VICTORIA — British Columbia reported one new community outbreak of COVID-19 on Thursday at a construction site for a water treatment facility in the Interior Health region.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are seven cases in the outbreak, and that six of the workers live in Alberta.
The province reported 68 additional cases of COVID-19 and one death, bringing the total number of fatalities to 204.
B.C. now has 5,372 confirmed cases while 4,253 people have recovered from the infection.
Health officials also released a map showing the spread of the illness in the province, with most of the infections in the Lower Mainland.
"Virtually every part of our province has been touched by COVID-19," Henry said.
She said the map is one more part of the puzzle in understanding the virus.
"It doesn't tell the whole story of course. It is one piece of information that can help people at a community level."
Serum testing shows the province has a "very low level of immunity" at around one to 1.5 per cent, Henry said.
"The challenge that we have is we don't know for sure what antibodies actually mean," she said. "Does it mean that we have long lasting immunity? Do we have to have a certain level of antibodies to be protected from reinfection?"
She said the number of people affected by COVID-19 in B.C. remains "quite low."
Earlier this month, The World Health Organization said the planet has nowhere near the amount of coronavirus immunity needed to induce herd immunity, where enough of the population would have antibodies to stop the spread.
Herd immunity is typically achieved with vaccination and most scientists estimate at least 70 per cent of the population must have antibodies to prevent an outbreak. But some experts have suggested that even if half the population had immunity, there might be a protective effect.
WHO's emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan largely dismissed that theory at a press briefing on Aug. 18, saying we should not live "in hope" of achieving herd immunity.
Giving a breakdown of the exposure in British Columbia, Henry said about a third of COVID-19 cases are related to events like parties, clubs and nightclubs; a third are related to transmission within families and community groups including workplaces; and, about a third are related to outbreaks in long-term care homes.
Health officials also reported B.C.'s first cases of suspect multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and adolescents on Thursday.
All eight cases were diagnosed by specialist pediatricians at BC Children's Hospital between March and August and all have recovered. All of them also tested negative for COVID-19 and had no known contact with reported cases.
Two of the children — five boys and three girls with a median age of four — required treatment in an intensive care unit, Henry said, adding they were admitted because of concerns around inflammation of the heart, blood vessels and shock-like syndrome.
"The reason I'm bringing it up today is because we will be reporting it to the public health agency to be part of the global data on this condition and trying to understand it better," she said.
Early on, it was called a Kawasaki-like syndrome, which has been known to health professionals, she said. Symptoms include prolonged fever, red eyes, skin rash, belly pain, vomiting or diarrhea.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2020.
— By Hina Alam in Vancouver.
The Canadian Press