What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. for March 29

·5 min read
Health-care workers provide COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines at a drive-thru clinic in Central Park in Burnaby, B.C., on March 26.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Health-care workers provide COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines at a drive-thru clinic in Central Park in Burnaby, B.C., on March 26. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

THE LATEST:

  • Officials have implemented new measures to restrict indoor dining, indoor group fitness and worship services.

  • From Friday to Monday there were 2,518 cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

  • Six new deaths were recorded.

  • A total of 299 people are in hospital with 79 of those in intensive care.

  • A total of 1,455 people have died in B.C. of COVID-19

  • Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending a pause in the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for those under the age of 55 because of safety concerns.

  • Teachers' associations from across the Vancouver Coastal Health region are demanding better mask policies in schools.

B.C. Premier John Horgan joined Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix at a Monday briefing to introduce sweeping new restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants, group fitness and worship services as COVID-19 cases surge.

Calling it a three-week "circuit breaker"-style lockdown, all food and liquor-serving premises must pivot to takeout or delivery service. Indoor dining is suspended, though patios will remain open.

People dining on patios should do so with their immediate household or core bubble only.

Indoor, adult group fitness activities of any kind are paused.

A previous announcement allowing for limited indoor worship services has been suspended.

Public health guidance for schools has also been amended and now encourages students down to Grade 4 to wear masks while at school.

The news comes as Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) paused the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for those under the age of 55 because of safety concerns.

B.C. had plans to use the AstraZeneca vaccine to immunize around 300,000 front line workers.

Dr. Bonnie Henry at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on March 1.
Dr. Bonnie Henry at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on March 1.(Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Teachers demand better mask policies

On Monday, teachers' associations from the seven municipalities in the Vancouver Coastal Health region demanded stronger mask policies be implemented in their schools, similar to what Surrey has done.

The president of the Richmond Teachers' Association said the group is calling on Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to allow regional health authorities or individual school boards to expand the mask-wearing mandate locally.

"We see this as a logical response to rising case numbers, especially the variants of concern. Given the latest news about vaccinations, we feel we need to do everything we can to mitigate a COVID-19 resurgence or a third wave," said Liz Baverstock.

Surrey schools mask up

As students returned to school Monday following the spring break, Surrey school district's expanded mask mandate in schools now requires all students in grades 4-12 to wear a mask at their desk.

For students in kindergarten to Grade 3, the district encourages mask wearing. The new directive applies to staff in all grades.

The district says exceptions will be made for anyone unable to wear a face covering, or those who can't put on or remove a face covering on their own.

Exceptions will also be made when a person is eating or drinking and for teachers providing instruction more than two metres away from others.

Getting the jab

People in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions aged 73 and older — i.e., born in 1948 or earlier — are now able to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

Those living on the Sunshine Coast or in Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton and Bowen Island are able to book if they are aged 70 and up, or born in 1951 or earlier.

Indigenous people aged 55 and older — born in 1966 or earlier — are also eligible to book.

Nurses administer COVID-19 vaccinations to at-risk people in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver on March 16.
Nurses administer COVID-19 vaccinations to at-risk people in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver on March 16. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

While the age eligibility varies for other parts of the province, it is 74 and up for the Island Health and Northern Health regions.

Some vulnerable people who have received a letter from the province will also be able to begin booking vaccine appointments on Monday.

As of Friday, 637,856 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., of which 87,233 are second doses

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What's happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 7:30 p.m. PT Sunday, Canada had reported 965,404 cases of COVID-19, with 43,590 cases considered active.

A total of 22,880 people have died of the disease.

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 at least two metres away from people outside your bubble. 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.