Category "Health"

23Jan

COVID-19: B.C. health care needs to be ‘reimagined’ as pandemic hits two-year mark, experts say

by admin

“Never, never in my wildest nightmare did I think that we would still be in this and worse, actually, than it was in the beginning,” says Prince George nurse Tracey Jonker.

Article content

Prince George registered nurse Tracey Jonker is dreading a return to work on the COVID ward at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. after a break to fulfil other duties since October, when the Delta wave of the virus was filling beds.

Advertisement

Article content

The hospital isn’t as busy with the Omicron variant, but she expects that won’t last. With all previous waves of COVID-19, nurses in the North had the benefit of watching cases rise elsewhere, giving them a few weeks to brace for the wave of hospitalizations to break at their hospital.

“Never, never in my wildest nightmare did I think that we would still be in this and worse, actually, than it was in the beginning,” Junker, a nurse of 17 years, said as the second anniversary of COVID-19’s arrival in B.C. approaches.

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived with its first known case in B.C. on Feb. 1, 2020, and hit an already understaffed health-care system in which Jonker and her colleagues were “working short every day.”

“You just feel like you’ve aged so much during this, it has been beyond stressful,” Jonker said.

Advertisement

Article content

Case counts are no longer reliable as a measure of the pandemic with B.C. reporting an average 2,100 new infections a day last week but with testing that has been limited to people older than 80, immune-compromised and others at high risk.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have become the marker that health officials use — and those hit a record 924 on Friday with 130 patients in intensive care.

Last week, regional health authorities cancelled or rescheduled non-urgent surgeries to cope with unplanned staff shortages caused largely by Omicron infections, just as they braced for patient admissions with Omicron.

In the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health authorities alone, those cancellations added up to 282 surgeries.

Advertisement

Article content

“To know that it’s going off 22 months (later), it’s mind blowing,” Jonker said.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a clinical associate professor in pediatrics in the University of B.C.’s faculty of medicine.
Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a clinical associate professor in pediatrics in the University of B.C.’s faculty of medicine. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /PNG

Dr. Bonnie Henry has hinted that the Omicron wave might soon crest based on modelling, but COVID-19 has already exhausted the system.

In a briefing Friday, the provincial health officer and Health Minister Adrian Dix detailed how B.C. will manage COVID-19, similar to how the province handles endemic respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.

“We cannot eliminate all risk, and I think that’s something that we need to understand as this virus has changed and has become part of what we will be living with for years to come,” Henry said.

Dix said that the number of health-care workers calling in sick eased last week, with 7,952 absences for the period between Jan. 17 to 19, compared to more than 11,000 for the period of Jan. 10 to 12, “which is a significant reduction, although significantly above (normal).”

Advertisement

Article content

“We’re committed to restoring all services that have been interrupted in the weeks to come,” Dix said.

But the system has a “staffing crisis” rather than shortage, said the B.C. Nurses’ Union president, Aman Grewal.

Two years into the pandemic, Grewal would like to see Dix focus on increasing capacity by adding more student spaces in nursing schools and expediting the recognition of foreign-trained nurses.

Nurses, Grewal said, are “just tired, they’re exhausted.”

“Many are suffering from PTSD and moral distress. When you are seeing death day in, day out, that has a significant affect your mental health.”

The pandemic has illustrated B.C.’s health care system needs to be “reimagined” in a way that gives the public confidence that it will have the surge capacity to handle such problems in the future, said Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a clinical associate professor in pediatrics in the University of B.C.’s faculty of medicine.

Advertisement

Article content

COVID-19 will persist in waves and none of what has happened should have taken authorities by surprise, Murthy said.

“People say Omicron was a surprise, Delta was surprise, but really they’re not,” Murthy said. “They’re exactly what should have been expected based on our global levels of vaccination.”

If B.C. had chosen to focus on hospital capacity, training new nurses, respiratory therapists and other professionals starting in 2020, they could have been in place for this 2022 surge, Murthy said.

“Obviously that would cost money. Obviously that would be a big deal,” Murthy said. “But if we had that foresight, we’d be in a much better place than we are right now.

Instead, “we sort of hoped that the pandemic would go away — and it hasn’t.”

Advertisement

Article content

There also needs to be a continued focus on vaccination in both B.C. and globally, said infectious disease expert Dr. Brian Conway.

“Globally, what’s going to hurt us right now is the vaccination rates that are occurring throughout the world,” said Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.

Vaccination rates in less-developed countries remain low enough that there are high levels of community spread of COVID-19, which is what causes he mutations that leads new variants.

“And that’s the one thing that could halt our recovery here,” Conway said. “So we have every interest to develop strategies to now vaccinate the world more efficiently.”

depenner@postmedia.com

twitter.com/derrickpenner


More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the Vancouver Sun or The Province.

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

23Jan

Daphne Bramham: Nurse’s dream of helping during COVID stymied by labyrinthine regulatory system

by admin

Nurse Emma Beaumont came home six months ago. But her dream to help during COVID has been stymied by a labyrinthine licensing system.

Article content

Canadian Emma Beaumont graduated in April with a nursing degree from Brigham Young University in Utah, wrote an internationally recognized licensing exam, and came home planning to join the COVID-19 battle.

Advertisement

Article content

But her dream has been stymied by Canada’s labyrinthine licensing system.

Six months after applying to have her credentials approved by the National Nursing Assessment Services, Beaumont is still waiting.

“I’m typically a very positive and optimistic individual,” Beaumont told me. “I try not to complain about a lot of things, and I realize things take time. But there have definitely been days where you are so tired and exhausted and frustrated with this process.”

On some of those days, she feels demoralized, more like a college dropout than a graduate with her career ahead of her. Her skills are getting rusty while her former classmates have been working and honing them for months.

Beaumont had a year left on her student visa and could have stayed. But the Abbotsford native chose to come home, after passing the U.S. National Council Licensure Examination — the same exam that Canadian nurses take after graduation.

Advertisement

Article content

“I felt this desire to come home and join the ranks at home on Canadian soil to help my own country, my own province, my community. … I anticipated this process (of getting licensed) only taking a few months.”

