By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry extended the social gathering and event rules in BC for another month, through midnight Jan. 8.
BC continues to have “very high levels of transmission and community spread,” she said.
While some regions are starting to see a leveling of new cases, other regions—specifically the Interior and Northern areas of the province—are seeing increasing rates. Henry said hundreds of people are hospitalized and though they are receiving care safely, “it is straining our system.”
In addition to the order prohibiting gatherings and events, Henry said outdoor adult team sports will remain prohibited, as well as group fitness classes that were previously restricted. WorkSafe BC teams are working to enhance restrictions in some areas.
She did provide an exception for drive-through events, including those that display holiday lights and those that collect donations. Events where people drive in and remain in their vehicles can happen as long as there are a maximum of 50 cars.
In addition to extending restrictions, Henry announced 2,020 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend. From Friday to Saturday there were 647 new cases, from Saturday to Sunday 726, and in the last 24 hours a further 647. Ten of the weekend’s cases are epidemiologically linked. BC’s cumulative case total is now at 38,152.
Of the weekend’s new cases, 304 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (including Richmond), 1,362 in the Fraser Health region, 45 in the Island Health region, 203 in the Interior Health region and 106 in the Northern Health region. There were 35 new deaths over the weekend, and 10,747 are people being monitored by public health across the province.
Active cases have reached another record high of 9,380 cases. Hospitalizations continue to rise, with 349 people in hospital across BC and 77 of those people in critical care. Last week, two COVID-19 patients were transferred from Prince George to Vancouver Island to free up beds in the north.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said BC’s hospitals are nearing base bed capacity in some regions. With additional surge bed capacity, all healthcare regions are still above 50 per cent of hospital capacity.
Henry announced six new healthcare outbreaks and declared five over. There remain 65 active outbreaks in the healthcare sector, including 57 in long-term care or assisted living facilities and eight in acute care units. Two more units at Richmond Hospital—3 South and 6 North—have been added to the outbreak declared there last week. There are 1,697 active cases related to healthcare outbreaks, including 1,073 residents and 605 staff members.
A new community outbreak was declared at a mink farm in the Fraser Health region. Henry said this outbreak is of great concern to public health, as other parts of the world have seen transmissions between humans and mink and potential mutations of the virus.
Henry also said the first delivery of Pfizer vaccine doses will happen next week, which is an important start to BC’s vaccination program. Later this week, she and other provincial officials will give more information on the vaccine plan in BC.
With the holiday season approaching, Henry said people should connect virtually so BC can “keep our strained healthcare system open and functioning for all of us.”
“We cannot afford to have a rebound and have increased numbers of people being sick and ending up in hospital over the next few weeks.”
For COVID-19 exposure events, updates and information by health authority, click here.
For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.
(Edited for grammar and clarity)