What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. for Jan. 18

·6 min read

THE LATEST:

  • There have been 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 and 31 deaths in B.C. in the past three days.

  • The Sunday-to-Monday jump of 301 new cases is the lowest level of one-day growth since Nov. 3.

  • Active cases are at their lowest since Nov. 7.

  • There are currently 4,326 active cases in B.C.

  • 343 people are in hospital, with 68 in the ICU.

  • 13 of the new cases are associated with temporary farm workers who have come to B.C. for work.

  • An outbreak at McKinney Place, which was the deadliest outbreak in Interior Health, has been declared over.

  • 87,346 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

  • The deputy provincial health officer says B.C. is "prepared" to adjust its vaccine rollout in case of shipping delays.

  • Officials say consistency with existing public health measures like handwashing and physical distancing will help ward off new variants of the coronavirus.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says outbreaks are slowing in B.C. and the province is at a "tipping point" that she feels positive about.

"Clearly the things we are doing in our community are working," Henry said Monday, acknowledging that outbreaks continue in essential workplaces and long-term care homes.

B.C.'s curve has started to bend down again following a bump after the holidays, but health officials are warning British Columbians to keep following public health measures as they watch for two confirmed coronavirus variants in the province.

Henry said that while B.C.'s numbers continue to slowly trend in the right direction, the risk of transmission remains high in all areas of the province.

B.C. 'prepared' for vaccine delays

The federal government on Friday announced Pfizer is temporarily reducing shipments of its vaccine in order to expand manufacturing capacity at a facility in Belgium. The move means there will be fewer shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech coming to Canada until at least March.

Henry and Dix said they were disappointed to hear about the delay. On Monday, Deputy Provincial Health Officer Reka Gustafson said the change will mean a drop in vaccinations in B.C., but added the news was not surprising.

"This will mean that, for a brief period of time, we will be able to administer fewer doses of the vaccine because we will have fewer doses of vaccine, but we are also assured that this temporary slowdown is to ensure there is increased production as those weeks pass," Gustafson told CBC's The Early Edition.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

"It's something we planned for. In a worldwide vaccination campaign, we expect fluctuations in supply and we are prepared to change our vaccination campaign to respond."

A total of 75,914 people have been vaccinated in B.C. so far. For those people who are awaiting their second dose of the vaccine after already receiving their first, Gustafson said the plan "is still to provide the second dose within 35 days."

B.C. monitoring new variants

Public health officials are also monitoring new variants of the novel coronavirus, including those first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Gustafson suspects variants have been playing a role in B.C.'s pandemic for some time.

"Variants of this virus have likely emerged throughout the pandemic and are probably a big part of the story of why some areas have very big outbreaks while other areas have smaller outbreaks," Gustafson said.

"The variants are what we expect. We are going to be detecting them more as our capacity to do genomic sequences throughout the world expands."

Gustafson said it's key that the public sticks to existing health measures such as handwashing and physical distancing.

"From an individual's perspective, really, there is at this time no indication that the things we do to prevent transmission of this virus don't work [with variants] ... there is no indication people need to do anything different," she said.

"I would suggest doing what we're doing right now and doing it consistently."

Weekend fines issued

On Saturday, Kelowna RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the organizer of a protest in the city's downtown area. Police did not name the organizer but said it was the third time that person organized a large gathering of people who oppose measures meant to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

@pinklady_ktown
@pinklady_ktown

Also on Saturday, organizers of a planned rally in Surrey in support of farmers in India said the event was unfairly shut down before it could begin.

Surrey RCMP said they moved to shut down the protest upon hearing that it would feature a stage and food vendors, which raised concerns about people leaving their vehicles and congregating.

B.C.'s current health restrictions are in effect until at least Feb. 5 at midnight. The current orders include a ban on gatherings with people outside of one's immediate household.

Tourism industry angst

B.C.'s tourism industry said that implementing an inter-provincial travel plan would decimate what's left of the sector's operators, as B.C. Premier John Horgan seeks legal advice on the feasibility of a travel ban between provinces.

The B.C. Hotel Association is urging the government to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19.

It said that an inter-provincial, non-essential travel ban goes against Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If put in place, the association said it would further cripple a sector that is "barely hanging on by a thread."

A non-essential travel advisory remains in place in B.C., including travel into and out of B.C., and between regions.

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What's happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 5 p.m. PT on Sunday, Canada had reported 708,609 cases of COVID-19, with 75,280 cases considered active.

A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,014.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Loss of taste or smell.

  • Headache.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.

  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.