Certainly that’s what the Assessment Services website indicates. It says it typically takes 120 days. After filing all the documents on Aug. 5, Beaumont believed that.

She applied for and was offered a job in the orthopaedic trauma unit at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, pending her accreditation coming through. The job is still vacant and Beaumont is still waiting.

“I’ve never been given a straight answer (about why it’s taking so long),” she said.

“It’s been an exhausting process when you know you have the credentials and certifications, that you’re honest and you’re trying to go through the right process to get your license, and knowing that the health-care systems here are bleeding out and they’re begging for nurses to come join the ranks and they’re putting out advertisements to become health-care heroes.”

Advertisement

Article content

Unlike foreign-trained nurses, she didn’t need to take a language test. Her transcripts and documents are all in English, so no translation was required (for which the Assessment Service charges US$55 a page).

But here’s the ironic twist: Canada’s National Nursing Assessment Service doesn’t do the assessments. It only collects the documents, the US$650 application fee, and sends it to Philadelphia where the real work is done by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools.

The absurdity of her Utah documents being mailed to Ontario then back across the border so an American non-profit can rule on whether a 50-year-old, fully accredited U.S. nursing program is equivalent to a Canadian one isn’t lost on Beaumont.

Advertisement

Article content

In an emailed response to my questions, the Assessment Service executive-director, Gayle Waxman, insisted that 85 per cent of applications are assessed within 12 weeks.

She acknowledged that because of the recent “very high volume” of applications, there have been some delays, but all of those applicants had been notified.

Beaumont was one of them, although Waxman did not comment on why hers was taking so long.

Yet even after Assessment Service approval, internationally educated nurses still have to apply to the provincial or territorial College of Nurses, a process that can take anywhere from six weeks to more than a year.

For that application , Beaumont will once again have to gather most of the same documents — the Assessment Service doesn’t share — and submit them to the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives.

Advertisement

Article content

Because of the pandemic, B.C. does have a temporary emergency registration, and Beaumont may qualify for that. But under the regular process, foreign-trained nurses need to pay $3,000 to the Nursing Community Assessment Service in order to take a three-part written, oral and simulation test. The oral and simulation tests are only done at Langara College in Vancouver. The next set are scheduled for March 12.

Despite it all, Beaumont describes herself as lucky. She is living with family and working at the Surrey Women’s Centre while the process grinds along. For immigrants, the wait can be even more harrowing.

Recently, the frustrated Beaumont contacted Abbotsford-West Liberal MLA Mike de Jong. He has written to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, urging him follow Ontario’s lead. Earlier this month, Ontario activated close to 300 internationally educated nurses to work under supervision in hospitals, care homes and other health settings until they have proven their skills and abilities to be licensed.

Advertisement

Article content

Some were expected to be working within days of the announcement.

Dix has yet to respond to de Jong’s Jan. 13 letter.

Several times while we talked, Beaumont reiterated her respect for a process that upholds high standards. “We don’t want just any Joe Brown from off the street from wherever with no credentials coming and practicing as a nurse.”

What she wants for all applicants is a more efficient process.

“There are thousands of nurses in B.C. right now who have COVID and who are unable to go to work or who are still forced to go to work while being COVID positive,” said Beaumont. “It just begs the question: Couldn’t we use some more nurses to help? Wouldn’t that be a better solution?”

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

23Jan

COVID-19: Tools to combat Omicron remain unchanged as province shifts pandemic strategy, expert says

by admin

Wear a mask and distance in indoor public spaces, wash your hands often and stay home if you’re sick. Ventilation of indoor spaces is also important.

Article content

B.C. has changed its strategy on how it will manage COVID-19, shortening isolation times, tightening eligibility for testing and doing away with contact tracing.

Advertisement

Article content

The changes are taking place as the rapidly transmissible Omicron variant has exploded in B.C., but with evidence that it causes less severe illness in most people and a belief that the latest wave peaked earlier in January.

The changes have caused some confusion.

Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, say, however, that in the face of these changes, the tools to provide protection from infection have changed little.

Wear a mask and distance in indoor public spaces, wash your hands often and stay home if you’re sick. Ventilation of indoor spaces is also important.

If you’re not vaccinated for COVID, get vaccinated.

“I think the vaccination piece is going to continue to be key,” says Conway.

Advertisement

Article content

While vaccination rates are high in B.C., there are still several hundred thousand people who have chosen not get vaccinated, noted Conway.

And there are blank spots, he said.

As part of the work the infectious disease centre does, it canvassed a single room occupancy hotel in the Downtown Eastside where it found that 30 of 100 residents hadn’t been vaccinated even though health authorities believed they had very good coverage.

More than 10.3 million jabs have been delivered in the province, with 90 per cent of those 12 and older fully vaccinated with two doses.

“It’s a tremendous success but what we need is 15 million,” said Conway.

On Friday, in the province’s latest COVID briefing, provincial health officials noted that they continue to see a decrease and slowdown in coronavirus cases and “tentatively” a slowing down in hospital admissions.

Advertisement

Article content

However, officials noted that cases and hospitalizations remain high relative to previous levels during the pandemic.

A similar scenario is playing out in other provinces in Canada, including Ontario, and in some countries such as South Africa and the U.K.

B.C. modelling presented earlier this month showed hospitalizations dropping off to a handful of cases a day by mid-February.

As a result of Omicron, the province has made a number of changes in how it will manage the pandemic. Those include dropping contract tracing because of the variant’s shorter incubation period, dispensing with testing to anyone with symptoms and reducing to five the number of days people who have COVID should isolate unless symptoms persist.

Advertisement

Article content

Only those who are in high-risk groups — such as those 70-years-or-older or people who have compromised immune systems — are priority candidates for testing, provincial health officials have explained.

The latest data available shows Omicron  accounts for more than 96 per cent of cases, overtaking the previous Delta variant.

“I absolutely recognize this is a shift, and it means we have to change our way of thinking that we have been working on so intently together for the last two years,” says Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer.

COVID will now be managed much more like other respiratory illnesses such as the flu or even the common cold, said Henry.

Conway noted COVID hasn’t yet moved from the pandemic stage to an endemic illness were transmission level is lower, predictable and doesn’t overwhelm the health-care system.

