COVID-19 update for Dec. 30: 2,944 new cases, five deaths | School return delayed by a week | B.C. nurses demand province provide N95 masks to prevent Omicron spread

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Dec. 30, 2021.

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We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.

Check back here for more updates throughout the day. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on Dec. 29:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 246,671 (16,014)
• New cases: 2,944
• Total deaths: 2,419 (five deaths over past five days)
• Hospitalized cases: 206
• Intensive care: 66
• Total vaccinations: 4,384,402 received first dose; 4,129,587 second doses; 858,774 third doses
• Recovered from acute infection as of Dec. 23: 227,780
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: Seven

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IN-DEPTH:   Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus in 2021 | in 2020


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: B.C.’s vaccine passport is here and this is how it works

COVID-19: Here’s how to get your vaccination shot in B.C.

COVID-19: Look up your neighbourhood in our interactive map of case and vaccination rates in B.C.

COVID-19: Afraid of needles? Here’s how to overcome your fear and get vaccinated

COVID-19: Five things to know about the P1 variant spreading in B.C.

COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.

Return to class delayed for B.C.’s K-12 students

Return to class for students in B.C. public schools has been postponed until Jan. 10, as the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus accelerates aggressively across the province.

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On Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that teachers would return to school on the scheduled date of Jan. 4, but most students would not be allowed back until the following week.

Henry said the time was needed for teachers to ensure classrooms were safe for students and that extra COVID precautions were in place. She said the Jan. 10 return date would not be extended.

Enhanced safety measures include pausing extracurricular sports tournaments and plans to control crowding at schools, such as through staggered recess and break times. School gatherings such as assemblies and staff meetings will be held virtually. Visitors to schools will be limited to those supporting activities that directly benefit learning and well-being, including meal program volunteers.

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Huge jump in Omicron variant cases not reflected in hospitalizations

There were just over 100 people admitted to hospital over the past five days suffering from COVID-19, despite as many as 50,000 new cases of the disease appearing in B.C. over the same period.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 2,944 new cases of COVID-19 over the past day, as Omicron variant infection accelerates throughout the province.

She said that the true number of new cases in the community was between three and four times that many (which is around 10,000). This is because the testing capacity in the system is tapped out at around 20,000 tests per day, rapid tests results are generally not reported and people are being advised not to test if they feel sick (just assume you have COVID-19, Henry says).

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This means that the number of active cases being reported (16,014) is also well under the true number of active cases in the community, despite that number jumping by 5,599 since Dec. 24.

However, latest data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows 107 people were admitted to hospital in B.C. from Dec. 24 to Tuesday (12,746 to 12,853) suffering from COVID-19. There are currently 206 people with an active case of the disease in hospital, including 66 in intensive care.

B.C. nurses demand province provide N95 masks to prevent Omicron spread

The union representing B.C. nurses is calling on the Ministry of Health to update rules to allow health-care workers easier access to N95 respirators, saying the province’s policy on personal protective equipment puts workers and patients at risk.

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Dannette Thomsen, interim vice-president of the B.C. Nurses Union, said nurses feel unsafe at work and she has heard from hundreds of colleagues about their struggles to get proper equipment.

“We see paramedics and firefighters bringing people into emergency rooms and they have N95s. They have full face shields and they’re handing off to a nurse with a surgical mask,” she said. “It’s beyond comprehension to me as to why that nurse does not deserve the same protection.”

Currently, nurses and other health-care workers are issued surgical masks to wear during their shifts. If they want to upgrade to an N95 mask, they must go through a point-of-care assessment to ensure all other safety measures are in place. A supervisor then decides whether an N95 is warranted. Thomsen said there is no consistency in how those decisions are made, and many nurses are being refused their requests for an N95 mask or other protective gear.

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—Lisa Cordasco

Metro Vancouver hits testing capacity crunch as sites close due to cold

Vancouver Coastal Health is urging only those at high risk from COVID-19 to get tested as centres are swamped and several are being forced to close due to B.C.’s unusually cold weather.

The emergence of the Omicron variant is driving a surge in cases, especially in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, leading to long lines and delays at most testing centres. To make matters worse, Vancouver Coastal (VCH) and Fraser Health closed testing sites this week due to the cold.

“Due to hazardous weather conditions, VCH has temporarily suspended operations at the St. Vincent and YVR testing sites and is redirecting people to alternate testing locations,” the health authority said in a series of tweets Tuesday afternoon.

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With that decision, VCH also suggested people who aren’t at high risk should self-isolate if they have symptoms — but not go for a test.

“As a temporary measure to preserve testing capacity for those at higher risk from COVID-19, people do not need to get a test if they are fully vaccinated, have mild symptoms and are able to self-isolate until symptoms improve.”

—Joseph Ruttle

If Canada has more than 107 million COVID rapid tests, why can’t I get one?

As COVID-19 case counts kept soaring this week, booster shots and rapid tests were all many Canadians wanted for Christmas.

Given their general scarcity, most were left out of luck. So how, nearly two years into the pandemic, did we get here?

When it comes to booster shots, the new Omicron variant emerged and exploded quickly, as Canada’s focus was on vaccinating kids, experts say.

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Canadians scrambling to get their hands on rapid tests are likely wondering where the 88.8 million tests the federal government says it has distributed to the provinces are. The answer to that question is slightly more complicated.

As of Dec. 10, the federal government had received 107.6 million tests and sent 88.8 million of those to the provinces and territories. About 76.6 per cent had been forwarded by the provinces on to their final destination, the final “point-of-care setting” where they will be administered. In a press conference Dec. 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will deliver 35 million tests in December, with “tens and tens of millions more rapid tests arriving in the coming weeks into the New Year.”

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As Canadians in provinces like Ontario were standing in line for hours trying to get rapid tests, Trudeau said getting them in the hands of Canadians is a “matter of provincial and territorial distribution.”

Read more HERE.

—Anja Karadeglija


B.C. MAP OF WEEKLY COVID CASE COUNTS, VACCINATION RATES

Find out how your neighbourhood is doing in the battle against COVID-19 with the latest number of new cases, positivity rates, and vaccination rates:


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

–with files from The Canadian Press

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