Posts Tagged "BCs"

5Nov

COVID-19 update for Nov. 5: 596 new case, eight deaths | Good news as B.C.’s reproductive rate falls below one | Europe could see 500,000 new deaths by February, WHO says | Pfizer says antiviral pill cuts risk of severe illness by 89 per cent

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

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Nov. 5, 2021.

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

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


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on Nov. 4:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 207,716 (4,451 active)
• New cases since Nov. 3: 596
• Total deaths: 2,200 (eight additional deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 438
• Intensive care: 130
• Total vaccinations: 4,176,649 received first dose; 3,968,494 second doses
• Recovered from acute infection: 200,749
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 37

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


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.

Good news as B.C.’s COVID-19 reproductive rate falls below one

The reproductive rate that determines how British Columbia is faring in the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen below one for the first time in months, the provincial health officer said on Thursday.

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This means that for every 100 cases of the disease, it is being passed on to fewer than 100 people, and so can slowly dwindle.

“For the first time in several months, across the board we’ve dipped down below one,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“What we have been seeing is sort of bouncing around at one, which means for every person who’s infected, they infect one other person on average. Now we’re seeing that below one. That’s good news, but it’s just below one, which means that we have right now a fragile balance. We’re going down slowly.”

There were 596 new cases of COVID-19 reported over the past day and eight deaths. There are now 4,451 active cases of the disease in B.C., of which 438 are being treated in hospital including 130 in intensive care.

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—David Carrigg

Europe could see 500,000 new COVID deaths by February, WHO says

“Europe is back at the epicentre of the pandemic, where we were one year ago,” the World Health Organization’s head of Europe said Thursday.

The number of new COVID-19 cases per day has been rising for nearly six consecutive weeks, and the number of new deaths per day has been climbing for just over seven consecutive weeks, with about 250,000 cases and 3,600 deaths per day, according to official country data compiled by the AFP newswire.

The WHO’s European region spans 53 countries and territories and includes several nations in Central Asia, and has already seen 78 million cases. Over the past four weeks, new case numbers have grown by more than 55 per cent, prompting WHO Europe director Hans Kluge to allow that the “current pace of transmission … is of grave concern .”

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Kluge cited one “reliable projection” for the prediction that the current trajectory would mean “another half a million COVID-19 deaths” by Feb. 1, 2022.

Although one billion doses have been administered in Europe and central Asia, Kluge blamed insufficient vaccination coverage and the relaxation of public health and social measures for the latest increases.

“If we achieved 95 per cent universal mask use in Europe and central Asia,” he noted, “we could save up to 188,000 lives of the half million we may lose before February 2022.

“Preventive measures, when applied correctly and consistently,” he said, “allow us to go on with our lives, not the opposite. Preventive measures do not deprive people of their freedom, they ensure it.”

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—National Post, Reuters

Pfizer says antiviral pill cuts risk of severe COVID-19 by 89 per cent

A trial of Pfizer Inc’s experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19 was stopped early after the drug was shown to cut by 89% the chances of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of developing severe disease, the company said on Friday.

The results appear to surpass those seen with Merck & Co Inc’s pill, molnupiravir, which was shown last month to halve the likelihood of dying or being hospitalized for COVID-19 patients also at high risk of serious illness.

Full trial data is not yet available from either company.

—Reuters

Spending spike during COVID-19 could hamper health-care rebuilding post-pandemic: group

A spike in health-care spending during the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to some serious financial challenges for provinces as they work to rebuild their health systems in the aftermath, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

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The spending surge is expected to reach a record $308 billion in 2021, say newly released projections from CIHI.

That is roughly $8,019 per Canadian.

“COVID-19 resulted in the single biggest increase in health spending we have ever seen in this country,” said CIHI president David O’Toole in a news release.

Health spending is projected to have increased 12.8 per cent between 2019 and 2020. That’s more than triple the average annual growth rate seen from 2015 to 2019, which was approximately four per cent per year.