Advertisement

Article content

There may be a better idea of when the endemic level might happen by the summer, said Conway.

He cautioned, however, that the worldwide vaccination rate is nowhere near where it needs to be to prevent new variants from emerging.

In Africa, most of the countries have rates of less than 20 per cent for at least one dose of vaccine. In India, for example, only about half of the population is fully vaccinated.

Conway said that this reality underscores the need for those who aren’t vaccinated in B.C. to do so.

ghoekstra@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordon_hoekstra


More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the Vancouver Sun or The Province.

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

22Jan

Daphne Bramham: Canada needs a better plan to solve health-care shortages

by admin

Opinion: It’s not only unethical for Canada to recruit health-care workers and then squander their talents, it’s bad for the national economy.

Article content

Without foreign-trained nurses, health-care aides and doctors, Canada’s health-care system would have collapsed decades ago.

Advertisement

Article content

Since the 1980s, the percentage of foreign-trained health-care workers in the country has remained relatively steady. Currently, immigrants account for nearly a third of nurses and care aides, and a quarter of all physicians.

These are a big wins for Canada and substantial, potentially devastating losses to source countries in Asia and Africa.

The Philippines, for example, is in a crisis. It has long been one of Canada’s primary sources of internationally educated nurses, and Saskatchewan is currently recruiting there. But by 2030, the World Health Organization predicts that there will be nearly 250,000 nursing jobs in the Philippines that will be unfilled.

In 2001, Canada’s active recruitment of doctors resulted in a rebuke from South Africa’s high commissioner. Within a year, the number of South African doctors working in Saskatchewan alone had doubled to 1,530. At the time, one in five doctors there was South African-trained.

Advertisement

Article content

This ethical dilemma of scarce human resources moving from poor countries with fragile health-care systems to benefit the wealthy was the reason behind the WHO’s 2010 Medical Recruitment Code of Practice .

Yet the riddle is itself embedded in the code’s stated principles.

Everyone has a right to the highest attainable standard of health. And all individuals, including health workers, have the right to migrate from one country to another in search of employment.

So which takes precedence?

Canada was among the first 193 countries to sign on to the code of practice. It was nothing more than well-intentioned window dressing. That’s because Canada doesn’t have a single health-care system — it has a patchwork of different systems run by the provinces and territories. It’s so decentralized that it was the reason Canada previously declined to sign a similar Commonwealth Medical Recruitment Code of Practice.

Advertisement

Article content

Ottawa’s powerlessness is reflected in the WHO’s 2014 assessment of the code’s efficacy . In four years, all Canada had done was “raise awareness of the code among foreign workers entering the country at embassies and high commissions.”

While the national government may not be actively seeking health-care workers, Canada’s immigration policies amount to passive recruitment.

Immigration applicants with medical training are given preference because of the shortages, while the live-in caregivers’ program offers a promise of permanent residency and has become a major pathway for Filipino nurses into Canada.

It’s hard to know exactly how many foreign-trained health-care workers are in Canada because the data only counts those currently working. The statistics don’t reflect the reality that there are hundreds, if not thousands, in Canada (including Canadians who trained abroad) sidelined as they wait for their credentials to be assessed.

Advertisement

Article content

Regulatory barriers are essential to ensuring Canadians get high-quality care. But it can take years and thousands of dollars to leap them, resulting in many — by necessity — taking lower-paid and lower-skilled jobs or moving to more welcoming countries.

Essentially, Canada is hoarding and squandering that potential in the midst of two crisis — a pandemic and a worldwide shortage of health-care workers.

By 2030, just eight years from now, the WHO forecasts a global shortage of 5.7 million nurses.

Regardless of whether Canada actively recruits or passively accepts them, Oxford research fellow Nazrul Islam wrote that it faces a moral dilemma because the outcome is the same — “a deleterious impact on the health-care system of the poorer ‘donor’ countries.” Islam’s paper was published in the International Journal of Health Policy and Management, while he was doing a doctorate at the University of B.C.

Advertisement

Article content

Rather than focusing on lessening the damage recruitment does in other countries, Islam said Canada’s “overarching interest” should reduce reliance on international medical graduates, train more of its own physicians, and do a better job of recruiting and retaining them for under-served, rural and remote communities.

His advice framed within an ethical context went largely unheeded.

Now that the pandemic has refocused attention on the problems, the solutions proposed are virtually the same. But they are offered from an economic rather than an ethical perspective.

“Large pools of talent remain under-utilized in Canada,” RBC Economics noted in December. Those pools included Indigenous people, women and immigrants.

Advertisement

Article content

Closing the immigrant employment and wage gap could potentially add $50 billion a year to Canada’s gross domestic product, while closing the participation gap for women who are already here would add 1.2 million to the workforce.

And it bears pointing out that 91 per cent of Canada’s registered nurses are women, as are 89 per cent of our care aides and nearly half of the country’s physicians.

The Conference Board of Canada has raised concerns about Canada’s ability to both fill essential jobs and provide “quality opportunities” for immigrants and temporary residents.

Noting that nearly 45 per cent of nurses’ aides, orderlies and “patient services associates” are over-qualified for the essential work that they are doing, it urged Canada to speed up the credentialing process, provide essential workers with better pay and benefits, and ensure that there is on-the-job “reskilling and upskilling”.

The conference board also said that immigration policies need to be realigned so that not only are there enough people to fill essential jobs, but they are right people with the right skills in the right jobs.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the Vancouver Sun or The Province.

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

22Jan

Is help is on the way for people in ‘horrendous’ homeless camp full of debris, despair, death?

by admin

Homelessness is more complex and dire on suburban streets. Mayors want money for supported housing. The province promised some aid this week.

Article content

A sea of debris surrounds the decrepit semi-trailer that Angel Massey hopes to call home, waves of soiled clothes and mismatched shoes, spilled macaroni, a rickety blue chair, and countless ruined dreams.

Advertisement

Article content

The friendly, soft-spoken woman repeatedly apologizes for the mess, both on the ground where she gingerly walks and inside the trailer, crammed full of stuff left behind by other homeless people: soggy blankets, rotten food, and mounds of feces, both human and animal.

