COVID-19 update for Oct. 15: New ‘circuit-breaker’ restrictions introduced in northern B.C. | 10 deaths feared in outbreak at Burnaby care home | 580 new cases, nine deaths | B.C.’s vaccine cards hit with constitutional challenge

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the new measures are meant to stop transmission and save lives. The new rules covers the entire health region, except for areas including Terrace and Kitimat that had high rates of vaccination, effective Oct. 15 until Nov. 19.

  • Personal gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only.
  • Indoor personal gatherings are limited to five vaccinated people, while outdoor personal gatherings are limited to 25.
  • All indoor and outdoor organized events, such as weddings and parties, will require a COVID-19 safety plan and masks. Guests also have to be fully vaccinated. These indoor organized events are capped at 50, while outdoor events are capped at 100.
  • In-person worship services are closed, and will be limited to virtual services only

On Wednesday, the province reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health Region and three deaths. There are 689 active cases in the region of about 300,000 people, which is only 32 fewer than currently active in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, a region that serves 1.25 million people.

10 deaths feared in outbreak at Burnaby care home

A COVID-19 outbreak at a Burnaby long-term care facility includes 90 cases and a death toll that’s expected to rise.

Out of the 90 infections at the Willingdon Care Centre in Burnaby, 69 are among residents in the 95-bed facility, while 21 cases involve staff, according to the most recent data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Three residents have died. On Thursday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said due to a delay in reporting, he expects the number of deaths to rise to 10 in the coming days.

Dix said there has been a number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, particularly in Interior Health, but the outbreak at Willingdon Care Centre is “by a significant margin, our most significant outbreak.”

Fraser Health declared an outbreak at the care home just over two weeks ago, on Sept. 28, when one resident tested positive. By Oct. 5, 39 residents and six staff have contracted the virus.

-Cheryl Chan

B.C.’s vaccine cards hit with constitutional challenge

In what may be a first for B.C., two women with physical disabilities have filed a constitutional challenge to the provincial government’s COVID-19 vaccine cards.

But a former B.C. attorney-general asked to comment on the case cautioned that Charter rights are not absolute and the government would likely argue that any infringement of the petitioners’ rights would be justified to prevent further harm caused by the pandemic.

The B.C. Supreme Court petition filed by Sarah Webb and Leigh Anne Eliason seeks a number of court orders including an injunction staying the legal effect or enforcement of the vaccine card orders.

Webb, a 39-year-old mother of two who lives and works in both Victoria and Calgary, says she got her first COVID-19 vaccine shot on May 2 but developed a reaction that included fatigue, cramping, heart arrhythmia and severe pain.

Read more HERE.

-Keith Fraser

B.C. ski resorts scramble to recruit winter workforce thinned out by COVID travel restrictions

Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna saw a surprising flurry of job applicants following the Thanksgiving long weekend to fill some of the 650 positions it’s trying to fill for the upcoming ski season, not that it takes any pressure off senior vice-president Michael Ballingall.

In a normal year, Big White would get five to six applicants for every position it offers, this year, deep in B.C.’s fourth wave of COVID-19, “we don’t have one-to-one,” Ballingall said, which is currently typical across a lot of ski resorts in the province.

Skiing proved to be a popular outdoor outlet for a lot of British Columbians during the first waves of the pandemic, which has resorts banking on another solid season.

Recruiting, however, remains a challenge as earlier COVID-related travel restrictions still make it difficult to secure the usual pool of snow-seeking foreign visitors that resorts traditionally relied on to fill out their workforce, and resorts compete with all other hospitality businesses to hire from an increasingly thin local labour pool.

Read more HERE.

-Derrick Penner

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