Spending is estimated to have increased another 2.2 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

The agency said its estimates will be updated as final spending amounts are tabulated, and may be less accurate than normal given the nature of emergency funds spent during the pandemic.

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—The Canadian Press

Vast majority of federal public servants comply with mandatory vaccination policy

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier says 95.3 per cent of federal public servants have indicated they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

She says another 2.7 per cent of the roughly 268,000 employees of the core federal public service say they have been partially immunized.

Fortier says 1.2 per cent – or about 3,150 public servants – are requesting exemptions, which are being assessed on a case-by-case basis by each federal department.

She says 0.5 per cent have declared they are unvaccinated and 0.3 per cent have so far not attested to their vaccination status, which they were supposed to do by Oct. 29.

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—The Canadian Press


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

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


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–with files from The Canadian Press

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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.

4Nov

COVID-19: Good news as B.C.’s reproductive rate falls below one

by admin

Despite stubborn hospitalization rates, each case of COVID-19 in B.C. is now transmitting, on average, to fewer than one person

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The reproductive rate that determines how British Columbia is faring in the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen below one for the first time in months, the provincial health officer said on Thursday.

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This means that for every 100 cases of the disease it is being passed on to fewer than 100 people, and so can slowly dwindlet.

“For the first time in several months across the board we’ve dipped down below one,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“What we have been seeing is sort of bouncing around at one, which means for every person who’s infected, they infect one other person on average. Now we’re seeing that below one. That’s good news, but it’s just below one, which means that we have right now a fragile balance. We’re going down slowly.”

There were 596 new cases of COVID-19 reported over the past day and eight deaths. There are now 4,451 active cases of the disease in B.C., of which 438 are being treated in hospital including 130 in intensive care

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Henry’s COVID-19 modelling update showed a vast difference in infection and health outcomes between vaccinated people and unvaccinated.

For example, 60 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 in October were from among the 10 per cent of people aged 12 and over in B.C. who had not received at least one dose of vaccine. Also, 72 per cent of hospitalized cases in the same month were among unvaccinated, as were 90 per cent of all cases in intensive care.

“When we look at vaccination progress, we can see that we’ve made tremendous progress across the board. So we are at about 90 per cent coverage of people over the age of 12 and that is fantastic,”Henry said.

“But it also reflects that that small percentage of people left still has a tremendous burden on our health-care system.”

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She said that half of the 2,200 COVID-19 deaths so far were in unvaccinated, and those who were vaccinated and died tended to be older people.

Henry said the rate of infection in those aged 11 and under was continuing to fall, after spiking when children returned to school at the start of September. Data showed that the rate of infection is especially high in the Northern Health region where vaccine hesitancy is also high. The percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive in Northern Health at the moment is 18 per cent compared to four per cent on average across the province.

Henry said that COVID-19 was now a preventable disease and the risk of getting very sick from the virus was dramatically higher for people who are not yet vaccinated.

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She said that hospitalization rates in B.C. were “stubborn” and were not falling despite the rate or transmission falling below one. This is because the Delta mutation of COVID-19 that is dominant in the province caused more severe illness than the virus that first arrived in B.C. in January, 2020.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver school board has joined Surrey schools in a decision to not impose a mandatory vaccination order on teachers and staff.

dcarrigg@postmedia.com


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15Oct

Hiring society’s overlooked could help cure B.C.’s pandemic-fuelled job crunch

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Since 2009, Mission Possible has trained dozens of people, including those who are homeless and have physical or developmental disabilities.

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A Vancouver employment agency is offering a solution to quell a COVID-fuelled job crunch that’s devastating B.C. restaurants, stores and businesses.

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“Meet the labour shortage by tapping into talent that’s traditionally been excluded,” said Matthew Smedley, executive director of a non-profit group that provides job-skills training to unemployed Vancouver Downtown Eastside residents.

This week, the agency released a comprehensive guide for employers on how their workplace can accommodate diverse staff members who are struggling with disordered substance use or experiencing mental-health crises.

“Approximately one-in-five Canadians have some kind of disability or barrier, visible or not. Simply put, there is a largely untapped pool of people who are ready, willing and able to work,” reads the guide .

It suggests employers allow their employees “time to attend meetings and appointments that support their treatment or recovery during work hours.”

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Since 2009, Mission Possible has trained dozens of people, including those who are homeless and have physical or developmental disabilities.

Vancouver’s Chris Middleton had six months of paid training, cleaning litter and garbage before he graduated and found full-time work in 2020.

“Before Mission Possible, I couldn’t get a job because I had no ID or cellphone. I had spent years on the streets using drugs,” said the 42-year-old.

After graduating from its job training program, Middleton became a support worker for a non-profit. He’s now helping others find stable housing.

“Many employers think it’s a risk to hire people from the streets — but in my current job, I’ve found people in poverty to be some of the hardest workers. They’re willing to work for what is theirs,” Middleton said.

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“Today I pay my own rent, have a job I love and a passion for the work I do.”

Last year, Mission Possible saw 15 of its participants land full-time jobs. Smedley is hoping to see 50 more graduates in 2022, to help Vancouver’s unemployed as well as businesses recovering from pandemic-driven losses.

“Right now, the biggest challenge for businesses is finding workers,” said Pierre Cléroux, chief economist with the Business Development Bank of Canada. “The labour shortage is hindering the countries’ post-pandemic recovery.”

A development bank study of 1,251 entrepreneurs found that 55 per cent were struggling to hire workers and 37 per cent had to delay or cancel orders as a result.

Statistics Canada 2021 data also paints the picture of a widespread labour shortage. In B.C., more job vacancies exist than in 11 of the country’s 13 other provinces and territories.

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In the last few years, B.C. restaurant chain Tacofino has hired a dozen employees with developmental disabilities as prep or line cooks.

“Employers often think hiring disabled people is going to be a lot of extra work but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Taylor Chobotiuk, head of people and engagement for Tacofino. “It’s a manager’s job to understand the needs of his or her employees. Everyone communicates differently. We start off our hiring process with an open dialogue, asking the worker how they best take instructions.”

Accommodations Tacofino has made include offering its employees more frequent breaks and communicating work duties using written to-do lists.

Chobotiuk said the restaurant chain’s more diverse staff are some of its most dependable: “Many have been with us for a few years now, doing great work.”

sgrochowski@postmedia.com

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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.

15Oct

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

by admin

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

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

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

10 deaths feared in outbreak at Burnaby care home

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

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

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

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

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

-Cheryl Chan

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

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

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

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

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

Read more HERE.

-Keith Fraser

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

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

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

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

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

Read more HERE.

-Derrick Penner

13Oct

COVID-19 update for Oct. 13: U.S. to lift Canada land border restrictions in Nov. for vaccinated visitors | Almost 2,000 workers in B.C.’s long-term and assisted-living homes refuse vaccination, risk dismissal | Outbreak at Tofino Hospital | 2,029 new cases, and 28 deaths on long weekend

by admin

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

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Oct. 13, 2021.

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

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


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on Oct. 12:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 194,581 (5,183 active)
• New cases since Oct. 8: 2,090 (603/634/468/385)
• Total deaths: 2,029 (28 additional deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 357 (down three)
• Intensive care: 153 (up 16)
• Total vaccinations: 4,117,400 received first dose; 3,830,063 second doses
• Recovered from acute infection: 186,955
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 20

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


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.

Almost 2,000 workers in B.C.’s long-term and assisted-living homes refuse vaccination, risk dismissal

About four per cent of the 49,000 people who work at B.C.’s long-term and assisted-living homes hadn’t been vaccinated for COVID-19 by Tuesday, the first day a public health order requiring them to have at least one dose as a condition of their employment came into effect.

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A similar order is coming later this month for health care workers in acute and community care settings.

For one of the largest LTCs, Menno Place in Abbotsford with 675 employees, that meant nine permanent workers and 19 casual employees were forbidden by a public health order from working and face termination in two weeks unless they get vaccinated, said CEO Karen Biggs.