After living on Abbotsford streets for two years, Massey hopes to clean out the mouldy metal box to create a home for herself — a home where flashlights are needed to pierce the darkness, it’s ‘freezing cold’ all day long, water comes from a hose attached to the building across the street, and meals must be delivered by an outreach organization.

Home sweet home? Not exactly. But the mother of nine kids, who said she was sober for a decade before she started using drugs again two years ago, insists there are no better options for her in Abbotsford with the $375 in rent money she gets from her monthly government assistance cheque.

Advertisement

Article content

“If you don’t think in the positive, you get stuck in the negative,” Massey says, her voice impossibly perky for the grim surroundings.

But then she appears to start fighting off tears, as she adds sombrely: “I’m a positive person, but I still have bad days.”

Massey’s new “home” is one of dozens of abandoned trailers, campers and derelict shelters on a gravel lot bordered by Highway 1, a Walmart Supercentre, railway tracks, and trails that lead to tents hidden in trees.

Angel Massey inside the semi-trailer she hopes to clean out.
Angel Massey inside the semi-trailer she hopes to clean out. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

The area is dubbed “ground zero,” as it is the largest homeless camp in the city. And Abbotsford is not alone — most of B.C.’s cities and suburbs are facing similar crises with homelessness.

The issue is no longer one isolated to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Advertisement

Article content

Homelessness in every city, suburb

And that is why the B.C. Urban Mayors Caucus, created at the beginning of the pandemic by municipal leaders from 13 cities, began asking in summer 2020 for the provincial government to fund housing for people in their communities with the most complex needs , those with overlapping addictions, mental illness, trauma, and brain injuries.

The mayors reissued that plea last week, insisting that the complex needs of these residents are not being met by the existing housing or health-care systems, relegating them instead to jails and the streets.

On Thursday, the province took the first step in answering the mayors. It promised to spend $4.8 million this year to create 103 new complex-care beds in supported-housing facilities in Vancouver, Surrey and Abbotsford. The services offered by this program will include medical, mental health and substance-use care, as well as personal, cultural, social and job supports, said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions.

Advertisement

Article content

“Complex care housing is a groundbreaking approach to address the needs of our community’s most vulnerable people,” she said, acknowledging the mayors’ caucus for working with the province on this project.

These 103 beds are a great start, many of the mayors said this week, but fall far short of the overall need. Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction estimates there are 2,200 British Columbians with complex needs , based on their mental illness and drug dependencies, and their repeated use of hospitals, jails and shelters.

When Postmedia asked Malcolmson on Thursday if more beds would eventually be added, she said that will be up to the finance minister to show in next month’s budget. But she added this is an area of priority for the NDP government.

Advertisement

Article content

“We’re determined to do more,” she said.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who has been vocal about the need to help her city’s unsheltered residents — who grew in number to 270 in 2020, up from 158 in 2018 — said Thursday that she is a bit disappointed her city won’t receive any of the new beds. However, as co-chair of the mayors’ caucus, she is thrilled the province has made this initial investment. But, she added, the caucus will not stop asking for more.

“Our hope and our expectation and our continued advocacy push will be to see significant funding for complex care in next month’s provincial budget and more sites open across the province just as quickly as possible,” Helps said.

The province’s plan calls for 39 of these beds in Surrey’s new Foxglove supported housing facility, which is to open by March. Later this year, new beds are to be added to existing facilities in Vancouver — 44 in the Jim Green building and 12 in Nanomi Place — plus eight spaces in Abbotsford’s former Red Lion hotel, which now has supported housing.

Advertisement

Article content

“There’s people literally crying”

It will presumably be easy to fill the eight beds in Abbotsford, considering that the Street Thug Barbers community service organization feeds 60 to 90 people twice a week near the ground zero homeless camp.

“Lots of our folks down here, the only time that they eat is when we bring in food,” said Joseph Sikora, who opened the Abbotsford chapter of Street Thug Barbers three years ago.

Joseph Sikora of Street Thug Barbers.
Joseph Sikora of Street Thug Barbers. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

His organization, which now has 30 volunteers, gives haircuts every Sunday to homeless people and relies on donated food and money to deliver meals and supplies on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They also hand out hygiene products, socks and underwear.

Over Christmas, when the snow was deep and an “arctic outflow warning” had been issued, Sikora walked through the camp distributing propane tanks and sleeping bags.

Advertisement

Article content

“Nobody has heat. Nobody has any money. And there’s people literally crying. One girl that I came across, she didn’t have any shoes,” he said. When he posted this on the group’s Facebook page, more donations came in and he was able to return with portable heaters and hand warmers.

He knows first hand the help that is needed by Massey and the people trying to “live” in ground zero.

“What you see down there, that was me four years ago,” said Sikora, who struggled with addiction for two decades before getting clean. “I understand the trauma.”

It’s heartbreaking, he said, and preventable. It takes spending on services such as on-demand detox and more supported housing — spending that must come quickly, as there have been fatal overdoses and at least one homicide at the camp.

Advertisement

Article content

“People are dying,” Sikora said. “The state of (the camp) right now is horrendous.”

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, a member of the mayors’ caucus, is grateful his city will be among the first to receive new beds, even though his community needs far more than eight spaces.

Despite hundreds of shelter beds and supported housing units being created in Abbotsford in recent years, the number of homeless people in the community grew from 274 in 2017 to 333 in 2020, according to the last homeless count . And during the pandemic, the situation has worsened.

“I’m guessing the next (homeless count) is going to be up around 500 or 600,” Braun predicted.

At the same time, the number of people fatally poisoned by tainted street drugs in Abbotsford has steadily risen every year since the overdose state of emergency was declared in 2016.

Advertisement

Article content

The victims need help, as do business owners and homeowners who are affected by the street disorder, he said. Municipalities, however, cannot afford to build or fund supported housing with their limited tax revenue.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Braun has seen firsthand how the current system has failed “the hardest of the hard” to house. It was during a police ride-along, on a recent Friday evening.

“There was a young man in his early 20s, who was banging his head against the plate glass window to the point where he broke it,” Braun said.

