Village area, announced on September 10 that they were informed of a potential exposure incident involving a guest who had visited from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. on September 5.

      The establishment voluntarily closed as a precaution although Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) deemed the incident low risk to staff and the public. The server for the affected table tested negative and after VCH completed contact tracing, Brewhall reopened on September 11.

      On the same day, its nearby sibling operation, the Olympic Village location of Tap and Barrel (75 Athletes Way), announced that a staff member tested positive. The individual was last on the premises on September 9 from 4 to 10:30 p.m.

      Similarly, VCH also deemed the risk low. The location voluntarily closed but reopened on September 13.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has also added four domestic flights and one international flight confirmed with COVID-19 to its list:

      • September 3: Air Canada 116, from Vancouver to Toronto;

      • September 6: Air Transat 771, from  Vancouver to Montreal;

      • September 6: United Airlines 5351, from San Francisco to Vancouver;

      • September 8: Air Canada 116, from Vancouver to Toronto;

      • September 13: Air Canada 112, from Vancouver to Toronto.

      For affected row information, see the BCCDC website.

      The BCCDC also stated that a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver on September 1 that was confirmed with COVID-19 and previously listed (on September 14) as flight 761 has since been corrected to flight 492.

      Anyone on these flights or in the affected rows should follow the guidance previously mentioned. 

      Small gatherings

      While large parties and events have been a major focal point of concern over the past few months, Henry and Dix said In a joint statement for today’s B.C. COVID-19 update that over the past few weeks, many new cases are being linked to small gatherings “where people see different groups of friends on different days—inadvertently spreading the virus to many people”.

      As Henry has stated in the past, keeping group numbers small doesn’t mean seeing lots of different people in small groups on different dates—the total number of social contacts need to remain limited as well.

      Dix had previously asked everyone to “stick to six”, for a maximum of six people for social contacts.

      Henry and Dix also advised against stigmatizing others who test positive, as that may prevent other cases being located. 

      "It doesn't help to shame and blame those in our communities who have the virus, because it quite often discourages others from coming forward and getting tested, putting all of us at risk,” they said. "Rather, we need to show compassion and care, not judgment, when there is a new case in our community.”

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