COVID-19 in B.C.: New and active cases hit record highs, 10 schools report cases, and new gargle test for children

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      Unfortunately, new and active COVID-19 case counts continue to climb to new heights in B.C.

      There are also two new healthcare outbreaks, six flights and two Metro Vancouver stores confirmed cases, and 10 schools have reported cases.

      Meanwhile, a new and more comfortable means of collecting test samples is being introduced in B.C. for children.

      Daily update: September 17

      At a news conference in Vancouver, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced some unfortunate news: B.C. set a new record with 165 new cases today (which includes two epi-linked cases). The previous high was 139 cases on September 10.

      The number of active cases continues to ascend. At the moment, there are 1,705 active cases (up 91 cases from yesterday’s 1,614 active cases), which is also a new record.

      Hospitalized cases are slightly down to 57 people today in hospital (three less patients than yesterday), with 22 of those patients in intensive care units (one less than yesterday).

      Of these patients, B.C. Health Minister Dix said that there are 26 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 23 in Fraser Health, seven in Northern Health, and one in Island Health.

      The number of people being monitored by public health also continues to decrease—down from 2,966 people yesterday to 2,949 people today.

      Unfortunately, one new death was announced, bringing the total number of fatalities to 220 people who have died from COVID-19-related causes during the pandemic.

      A total of 5,719 people have recovered from the virus.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 7,663 cases, which includes 3,937 cases in Fraser Health, 2,714 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 489 in Interior Health, 241 in Northern Health, 196 in Island Health, and 85 people who live outside Canada.

      Unfortunately, there are two new healthcare outbreaks. Both are in acute care units in Fraser Health, one at Delta Hospital and the other at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock.

      Fraser Health declared the Delta Hospital outbreak on September 16, stating that two patients tested positive in one unit, which has been temporarily closed to admissions. Enhanced cleaning and contact tracing is underway.

      Accordingly, there are 16 active outbreaks in healthcare (11 in longterm care facilities and five in acute care facilities), with a total cumulative number of 802 cases (478 residents and 324 staff) involved in healthcare outbreaks during the pandemic.

      Meanwhile, Dix also said that B.C. conducted a record number of tests during the pandemic on September 16: a total of 7,674 tests.

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

      Stores and flights

      Loblaw has reported two of its stores in the Lower Mainland have staff who have tested positive.

      An employee who tested positive last worked at the Westgate Centre location of Shoppers Drug Mart (20395 Lougheed Higway) in Maple Ridge on September 3.

      Meanwhile, a staff member at the Real Canadian Superstore (7559 King George Highway) in Surrey, who tested positive, last worked there on September 11.

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has added two international and four domestic flights confirmed with COVID-19:

      • September 11: Aeromexico 696, from Mexico City to Vancouver;
      • September 11: Lufthansa 492, from Frankfurt to Vancouver;
      • September 11: Air Canada 8328, from Vancouver to Winnipeg;
      • September 11: WestJet 133, from Calgary to Vancouver;
      • September 12: WestJet 711, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • September 13: WestJet 711, Toronto to Vancouver.

      For affected row information, visit the BCCDC webpage for public exposures.

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

      Cases at schools

      As announced yesterday, provincial health authorities have begun reporting potential exposure incidents at schools.

      Fraser Health reported eight exposure events in schools.

      One was at an exposure incident at Delta Secondary on September 11.

      Two were at private schools: Khalsa School (elementary school at Old Yale Road location) on September 1 and 4, and Khalsa Secondary School in Surrey on September 9 and 10.

      Five incidents were at public schools in Surrey:

      • Johnston Heights Secondary from September 8 to 11;
      • Panorama Ridge Secondary on September 8;
      • Sullivan Heights Secondary on September 8;
      • William Watson Elementary on September 10;
      • Princess Margaret Secondary on September 11.

      Interior Health listed Stanley Humphries Secondary School in Castlegar had one student on September 11 who has tested positive.

      Northern Health listed École Frank Ross Elementary in Dawson Creek with an exposure event from September 10 to 11.

      There weren’t any exposure incidents at schools reported in Island Health or Vancouver Coastal Health.

      New gargle test for children

      A new made-in-B.C. method of collecting samples for testing—one of the first of its kind in the world—is being introduced for testing school-aged children.

      As an alternative to collecting samples from the nose with swabs, children and youth swish and gargle sterile salt water before spitting it into a tube, or by using a swab to collect a sample from their nose.

      The nose swab is used for younger children or those who are unable to follow the swish, gargle, and spit instructions.

      The BCCDC adds that children can practice at home how to swish, gargle, and spit.

      Henry said that this new method will be more efficient because it doesn’t take as long to do as the nasal swab test.

      However, due to limited supplies, she said they are focussing on children because “we know right now it’s going to be very critical for children if they start showing symptoms of COVID-19 and they’re in a school setting, many of them will need to get tested so it’s a way to try and facilitate that and make that easier right now.”

      She said that this collection method needs to be done at a health centre assessment centre. In addition, she explained that the test itself remains the same but this is a different means of collecting samples.

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