The young man was confused and could hardly walk. Braun and the officers took him to hospital, where he was examined, but doctors said they could not admit him under the Mental Health Act

“He clearly needed help far beyond what he’s going to get just on the street or through service providers,” Braun recalled. “I said, ‘We can’t turn this person loose. He is just out of it. He’s got some serious mental health issues and he needs help.’”

Advertisement

Article content

The officer said there were only two choices: to put him back onto the street or to arrest him.

“We took him to the police station and he spent the night in jail. But the next morning they would have turned him out again and he’d be doing the same thing he was doing the night before,” Braun lamented.

“And I don’t think that is helping anybody.”

There are so many people, including women who have suffered abuse, who desperately need housing that can help society’s most vulnerable citizens, he added. “It’s a model that’s missing from our communities right now,” he said.

Street Thug Barbers volunteer Jennifer delivers food and supplies to a homeless person in Abbotsford.
Street Thug Barbers volunteer Jennifer delivers food and supplies to a homeless person in Abbotsford. Photo by Joseph Sikora /Street Thug Barbers

Many of the homeless in Downtown Eastside not from Vancouver

Last summer, professor Julian Somers, director of SFU’s centre for applied research in mental health and addiction, released a “Call to Action” to address the rising homelessness, substance use and mental illness in B.C.

Advertisement

Article content

The report calls for recovery-oriented housing with evidence-based support to be created for 1,500 vulnerable British Columbians over the next three years, with services being rolled out in the Lower Mainland, Southern Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and Northern B.C.

“There are communities all around the province that have very high levels of need,” Somers said.

Of the 2,200 British Columbians estimated to be living with very complex challenges, the highest concentration is in the Downtown Eastside. But that’s why it is important to offer services in people’s home communities, Somers said, because his research shows that four out of every five residents of the Downtown Eastside originally lived outside Greater Vancouver.

Advertisement

Article content

“This just underscores that we need to get resources into those places to prevent this migration,” he said, adding a The report is based on Somers’s  five-year At Home/Chez Soi research project , which showed providing people with humane options such as housing and support services costs about the same as leaving them on the street to rotate through hospitals, jails and shelters.

His new proposal, which he said is backed by both the urban mayors’ caucus and many business improvement associations, is still being “considered” by the provincial government. He hopes there will be funding in the provincial budget.

Hope for Freedom volunteers Travis Z, Adam T and Amanda F prepare to deliver supplies to homeless people in the Tri-Cities.
Hope for Freedom volunteers Travis Z, Adam T and Amanda F prepare to deliver supplies to homeless people in the Tri-Cities. Photo by Andrea Corrigan /Hope for Freedom

Somers believes the complexity of challenges that vulnerable people face has intensified during the pandemic, a sentiment shared by Andrea Corrigan, executive director of the Hope for Freedom Society in Coquitlam. The society offers residential treatment programs, plus outreach and meals for homeless people in the Tri-Cities, although some services had to be reduced due to COVID restrictions.

Advertisement

Article content

“Unsheltered people were already struggling with both isolation and uncertainty, and from what services are available to what restrictions are in place is a real challenge,” Corrigan said.

The Coquitlam shelter is consistently full, and outreach workers believe the number of homeless in the area is much higher than the 80 people counted in 2020. Therefore, there is a great need for the complex-care housing being requested by the mayors, Corrigan added.

Help costs the same as leaving them untreated, homeless

Richard Stewart has witnessed the need for this type of housing as both the longtime mayor of Coquitlam, as well as the father of a daughter who once struggled with mental health.

“Right now the system is overburdened with the realities of their needs, and it doesn’t handle it well,” Stewart said. “They seem to fall through the cracks.”

Advertisement

Article content

During the cold snap in December, he visited the city’s full shelter, cold-weather beds, and emergency housing. They all provided a desperately needed room, but no treatment.

“There is no other illness in British Columbia that you cannot get treatment for. Mental health and addictions, that dual diagnosis, is that illness you can’t get treated for on demand. And so we’re really hoping that the complex needs of this population will be dealt with by a complex-care model (of housing) that adequately treats the underlying causes,” Stewart said.

He points out the irony that his city was once home to B.C.’s largest and most controversial psychiatric hospital, Riverview, which is now largely shuttered. The grounds are home to a new 105-bed mental health and addictions hospital, Red Fish , which is hailed as innovative but not large enough to meet needs.

Advertisement

Article content

“We want these folks to get the help they need, because their lives are at stake. And those lives are being lost.”

Stewart is hopeful that the government’s promise this week for 103 new complex-care beds is “the beginning of a bigger program,” noting that on-demand mental health and addiction services is urgent in his city and many others.

“It’s a start. And it’s obviously not enough. But there are so many aspects of the mental health reality where we don’t have enough service,” he said. “And we’re not saving money as a society by not having treatment options for mental illness earlier than we do.”

Sarah Nelson (left) and Angel Massey support each other while being homeless.
Sarah Nelson (left) and Angel Massey support each other while being homeless. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Back at ground zero, Massey continues to clean out her trailer, hoping to make a space for at least one other person to sleep and maybe for a second-hand store, where she can sell clothing and other essential items for low-enough prices for people on government assistance to afford.

Advertisement

Article content

Until the trailer is ready, she’ll continue to hunt each night for a place to sleep: maybe in a friend’s tent, or in a doorway, or the sidewalk. When asked where she would like to live, she says she dreams, one day, of having a place in a heated, safe apartment building with running water and electricity, where she’d have her own bedroom, bathroom, and living space to entertain a few friends.

But in the meantime, she is grateful for the “good people” at Street Thug Barbers who twice a week bring her the food and supplies she needs to survive homelessness.

The organization’s volunteers also deliver unconditional love when they drop off packages at the random trailers and tents where people like Massey live, Sikora said.

Advertisement

Article content

“When you love somebody, you re-instil value into them, and purpose. And you just let them know that there’s something else out there other than shooting dope, robbing people, whatever you do for money, or selling yourself. There’s other things out there. And if you have the proper support to get through it, then anything is possible,” Sikora said.

“Every person that we see, we tell them, ‘We love you. It’s great to see you. There’s purpose for your life, value.’ And we don’t just go out there and just hand out the food … When we’re there, we’re like, ‘Oh, we have resources for you, we can help you.’”

But that is tricky work when there are few housing options to offer, or people don’t have phones to follow up with appointments, or they lack the sheer will to stick with treatments when they don’t have a home or support.

“There’s so many hurdles, and so many obstacles, to try to recover somebody. But I know that it is possible,” Sikora said. “It isn’t easy. But like I said, with the right support and care and love, it is possible.”

lculbert@postmedia.com

Homeless encampment in Abbotsford.
Homeless encampment in Abbotsford. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the Vancouver Sun or The Province.

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

22Jan

COVID-19 update for Jan. 22-23: B.C. sees first glimmer of

by admin

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

Article content

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Jan. 22-23, 2022.

Advertisement

Article content

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 Jan. 21:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 308,079 (33,997 active)
• New cases: 2,364
• Total deaths: 2,529 (nine new deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 924
• Intensive care: 130
• Total vaccinations: 4,457,647 received first dose (89.4% of eligible pop. 5+); 4,162,591 second doses (83.5%); 1,752,704 third doses (40.5%)
• Recovered from acute infection: 269,137
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 62

Advertisement

Article content

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


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

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

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

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.

Care home providers concerned public health not doing enough to protect seniors

B.C.’s provincial health officer said Friday that data shows seniors over age 80 are 50 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than any other age group but care-providers are concerned that public health hasn’t done enough to ensure current practice is managing that risk.

Advertisement

Article content

Health officials admit a shortage of rapid tests means essential visitors are no longer being tested before entering some long-term-care homes.

Last month, Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered long-term-care homes to test every essential visitor before every visit, but, on Friday, she said they’re not required to do so right now.

“We will not be denying people those important visits because of a lack of access to rapid tests,” said Henry. “We will be doing the symptom screening so that people can be prioritized who are newer visitors and if there’s no test kits at all, then (we will be) going back to what we have been using all along, which is the screening for symptoms,” she explained.

That means visitors will be asked a series of questions including if they’re feeling unwell before being allowed to enter a care home.

Advertisement

Article content

Read full story here .

— Lisa Cordasco

‘Flu-ization’: Why Omicron is causing some countries to treat COVID like the flu

Countries across Europe are announcing that they are officially going to start abandoning extraordinary pandemic measures and begin treating COVID-19 like the flu.

“Science has given us the answer to protect ourselves,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a recent radio interview . “We have to evaluate the evolution of COVID from pandemic to an endemic illness.”

It’s a sharp turnaround for a country that first met the pandemic with one of the world’s harshest lockdowns . For three months in 2020, Spaniards weren’t even allowed to leave their homes for a walk. Spanish media has referred to the new policy as the “ flu-ization ” of COVID-19.

The U.K., Switzerland, Portugal and Ireland have all announced similar policies in line with the Spanish example. In South Africa, which discovered the Omicron variant, health officials are now predicting that COVID-19 has basically run its course.

“I think we’ve reached a turning point in this pandemic. What we need to do is learn to live with the virus and get back to as much of a normal society as is possible,” prominent South African vaccine allergist Shabir Madhi told NPR last week.

On Friday, Canada saw its first glimmers of a “flu-ization” policy when B.C. announced that it was suspending contact tracing and urging most people with symptoms to simply stay home until they felt better.

Read full story here.

— Postmedia News

Omicron may be peaking but COVID-19 isn’t done with us yet: Tam

Canada’s chief public health officer says there are positive signs the Omicron wave is peaking in this country, but no one should start choreographing a COVID-19 victory dance.

Advertisement

Article content

“There is no doubt that nobody wants to have all these restrictive measures anymore, and Omicron may or may not have put us one step toward that new reality,” Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday during a COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa.

“So I think we need to plan for the different scenarios and just be ready for a time of emergence of new variants. But we’ve got to move on and see how we can make our societal functions closer to what they were before the pandemic.”

Tam said that in the last week, case rates, the share of tests coming back positive, and wastewater surveillance are all showing “early indications” that Omicron has peaked nationally.

Read full story here .

— Canadian Press



DEATHS BY HEALTH AUTHORITY


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER

Advertisement

Article content


WHAT’S HAPPENING ACROSS CANADA


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

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

22Jan

Vaughn Palmer: Health agencies fumble COVID announcements despite need for clarity

by admin

Opinion: Lack of co-ordination between health agencies in B.C. shown time after time in the past week

Article content

VICTORIA — Though the B.C. government is heading into the third year of pandemic management, you wouldn’t know it from the amateur hour stumbles on communications this past week.

Advertisement

Article content

The miscues began with the media briefing on Friday Jan. 14 when Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked what would happen with the public health orders that were scheduled to expire on Tuesday Jan. 18.

“I’m going to defer the Tuesday question to Tuesday,” she said.

Lest there be any doubt, she told reporters three times that they should wait for Tuesday to see what would happen with the orders.

However, on Monday the government quietly posted a revised version of the order that applied to gyms and fitness centres, extending it indefinitely.

After the shift was reported by Richard Zussman of Global TV, there was a flurry of protests from the sector, which had been led to believe it could reopen this week.

Also caught off guard by the posting was Health Minister Adrian Dix, judging from the rush job explanation he posted on his Twitter account late Monday afternoon.

Advertisement

Article content

The previous order was scheduled to expire at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Henry was not scheduled to provide an update to the news media until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“The update was made to ensure the order remained in place until Dr. Henry spoke on Tuesday,” said Dix.

While taking refuge in the technicality, the health minister neglected to explain why the government had also posted an order saying that school boards, as employers, “must request proof of vaccination from each staff member and must keep a record of each staff member’s vaccination status.”

That posting, also made without notice, caught school trustees and teachers by surprise.

Next day, Tuesday, Henry had to start her media briefing with a rare-for-her apology and admission of error, such as it was.

Advertisement

Article content

“I would first like to apologize for the confusion on the order timing and the adjustments that were required yesterday,” she told reporters. “ I know that was a little bit of an error on our part, having them expire at 12:01 versus 11:59 tonight.”

She then announced that gyms and fitness facilities would be allowed to reopen Jan. 20 under strict guidelines.

As for the schools order, she said it was crafted to assist local medical health officers and school districts make decisions on the need for vaccination mandates.

After those embarrassments, one might expect the government to provide proper notice before releasing any more public health orders.

But Wednesday it happened twice.

The first was an order clarifying the obligation for unvaccinated individuals to isolate for 10 days after contracting COVID-19, reversing an earlier requirement that they only had to isolate for five days.

Advertisement

Article content

Also posted quietly online Wednesday evening was a nine-page document updating guidelines for child care centres.

It was midday Thursday before the minister of state for child care, Katrina Chen, got around to acknowledging the new guidelines.

She told parents and the operators of child care centres that they would be accorded an information session with Henry on Jan. 26, by which time the guidelines will be a week old.

How is it possible that these public health orders keep getting posted on the site of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) without an accompanying media advisory and explanation of the contents?

The answer, courtesy of the communications shop in the Ministry of Health.

“The health communications team is responsible for Health Ministry communications, and liaising between health authorities’ communications and the provincial government. … The team is not responsible for communications for the BCCDC.

Advertisement

Article content

“While the team works closely with the provincial health officer (PHO) for ministry related communications, due to the independent nature of the PHO, a separate communications consultant is responsible for advising on PHO communications.”

Still, with more than 200 communications staff spread across government, its ministries and the six health regions, someone could be put in charge of flagging changes in the provincial health orders.

On Friday, Henry offered another explanation-cum-apology.

“To be frank, my staff are tired,” she told reporters during that day’s pandemic briefing.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we are also being affected by the fact that lots of people are off sick right now. So it was an administrative challenge and an error on our part that we corrected as soon as we did, and it’s my responsibility to communicate that better, and I’ll do that in the future.”

Advertisement

Article content

Unfortunately the errors came at a critical time for pandemic communications.

The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly, forcing major changes in pandemic management.

Vaccinations and booster shots remain the first line of defence.

But there’ll be no more contact tracing — the virus moves too quickly. Also, there’ll be less testing because there aren’t the resources.

More than ever, we’ll have to rely on “self-management” says Henry: “Making sure we’re managing our own symptoms and testing of those who are eligible for treatment and testing of people who are living or working in higher risk settings.”

“I absolutely recognize this is a shift,” she conceded Friday. “It means we’ll have to change our way of thinking that we’ve been working on these past two years.”

Change on that scale puts a premium on clear, concise communications.

As opposed to the fumbling and confusion of the past week.

vpalmer@postmedia.com


More news, fewer ads, faster load time: Get unlimited, ad-lite access to the Vancouver Sun, the Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites for just $14/month or $140/year. Subscribe now through the Vancouver Sun or The Province.

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

21Jan

COVID-19 update for Jan. 21: Here’s the latest on coronavirus in B.C.

by admin

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

Article content

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Jan. 21, 2022.

Advertisement

Article content

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 Jan. 20:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 305,715 (34,835 active)
• New cases: 2,150
• Total deaths: 2,520 (15 new deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 891
• Intensive care: 119
• Total vaccinations: 4,455,046 received first dose (89.4% of eligible pop. 5+); 4,161,148 second doses (83.5%); 1,700,206 third doses (36.7%)
• Recovered from acute infection: 265,765
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 58

Advertisement

Article content

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


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

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

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

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.

3 p.m. or later – Health officials are set to share latest figures on COVID-19 in B.C.

Health officials are expected to update the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and recoveries across the province.

B.C. death rate climbing despite a drop in active cases
B.C. has seen a significant spike in COVID-19 deaths to start the new year, with 15 more people succumbing to the disease in the latest daily report despite active cases being on the decline.

Advertisement

Article content

It brings the total deaths reported in the past week to 58, a significant jump over the early days of the rise of the Omicron variant. By comparison, 41 deaths were reported in the week prior and just seven in the first week of 2022.

Despite all those losses, the number of people in hospital and intensive care remains high: 891 people were in hospital in B.C. on Thursday, with 119 in ICU. Those numbers have been consistent all week, never dropping below 850 in hospital or 110 in intensive care.

Read full story here

— Joseph Ruttle

‘I feel unsafe’: B.C. kids exposed to COVID-19 can go to daycare if symptom-free
Parents and child care providers are questioning the province’s decision to remove the quarantine requirements for young children who come into close contact with COVID-19 cases.

Advertisement

Article content

“I’m angry,” said Natasha Malone, who runs a private daycare, Parkridge Early Learning Centre, at her home in Prince George.

“I first learned of the news through my television screen, along with the rest of the province, and not before,” the 32-year-old said.

The provincial health officer announced the change Tuesday, attributing it to the Omicron variant, which she said is causing milder and shorter illnesses among B.C.’s infected.

Read the full story here.

— Sarah Grochowski

Fewer outbreaks declared in care homes as medical officers use discretionary power
Dozens of care homes in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health are no longer being declared COVID-19 outbreak sites unless the spread of the virus is unable to be contained.

Advertisement

Article content

Before the Omicron wave hit, outbreaks were declared in care homes when a single staff member or resident was confirmed to have COVID-19.

The new approach by regional health authorities is causing confusion and concern among care home operators and B.C.’s seniors advocate.

Read the full story here.

— Lisa Cordasco



DEATHS BY HEALTH AUTHORITY


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER


WHAT’S HAPPENING ACROSS CANADA


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

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

20Jan

COVID-19: B.C. death rate climbing despite a drop in active cases

by admin

Total deaths reported in the past week to 58, a significant jump over the early days of the rise of the Omicron variant. By comparison, 41 deaths were reported in the week prior.

Article content

B.C. has seen a significant spike in COVID-19 deaths to start the new year, with 15 more people succumbing to the disease in the latest daily report despite active cases being on the decline.

Article content

The deaths reported in the past 24 hours have been evenly distributed across four of B.C.’s five health regions: five in Fraser Health, four in Vancouver Coastal, two in Interior Health and four in Island Health. No deaths were reported today in Northern Health.

It brings the total deaths reported in the past week to 58, a significant jump over the early days of the rise of the Omicron variant. By comparison, 41 deaths were reported in the week prior and just seven in the first week of 2022.

Despite all those losses, the number of people in hospital and intensive care remains high: 891 people were in hospital in B.C. on Thursday, with 119 in ICU. Those numbers have been consistent all week, never dropping below 850 in hospital or 110 in intensive care.

Article content

The provincial health officer has consistently warned intensive care admissions and deaths tend to lag behind any surge in infections, and that appears to be the case in recent weeks.

Also, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is very likely a huge understatement of the number of new infections — a result of evolving testing priorities and the ease of transmission of the new variant. Reported active cases were 34,835 on Thursday, down from a weekly high of over 37,000 Tuesday.

One thing has been consistent, even as many fully vaccinated people catch COVID-19. The chance of being hospitalized or landing in an ICU is much lower if you’re vaccinated.

In the past two weeks, about 72 people for every 100,000 population were hospitalized with COVID-19 among the unvaccinated, compared with about 45 per 100,000 partly vaccinated people and 17 per 100,000 who were fully vaxxed. Put another way, during that stretch you were more than four times as likely to wind up in hospital if you hadn’t got your shots.

Outbreaks in long-term and acute care continue to be an issue, with a revolving door of facilities declaring outbreaks over and reporting new ones. There are currently 58 confirmed outbreaks in the province, nearly half of them in Fraser Health.


G et the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

20Jan

COVID-19 update for Jan. 20: Vancouver police board to review staff vaccine policy | Price hikes expected as vaccine mandate for truckers take effect | 895 hospitalizations, 13 deaths

by admin

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

Article content

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Jan. 20, 2022.

Advertisement

Article content

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 Jan. 19:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 303,565 (35,570 active)
• New cases: 2,387
• Total deaths: 2,505 (13 new deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 895
• Intensive care: 115
• Total vaccinations: 4,451,945 received first dose (89.3% of eligible pop. 5+); 4,159,043 second doses (83.4%); 1,646,143 third doses (35.5%)
• Recovered from acute infection: 262,591
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 56

Advertisement

Article content

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


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

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

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

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.

3 p.m. or later – Health officials are set to share latest figures on COVID-19 in B.C.

Health officials are expected to update the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and recoveries across the province.

Vancouver police board to review staff vaccine policy after complaints

The Vancouver police board will look into its decision not to mandate vaccines for VPD members after three complaints critical of the policy, including one that came from a family member of one of its own officers.

Advertisement

Article content

“I’m a resident of Vancouver and a family member of a VPD member,” reads one of the complaints. “I’d like to register my disappointment with the decision to not require vaccination for VPD officers.

“This decision further reduces public trust in the VPD, at a time when trust is in short supply.”

The board plans to discuss the decision to allow an exemption to the city’s vaccination mandate for front-line police officers at a meeting on Thursday.

Under the current policy, Vancouver police are encouraged to get immunized and were expected to provide proof by the end of last year. But unvaccinated officers are still considered “fit for duty” if they undergo rapid testing for COVID-19. It is out of step with many other Canadian policing agencies and with the city’s own broad mandate for staff.

Advertisement

Article content

Read the full story here .

— Joe Ruttle

Produce prices in B.C. expected to rise as vaccine mandate for truckers takes effect

B.C. cooks may need to embrace cabbage and kale this winter as a vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border is expected to intensify supply chain issues and send food prices soaring.

The federal mandate, which came into effect on Jan. 15, requires Canadian truckers returning to Canada to be vaccinated to avoid quarantine, while unvaccinated American truckers are being turned back at the border. The U.S. is set to enact its own vaccine mandate on Jan. 22, taking as many as 16,000 drivers off the road, according to the Canadian Trucking Association.

“Without the mandate, there was already stress on the supply chain,” said Mick Tkac, produce director for SPUD.ca, a grocery delivery service specializing in local and organic food. He cited cold weather across North America and staff shortages due to COVID-19 for expected price increases.

Advertisement

Article content

“There is a shortage of truckers in Canada and the U.S., so we’ve been seeing late arrivals, small gaps (in product availability), and wholesalers telling us about trucks that were cancelled at the last minute,” he said.

Price hikes are expected to follow. Sending one truckload of fresh produce from California or Arizona to Canada now costs $9,500, up from an average of $7,000, according to North American Produce Buyers. That works out to an additional charge of 12 Canadian cents per head of lettuce.

Read full story here.

— Glenda Luymes

Unnecessary restrictions for long term care visits causing anguish for B.C. families, advocates say

Families, seniors advocates and caregiver organizations say the province’s policy on long term care visits is outdated and needs to change.

Advertisement

Article content

They say the rules that limit who can spend time with loved ones in long term care have needlessly restricted access with devastating results for residents and their families.

“I have memories of my father trying to claw his way out of a window, upset that he could not get to me during a window visit,” said Becky Reichert, whose father passed away in 2020 but whose mother remains in long term care at the same facility in Vancouver.

Reichert said she was eventually granted essential visitor status to see her father shortly before he died.

“I was not deemed essential until he was unresponsive and that is something I will never, ever get over,” she said.  “And now I am feeling like I am back in 2020 again.”

Read full story here .

Advertisement

Article content

— Lisa Cordasco

NHL, NHLPA to eliminate testing among asymptomatic individuals

Perhaps it’s a sign that life, or at least life in the National Hockey League, is returning to normal.

With most teams having dealt with COVID-19 and the Omicron variant outbreak, and the mild impact of the virus, the NHL announced Tuesday that it would discontinue testing on asymptomatic individuals following the All-Star break early next month and that testing will only be required for cross-border travel and if a person develops symptoms.

A positive result would still necessitate entering COVID-19 protocol, and an isolation period of five days for a vaccinated individual — which had been reduced from 10 days by the NHL in late December.

Advertisement

Article content

All of this is pending that positive test results continue to decline within the NHL and requires an agreement from the NHL’s and NHLPA’s medical experts by Jan. 31.

Read full story here .

— Postmedia News



DEATHS BY HEALTH AUTHORITY


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER


WHAT’S HAPPENING ACROSS CANADA


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

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.