B.C. extends public health orders to Jan. 8, 2021

·3 min read

Public health orders aiming to reduce transmission of COVID-19 are remaining in place until the new year.

While the limited doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in B.C. next week, the fight is not yet over according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Henry extended the Public Gatherings and Events order — which prohibited B.C. residents from social gatherings outside of their immediate household — until midnight on Jan. 8, 2021.

“I understand that for many of us this will mean celebrating the coming important holidays in a different and smaller way than what we may be used to,” Henry said. “We can, though, still be festive, we can still connect with family and with friends in a safe and virtual way in many cases.”

New exceptions to the order prohibiting gatherings and events include drive-in or drive-thru drop off events.

“We know that in some occasions we have either drive-thru to look at lights where people do not get out of their cars or to drop off, at this time of year we’ve seen toy drives and others,” Henry said.

Drive-in events are allowed with a maximum of 50 cars and physical distancing and entry/exit controls are still expected to be in place.

The rate of increase in cases has been steep in the past month in B.C., however, Henry said there has been a recent a levelling off of case counts — which she attributes to recent public health restrictions.

“This shows that what we are doing, the measures we have put in place are starting to have an effect, and starting to work. This means that what you are doing every day is making a difference, but we are not yet through this storm and we cannot let up now,” Henry said.

B.C. saw 647 new cases of COVID-19 from Friday to Saturday, 726 new cases from Saturday to Sunday and 647 cases from Sunday to Monday for a total of 2,020 new cases in the province over the weekend.

Of those, 203 new cases were identified in the Interior Health region.

As of Monday, there are 9,380 active cases province-wide, 349 of whom are in hospital, and 77 of whom are in and intensive care unit.

There are 10,747 people under active public health monitoring in B.C. and there were 35 deaths over past three days, for a total of 527 deaths in B.C. since the beginning of the pandemic.

B.C. also saw six new healthcare facility outbreaks over the weekend including McKinney Place in Oliver and Village by the Station in Penticton. There are currently 57 active outbreaks in long term care or assisted living province wide.

In B.C., there are 1,697 active cases in long-term care, 1,073 of which are residents and 605 of which are staff.

Henry started off the Monday COVID-19 update with some ostensibly good news, B.C. expects to receive its first delivery of Pfizer vaccine.

“It will be a start of a program, a very important start, but just a small amount to start with to ensure that we get our logistics going, but our ability to start protecting elders and seniors, particularly in our care homes and the health care workers who care for them will be an important step forward in our COVID-19 struggle,” Henry said.

Later this week the province will provide a full briefing on the vaccines and B.C.’s approach to the “complex and challenging” initiative.

Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle