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Category "Local Health"

21Mar

COVID-19: Ministers announce supports for people struggling and poor

by admin

He said they are working closely with about 2,000 agencies and non-profits delivering social services to make sure they have what the need to operate through the pandemic.

The B.C. government will use a “crisis supplement model” to support people in income and disability assistance, and is reducing bureaucracy that slows down the delivery of services, Simpson said.

He said they are also forming a plan for assistance cheque-issue day next week. Drug overdoses and deaths spike on the last Wednesday of each month.

“We know this is a challenging time for all British Columbians,” Simpson said.

“It’s a challenging time around the anxiety that’s created by this virus, and the anxiousness, and that is even more challenging for people who are living vulnerable. For people who are poor, people with disabilities, people who are on the street, the homeless, it’s an extremely challenging time for that population in particular.”

11Mar

COVID-19: Health officials confirm 7 new cases, bringing B.C. total to 46

by admin

Health officials in B.C. confirmed seven more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including the first case on Vancouver Island.

It brings the total cases in the province to 46, up from 39 on Wednesday, when health officials announced the same number of new cases.

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, urged British Columbians to come together in this fight …  by keeping their distance from one another.

We must all step up our social distancing,” she said at her daily briefing. “This is not forever. This is for the coming weeks … where we know we have to do everything we can to protect those people who are more likely to have severe illness, and particularly our seniors and elders.”

A day after she noted that health officials were seeing more cases coming from Egypt, the epidemiologist confirmed three new cases among travellers who had been in Egypt.

One, a man in his 60s in the Island Health region, is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island.

“I want to assure all Victoria residents and visitors that we are taking this issue seriously and are in communication with provincial health officials regarding standards and protocols,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, in a statement.

Another new case, a man in his 70s in Coastal Health region, returned to B.C. from Egypt with the same travel group. Henry said he is also related to the infected traveller reported on Tuesday.

The third travel-related case is a person in his 70s who lives in Egypt and is visiting family in the Fraser Health region. His family is also in quarantine.

“Egypt is clearly something we’ve been watching,” Henry said at her daily briefing. “Were hearing that from around the world, that Egypt is now a source of exported cases.”

Two are health care workers at the Lynn Valley Care Centre — a male in his 20s who lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and a woman in her 50 in the Fraser Health region. Both are recovering in isolation at home. That brings the total to six sick care workers from the home.

There are no new cases among seniors at the care home, however. One person remains ill, while the other became B.C.’s first COVID-19 fatality, on Sunday.

“Things have settled and are still being monitored very closely at the care centre,” said Henry.

Henry also announced two new cases of suspected community transmission in the Fraser Health region: A woman in her 60s who has been hospitalized, and a man in his 60s, who is now in isolation at home.

Two individuals receiving acute care have been discharged from hospital — a man in his 90s and a woman in her 60s who contracted the virus on the Grand Princess cruise. This brings the total of recovered cases in B.C. to four.

Henry pushed back against a fatalistic approach to the spread of the disease.

“It’s not inevitable that everybody is going to be infected with this,” she said. “It’s not inevitable that our systems will be overwhelmed. We do not have to be in that position.”

Asked about closures at several schools in Metro Vancouver and in Greater Victoria, Henry said those schools made these decisions on their own.

“There has been no school that has been closed based on public health advice.”

With more than 100,000 people sickened around the world, including more than 100 in Canada and the expectation of more, the World Health Organization called on countries to mitigate the social and economic impacts while minimizing the disruption to everyday life.

But this is easier said than done. On Wednesday, disruption to everyday life continued apace.

In Italy, where COVID-19 cases has exceeded 12,000 and deaths are approaching 900, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte heightened containment efforts by ordering all businesses except grocery stores and pharmacies to close nationwide.

In nearby Washington, where the Department of Health has confirmed 330 cases, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in Seattle and its surrounding areas.

“This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can’t wait until we’re in the middle of it to slow it down,” Inslee said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”

Henry stopped short of calling for a similar ban on mass gatherings in Vancouver.

“We are obviously very mindful of the community transmission, both here and in Washington state,” she said. “We’re still taking the risk assessment approach for some of these events. But that may change.”

Mass gatherings and spectator events all over the world have been cancelled or postponed in recent days, from the TED conference in Vancouver to major music festivals like Coachella and SXSW.

The Overwatch League, which draws esports players from around the world, has cancelled all matches through March and April.

In Canada, the World Figure Skating Championships set for next week in Montreal were cancelled, just days after the Women’s World Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia were called off.

The women’s world curling championship, set to begin Saturday in Prince George, will go ahead as planned.

Other spectator events have merely cancelled spectators.

The Columbus Blue Jackets became the first NHL to announce that home games will be played without fans, heeding the advice of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Other teams are expected to do the same.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that the March Madness tournament will be played without fans, and even American TV talk shows like Live With Kelly and Ryan and The View filmed Wednesday without studio audiences.

with files from The Canadian Press

hmooney@postmedia.com


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11Mar

Daphne Bramham: Searching for happiness in the novel coronavirus era

by admin

This is a particularly joyless March and what have we got to look forward to? April, which T.S. Eliot called the cruelest month.

There’s angst all around. It’s impossible to have even a casual conversation with a stranger without the dreaded COVID-19 virus being raised, let alone dinner with friends or a few hours on social media.

We don’t know whether to be afraid or whether to risk being reckless by going to a restaurant, hockey game or pick up a friend at the airport.

We’re worried about the unknown ‘what next’ because even when there is a lull in the seemingly endless news coverage of all things viral, there’s so much more bad news.

The stock market collapse, the joyless battle of the American grandpas for president, the oil shock caused by a seemingly crazed prince, continuing migrant crises in Europe and the Americas, riots in India and so on and so on.

I want to run away from it all. Except for the virus, I would literally have been packing my suitcase right now for Bhutan — the first place on Earth to put happiness before the economy.

But COVID-19 put a stop to that.

My trip was postponed because of the turmoil of changed and cancelled flights, not fear of catching the virus. Ironically, it was only in cancelling that we discovered we’d been rebooked on a return flight that left a day later, took 35 hours with three stops and landed us in Detroit with no indication of how we’d get home.

I’m relieved, but grounded and surrounded with fear of the unknown. How do I — how do any of us — find happiness now when it seems there’s nowhere safe to go?

Naturally, I turned to Google. It’s perhaps a sign of the times that among the first quotes that came up was this misanthropic one: “Happiness comes from peace. Peace comes from indifference.”

That misanthropic recipe from tech entrepreneur Naval Ravikant belies the research, which says the opposite. Happiness comes from engagement, social contact, a feeling of belonging.

Then, up popped Marie Kondo’s exhortation to “spark joy” by decluttering. I nixed that as an immediate solution. But it’s something to keep in mind if ever the time comes for self-isolation.

Beyond that are dozens of others advising that the route to happiness is to find one’s “authentic self” or one’s “inner awesomeness.”

I retreated to the kitchen and put on a pot of soup. But rather than the usual Zen of chopping vegetables as the stock bubbled, it reminded me that I couldn’t find any lentils on the grocery store shelf Monday. Should I join the panicked rush? What if the crisis is real?

Most of us are urban-dwelling, just in time people. Grasshoppers, not ants. We’re a frail lot too when you consider the Inuit and Dene in the north, Andean highlanders in the south, nomadic Mongolians or our ancestors.

That’s why I travel, to see how others live. It’s how I’ve come to be on six of the seven continents and travelled in more than 40 countries. It’s why Bhutan beckoned and not a Caribbean beach.

It’s why on a gloomy, rainy day with a case of fake jet lag from the time change, I went looking and found happiness at the Museum of Anthropology. Pulling open drawers, there are small things of beauty and purpose. Towering poles are testament to survival and renaissance against astounding odds.

Wandering aimlessly, it’s impossible not to see the interconnectedness of human imagination and endeavour from the fearsome to the sublimely decorative to the practical.

(If fear or the virus keeps you home, you might want to try it virtually. The collection is online at http://collection-online.moa.ubc.ca/)

There were spears, swords, fertility figures, wedding dresses, bowls, spoons, as well as religious objects and necklaces with charms meant to ward off the unforeseen, the unpredictable and the deadly that have always stalked us.

On a recent trip to Edinburgh, I took a tour of Mary King’s Close where in 1645 the pneumonic or ‘black’ plague stalked the residents of the crowded underground tenements.

Their doctors dressed in long leather cloaks with large brimmed hats and wore grotesque, beaked masks made of tin and filled with herbs to repel the evil smells that were thought to carry disease. The sight of today’s health-care workers in HAZMAT suits, N-95 masks, visors and gloves are not less disturbing, albeit far more effective.

Humans understand science better now than in the past. With every new outbreak from HIV/AIDS to Ebola to SARS, the time from first detection to getting it under control has improved. Yet, the unseen and the unknowable remains no less frightening to us than it was to a 17th century Scot or a 19th century Haida.

Where once people flocked to church looking for benediction and salvation, these days they head to Costco.

But for some peace and perspective? Try some homemade soup and some quiet time at a museum … Just don’t touch your face and make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before you leave.

dbramham@postmedia.com

twitter:@bramham_daphne

11Mar

COVID-19: Health officials confirm 7 new cases, bringing B.C. total to 46

by admin


Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry responds to questions during a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus in Vancouver.


DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Seven more people are sick with COVID-19 in B.C., health officials announced on Wednesday.

It brings the total cases in the province to 46, up from 39 on Wednesday, when health officials announced the same number of new cases.

Two are health care workers at the Lynn Valley Care Centre — a male in his 20s who lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and a woman in her 50 in the Fraser Health region. Both are recovering in isolation at home.

Three new cases are travellers coming from Egypt. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, noted Tuesday that health officials were seeing more cases coming from Egypt.

Henry also announced two new community cases in the Fraser Health region. A woman in her 60s has been hospitalized. A man in his 60s is in isolation at home.

The federal government rolled out a $1-billion package Wednesday to help the country’s health-care system and economy cope with what the The World Health Organization has now declared a pandemic.

Multiple health authorities reported a flurry of new positive tests for COVID-19, including one person at Canadian Forces Base Trenton repatriated from a cruise ship docked in California, and a man in Sudbury, Ont., who attended a large mining conference in Toronto.

With more than 100,000 people sickened around the world, including more than 100 in Canada and the expectation of more, the WHO called on countries to mitigate the social and economic impacts while minimizing the disruption to everyday life.

But this is easier said than done. On Wednesday, disruption to everyday life continued apace.

In Italy, where COVID-19 cases has exceeded 12,000 and deaths are approaching 900, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte heightened containment efforts by ordering all businesses except grocery stores and pharmacies to close nationwide.

In nearby Washington, where the Department of Health has confirmed 330 cases, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in Seattle and its surrounding areas.

“This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can’t wait until we’re in the middle of it to slow it down,” Inslee said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”

Mass gatherings and spectator events all over the world have been cancelled or postponed in recent days, from the TED conference in Vancouver to major music festivals like Coachella and SXSW.

The Overwatch League, which draws esports players from around the world, has cancelled all matches through March and April.

In Canada, the World Figure Skating Championships set for next week in Montreal were cancelled, just days after the Women’s World Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia were called off.

The women’s world curling championship, set to begin Saturday in Prince George, will go ahead as planned.

Other spectator events have merely cancelled spectators.

The Columbus Blue Jackets became the first NHL to announce that home games will be played without fans, heeding the advice of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Other teams are expected to do the same.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that the March Madness tournament will be played without fans, and even American TV talk shows like “Live With Kelly and Ryan” and “The View” began filming Wednesday without studio audiences.

Trudeau said Canada’s government is considering more measures to contain COVID-19, such as what to do with incoming cruise ships, on which the disease has been known to spread.

He said Canada has been fortunate so far but warned cases could climb. He demurred on when the government would opt for stricter measures like community-wide lockdowns, such as those in China and Italy.

“It’s not about time. It’s about the situation and the facts on the ground. We will closely monitor what is needed to be done to keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau said, flanked by key ministers and Canada’s chief public health officer.

“While we are prepared for a wide range of scenarios, we will focus right now on what needs to be done now and endeavour to make sure that is enough, that we don’t have to take future steps.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the government expects between 30 and 70 per cent of Canadians could be infected by the novel coronavirus if the global pandemic reaches widespread transmission in Canada.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says of those who become sick, about six per cent would likely need intensive care based on the experience of other countries.

with files from The Canadian Press

hmooney@postmedia.com


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11Mar

Better protections needed for health-care workers during COVID-19: advocates

by admin

Canada’s first death from the novel coronavirus has highlighted the urgent and often ignored need for better staffing at long-term care facilities where elderly residents are especially vulnerable to the disease, says the head of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

Linda Silas said the need has become “top of mind” following the death on Sunday of a man in his 80s at a care home in North Vancouver, where another patient has contracted COVID-19. One of four care aides who contracted the illness there is in hospital and two relatives of another are also been sick.

Discussions about preparedness were focused on emergency rooms, critical care and public health units, she said.

“A week ago we were talking about ‘Is the acute-care sector ready?’” Silas said. “Everyone’s now talking about, ‘What about long-term care?’ ”

More infections of health-care workers leading to 14 days of quarantine would mean greater staff shortages that could leave frail patients, who often have chronic illnesses, at higher risk, Silas said, adding staffing levels are already affected by outbreaks of seasonal influenza.

“When it hits a long-term care facility, it’s always more of a crisis than if it hits even your community or hospital. We’ve always known it’s a fragile population with any kind of illness and this is one of those where we have to pay particular attention,” she said of COVID-19.

Silas said the federation has recommended 4.5 hours of care by registered and licensed practical nurses a day, for each resident in long-term care facilities in Canada.

The actual level of nursing is about three hours, with some provinces, including Ontario and New Brunswick, among the worst as few nurses choose to work in long-term care jobs, she said.

As well, there are shortages of care aides, also called personal support workers, which adds more stress to a challenging work environment, said Silas.

“The working conditions are very difficult. You’re working short all the time, you’re never guaranteed registered nurses and often your only option is to send your patient to the hospital when often it’s not what they need and what’s best for them,” she said.

“And your personal care workers are not often permanent employees. They work casual or part time and they work in different facilities so there’s always a turnover.”

Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, said less than 50 per cent of staff in long-term care homes work in just one facility and support workers are also employed in multiple facilities.

“Some of them work in three places,” she said, adding a government directive during the SARS crisis in 2003 required nurses to work in only one facility to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said after announcing the death this week that an infected care aide from the same facility is believed to have worked at two other facilities.

“We know that whether it’s care workers or nurses, even physicians, we work in many different health authorities, many different facilities sometimes. That is part of the ongoing investigation at the Lynn Valley care home, to find out exactly where everybody worked and make sure that the other facilities are investigated.”

Silas said a big concern is the lack of employment insurance sick leave benefits for some support workers compared with nurses.

Business and other labour groups have urged the federal government to ease access to such benefits, which the government appears open to doing, along with tax credits and other breaks as part of the federal response.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said the government was looking at taking some steps to help affected workers and the health-care system.

Jennifer Whiteside, spokeswoman for the Hospital Employees’ Union, said care aides in British Columbia work in a “fragmented” system, with some in part-time and casual jobs at various facilities run by either private contractors or health authorities.

Sick leave benefits may be as few as five to seven sick days a year versus 18 days offered by health authorities, Whiteside said, adding aides having to go into quarantine could face financial hardship because of their lower pay levels.

“Their sick leave will be wiped out. They won’t even have enough to cover one period of self (quarantine) should that become necessary and certainly not enough to cover them should they actually become sick ),” she said.

“If a large number get sick then we’ll be having some challenges. There’s no question that a situation like this does really bring into sharp relief some of the challenges we have in the system around how we manage the care-aide labour force.”

Isobel Mackenzie, advocate for seniors in British Columbia, said the job of care aides has long been undervalued and the novel coronavirus may create awareness about the need for change.

“I think what this is going to highlight, and this is a conversation for after we’ve dealt with the crisis, is the different ways in which these care homes are staffed. We need all licensed care homes to be doing things exactly the same under the direction of the officer of the public health officer,” she said.

“How are we going to deal with the fact that some people are going to get paid while they’re off sick and some people aren’t? How are we going to handle the fact that they are working potentially for multiple employers?”

The issue of care aides who travel to various private homes must also be considered for the safety of the wider community, Mackenzie said.

“That’s where we’re going to have to be ever vigilant around monitoring and managing the situation,” she said. “(They) may be providing (seniors) with their medications that they absolutely need and if we don’t go there they aren’t going to get their medications.”

10Mar

B.C. plans for worst on COVID-19: John Horgan

by admin


B.C. Premier John Horgan


Jason Payne / Postmedia News Files

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the provincial government is preparing for the worst on COVID-19.

Horgan says public health institutions are well placed to cope with the novel coronavirus, having learned lessons from the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

He told the Surrey Board of Trade today that the virus will affect the economy in the short-term.

With an open economy and a diverse population, Horgan says the number of cases of COVID-19 in the province is not surprising.

The province has 32 cases and has reported one death.

Anita Huberman, chief executive officer of the Surrey Board of Trade, says all levels of government should include businesses in their planning processes.

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9Mar

Daphne Bramham: Canada’s other public health crisis also needs urgent attention

by admin

There is a very real and deadly health crisis in B.C. from which two people died yesterday and two more will likely die today, tomorrow and the days after that.

It’s not COVID-19, and no news conference was hastily called to talk about it.

Most of those dead and dying are blue-collar guys in what should be the prime of their lives.

This is the reality as B.C. lurches into the fifth year of an opioid overdose crisis. It’s a seemingly unending emergency that by the end of 2019 had already killed 5,539 people here and more than 13,900 across Canada.

Five years in, this crisis has become normalized, with the only certainty as we face another day is that first responders are now better at resuscitating victims because, year over year, the calls have only continued to increase.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed his top ministers to a committee tasked with responding to the COVID-19 crisis. At that point, Canada had only 30 confirmed cases. Of the 21 B.C. cases, four of the patients have fully recovered.

Not to belittle the concerns about COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic, but with nearly 14,000 dead already, no committee — high-level or otherwise — has yet been struck to devise a national addictions strategy that would deal not only with opioids, but also the biggest killer, which is alcohol. A 2019 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that 10 Canadians die every day from substance use, and three-quarters of those deaths are alcohol-related.

During the 2019 election, the issue flared briefly after Conservatives placed ads — mainly through ethnic media — claiming that Trudeau’s Liberals planned to legalize all drugs, including heroin.

Already beleaguered, Trudeau not only denied it, he quickly disavowed the resolution overwhelmingly passed at the party’s 2018 convention that called on the Canadian government to treat addiction as a health issue, expand treatment and harm reduction services, and decriminalize personal-use possession of all drugs, with people diverted away from the criminal courts and into treatment.

Trudeau disavowed it again this week when a Liberal backbencher’s private member’s bill was put on the order paper.


Liberal member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (in front) pictured in 2018.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Depending on how you read Bill C-236, it’s either calling for decriminalization or legalization. Regardless, the fact that Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s bill will be debated at least gets it on the political agenda because unless there are some major changes, Canadians are going to continue dying at these unacceptably high rates that have already caused the national life expectancy to drop.

Erskine-Smith, an Ontario MP from the Beaches-East York riding, favours a Portugal-style plan of which decriminalization plays only a small part.

But parliamentary rules forbid private member’s bills from committing the government to any new spending, so he said his bill could only narrowly focus on decriminalization.

The slim bill says charges could be laid “only if … the individual cannot be adequately dealt with by a warning or referral (to a program agency or service provider) … or by way of alternative measures.”

Erskine-Smith disagreed with the suggestion that it gives too much discretionary power to police — especially since in B.C., it’s prosecutors, not police, who determine whether charges are laid.

Still, what he proposes is quite different from what happens in Portugal.

There, police have no discretionary power. People found with illicit drugs are arrested and taken to the police station where the drugs are weighed, and the person is either charged with possession and sent to court or diverted to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Use to meet with social workers, therapists and addictions specialists who map out a plan.

Since private members’ bills rarely pass, Erskine-Smith doesn’t hold out much hope for his.

It created a firestorm on social media, with some recovery advocates pitted against advocates for harm reduction, including full legalization.

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Federal Conservatives also repeated their trope that drug legalization is part of Trudeau’s secret agenda.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s United Conservative government inflamed some harm-reduction advocates with the release of a report on the adverse social and economic impacts of safe consumption sites, even though it didn’t recommend shutting them down.

The report acknowledged that they play an important role in a continuum of care, but it also called for beefed-up enforcement to lessen the chaos that often surrounds them.

The committee questioned some data provided to them that suggested Lethbridge — population 92,730 — may be the world’s most-used injection site.

The committee also questioned why some operators report all adverse events, including non-life-threatening ones as overdoses, leaving the impression that without the sites “thousands of people would have fatally overdosed.”

Among its recommendations are better data collection using standardized definitions as well as better tracking of users to determine whether they are being referred to other services.

More than a year ago, Canadians overwhelmingly told the Angus Reid Institute that they supported mandatory treatment for opioid addiction.

Nearly half said they were willing to consider decriminalization. Nearly half also said that neither Ottawa nor the provinces were doing enough to ease the epidemic.

It seems Canadians are eager for change even if they’re not yet certain what it should look like. The only ones who seem reluctant are the politicians.

dbramham@postmedia.com

twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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5Mar

Two B.C. post-secondary schools close over COVID-19 case

by admin


A student tries to enter University Canada West in Vancouver on Thursday. The school is closing for three days for disinfection after two students were potentially exposed to the new coronavirus.


Jason Payne / PNG

COVID-19 could be a “gut shot” to B.C. schools and universities that rely on fees from international students, an immigration expert said Thursday, as two private post-secondary schools in Vancouver closed their doors because of a case of the novel coronavirus.

University Canada West said a student is in quarantine after being visited by her father. The father tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving from overseas for a visit and developing symptoms, according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer. The student’s roommate is also in quarantine.

The business school and an arts and design school in the same building on West Pender Street will be closed for three days to do a deep cleaning.

“Students and staff who may have been in close contact with the affected students have been identified and contacted with information and advice,” said a UCW media release.

B.C. schools and universities said the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t significantly affected their international student programs, but administrators are monitoring the situation with an eye toward September enrolment.

At Simon Fraser University, a university-wide planning group is looking at possible impacts from the virus, including finances, said Angela Wilson, senior director of media relations and public affairs. SFU has not seen declining enrolment since visa offices have been closed in China and Iran, but they are monitoring the situation closely.

UBC has not seen any enrolment drops, but the situation is constantly evolving, said the director of university affairs, Matthew Ramsey.

UBC is working with prospective international students on a “case by case basis” to help those who may be experiencing difficulties getting their applications together, extending some deadlines to the end of March.

Ramsey could not say how many applications have been affected. UBC typically doesn’t have solid enrolment numbers until November.

“We are watching this really, really carefully,” he said about the virus, adding the university is following the advice of Canadian health authorities, including the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

In January, UBC created a working group of people from across campus to discuss issues related to the virus, including how classes and exams might be offered using technology if attendance was no longer advisable.

Impacts on the Vancouver school district’s international student program “are minimal at present,” according to a statement provided to Postmedia.

“VSB programs are linear and the majority of international students arrive in August to study here. Given our enrolment timelines, it’s too early to provide enrolment details (for the) next school year.”

But Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said the coronavirus should be a concern for schools and universities as the closure of some Canadian visa application centres abroad will make it difficult for students hoping to attend school here.

“Canadian schools are about to experience a cash crunch,” he said. “Stopping the visa application centres is like shutting off the water flow. They might not feel it yet, but it’s coming.”

Kurland said international students who are currently studying in Canada may not be able to return home. Students are not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week off campus.

“That should be lifted immediately. They should be entitled to work to support themselves,” he said.

Several school districts have cancelled field trips because of the virus, including Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby. Overseas trips have been cancelled as well as those to New York City, Seattle, Burlington and Vancouver, Washington.

Also this week, the annual Asia-Pacific Association for International Education conference scheduled to be held in Vancouver later this month was postponed to March 2021. More than 2,500 people were registered to attend, said a news release.

In 2018, the B.C. government said the province had attracted more foreign students per capita than anywhere else in Canada — 130,000 in total — stating they inject $2 billion each year into the economy, creating 29,000 jobs.

In 2016, 28 per cent of UBC’s first-year contingent were foreign students.

A report on B.C. international students published in 2018 found that 13.7 per cent of post-secondary students in B.C. in 2016-17 were from outside Canada, as well as 7.7 per cent of the graduating Grade 12s. China (38 per cent) and India (21 per cent) were the two main sources of international students studying in B.C.

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With Postmedia files

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

3Mar

Feeling ill? Stay away from care homes and hospitals, seniors advocate asks

by admin


B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie.


B.C.’s seniors advocate is advising anyone who has flu-like symptoms to take a break from visiting a loved one in a care facility.

Isobel Mackenzie, the advocate, said Tuesday that there is no evidence that the new coronavirus has entered any long-term care home or acute-care hospital in B.C., as it has across the border in Washington state.

If that were to happen in B.C., she said, the health care system would implement procedures it uses to deal with outbreaks of other communicative disease in care homes such as influenza and norovirus.

“I think what people should be reassured about at the moment is that if we have a loved one in a care home, we have those protocols in place,” she said. “If you aren’t feeling well, if you have the sniffles or a bit of the flu, don’t go and visit your mom or dad or loved in in a care home. Wait until you feel better.”

Mackenzie’s comments come after Washington state reported 27 people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and nine deaths. All cases are clustered in two adjacent Seattle-area counties with five of the deaths and several of the cases at a long-term care nursing home in Kirkland.

“This is an extraordinary situation,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said. “We need everybody to start thinking about what do I need to do to protect my family and myself to prevent transmission of this in our community. Right now, that’s stay home even if you think you have a cold.”

Henry echoed Mackenzie’s comments about not visiting family and friends in long-term care homes if you’re feeling ill.

“We know that’s an area where people are very vulnerable,” she said. “We’ve seen what’s happened in Washington state. We want to be extra cautious about staying away from people who are at risk from having severe illness from COVID-19, particularly in the next few weeks.”

In a joint statement, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said employers should increase the availability of supplies used for cleaning and hand hygiene and think about how they would manage absenteeism by allowing employees to work remotely or attend virtual meetings.

“Schools should be increasing cleaning and hand hygiene, educating students on respiratory etiquette, in addition to putting mechanisms in place to support students who may be away for extended periods,” the statement said.

The best precaution people can take is washing their hands and face, Henry said. “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapenos and need to change your contacts,” Henry said.

With files from CP

kevingriffin@postmedia.com

2Mar

Watching, wiping and waiting: How our institutions are protecting us from coronavirus

by admin

As the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, you will be increasingly unwelcome in public with a cough or the sniffles as transit users and shoppers are actively avoiding people with respiratory symptoms.

Six people have now died in the Seattle area as the global death toll tops 3,000, and it’s making people edgy.

“I jumped off a bus” after a woman coughing and sniffling behind a surgical mask got on with suitcases, said transit rider Tom Sewid. “I asked if she just arrived from China and she said yes, Wuhan.”

“Bus driver, let me off,” he said. “He stopped and others got off as well and we waited for the next bus.”

People responding to questions on social media admitted to running away from symptomatic people in Costco, avoiding people wearing surgical masks and recounted seeing bus drivers scold passengers to “please cough into your sleeve.”

“TransLink is following the lead of health officials when it comes to response to COVID-19,” the company said. “Provincial Health Services says the risk to our customers and staff remains low and it has not directed us to make any operational changes at this time.”

Buses and trains are disinfected “regularly.”

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry suggested more frequent cleaning on public transit and increasing the availability of hand sanitizer “so, if there is a lot of virus in the environment, it can be cleaned up before people touch their faces and (infect) themselves.”

B.C. Ferries is taking advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada and B.C. Centre for Disease Control regarding COVID-19 coronavirus.

“We have standard procedures in place to mitigate the spread of illness on our ferries and at our terminals,” said a spokesperson. “As a precaution, crews at our terminals and on board our vessels are taking extra measures to clean all touch points.”


Students at UBC take precautions and wear surgical masks on Monday. Building operations staff are cleaning touch surfaces such as door knobs and faucets on a daily basis.

Jason Payne /

PNG

People who are experiencing cold or flu symptoms should probably avoid transit and self-isolate to do what they can to avoid spreading COVID-19 coronavirus, said Stephen Hoption Cann, a clinical professor in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC.

“When I teach, I notice a lot more students are deciding not to come to class with cold symptoms, because it’s just unwelcome to be coughing,” he said. “Before they might have just toughed it out.”

As COVID-19 is detected in more countries, the virus will become harder to contain, he said. New cases are leaking out of Egypt, which hadn’t been thought to have widespread infection until now.

UBC has installed additional hand-sanitizing stations in high traffic areas across campus, said Matthew Ramsey, UBC’s director of university affairs. “We are reminding everyone in our community again today what the proper procedures are for limiting the spread of illness.”

Building operations staff are cleaning touch surfaces such as door knobs and faucets on a daily basis.

“The cleaning protocols were changed after the SARS outbreak to recognize the need to be more vigilant,” he said.

The car-sharing firm Evo has warned its members not use their cars when they are ill and launched a feature this week allowing members to rate the cleanliness of vehicles to determine which cars need extra cleaning.

Evo cleans each vehicle once a week, but has started using “extra disinfectant,” said Richard Gaspar, Evo’s senior manager of business operations.

Related

The provincial health officer is reviewing the criteria for managing crowd events.

“They are cancelling sporting events in Italy and that’s something you do if you aren’t sure whether (a virus) can be contained,” said Henry.

The H1N1 outbreak of 2009 came close to imperilling the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, she noted.

“We weren’t preparing for a pandemic necessarily, but if the Olympics had been scheduled for November 2009 we would have been in serious danger of cancelling or postponing,” she said. “You need a lot of (Intensive Care Unit) capacity to support the Olympics and that is what Tokyo is looking at right now.”

As COVID-19 outbreaks spread beyond the 50 countries already reporting confirmed cases, containment will become increasingly difficult, said Theresa Tam, chief public health officer for Canada.

“As the number of countries that are affected increase, border measures actually become less effective … and less feasible,” she said. “We are trying to identify individual travellers linked to affected countries, so public health is spending a lot of attention and been very effective taking on individual cases.”

Border entry points provide a moment for education of travellers and those messages are already “expanding and shifting as we speak,” she added.

Travellers are being asked to present themselves to border service agents if they have any symptoms so they can be assessed.

“So far in Canada, this approach has worked very well,” she said.

rshore@postmedia.com

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