“Some people chose to retire at this time rather than be vaccinated,” she told Postmedia via email. “Others are on long term disability or leaves so we don’t know their vaccination status.”

The province has collected data from all but four of the 546 long-term and assisted-living homes in the province. Of the 48,897 staff members approximately 96 per cent have had their first dose, and 93 per cent have had both doses.

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-Susan Lazaruk

U.S. to lift Canada land border restrictions in Nov. for vaccinated visitors

The United States will lift restrictions at its land borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, ending historic curbs on non-essential travelers in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic, two U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

The rules, which will be formally announced by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, will cover land borders and ferry crossings. They are similar but not identical to planned requirements announced last month for international air travelers, the officials said in a call with reporters.

Lawmakers from U.S border states praised the move to lift the unprecedented restrictions which harmed the economies of local communities and prevented visits to friends and families.

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“Since the beginning of the pandemic, members of our shared cross-border community have felt the pain and economic hardship of the land border closures. That pain is about to end,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

-Reuters

RCMP investigating after man glues doors shut at Langford vaccine clinic

RCMP on Vancouver Island are investigating after the door locks of a Langford COVID-19 vaccine clinic were glued shut.

The incident happened on Sept. 29 during off-hours at a clinic in Langford. The glue made the doors inoperable and entry into the clinic impossible.

The suspect is a man who is 5-foot-8, in his 50’s and has a medium build. He has a moustache and glasses, and was wearing a blue plaid shirt, blue jeans and a black poncho when the incident occurred.

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“While we understand that not everyone share the same beliefs during this pandemic, this act of mischief is a criminal offence and will be treated as such,” said Const. Alex Bérubé of the West Shore RCMP in a news release.

Investigators were able to obtain video surveillance footage and are looking to identify the suspect.

-Mike Raptis

Outbreak declared at Tofino General Hospital

Island Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Tofino General Hospital after evidence of transmission on the inpatient unit.

Four patients have tested positive for COVID-19 related to this outbreak. The outbreak at is limited to the inpatient unit. The emergency department and the rest of the hospital remains open. There has been no impact to other areas of the hospital at this time.

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Upon declaring the outbreak, Island Health immediately implemented precautions, including enhanced cleaning and contact tracing to protect the health of all patients, staff and medical staff. Communication with patients, families and staff is ongoing.

Island Health has implemented comprehensive strategies to prevent and respond to COVID-19 in long-term care, acute care, assisted living and licensed facilities.

Active cases falling, but B.C. reports 28 deaths over past four days

B.C. reported 28 deaths over the long weekend and 2,090 new cases of COVID-19.

The only bright note in today’s numbers is that the case count got progressively lower over the fours days (dropping from 603 to 385) and the number of active cases fell 786 to 5,183.

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There were 9,734 first doses of vaccine administered during the same period and 18,987 second doses – leaving 82.6 per cent of B.C.’s population aged 12 and over fully vaccinated.

Of the active cases, 357 are being treated in hospital including 153 in intensive care.

There have been two new health-care facility outbreaks at West Shore Laylum and Evergreen Manor (Fraser Health), for a total of 19 active outbreaks.

From Oct. 4-10 people not fully vaccinated accounted for 68.1 per cent of cases.


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

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


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–with files from The Canadian Press

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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.

12Oct

COVID-19: Almost 2,000 workers in B.C.’s long-term and assisted-living homes refuse vaccination, risk dismissal

by admin

“Some people chose to retire at this time rather than be vaccinated. Others are on long term disability or leaves so we don’t know their vaccination status.” — Menno Place CEO Karen Biggs

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About four per cent of the 49,000 people who work at B.C.’s long-term and assisted-living homes hadn’t been vaccinated for COVID-19 by Tuesday, the first day a public health order requiring them to have at least one dose as a condition of their employment came into effect.

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A similar order is coming later this month for health care workers in acute and community care settings.

For one of the largest LTCs, Menno Place in Abbotsford with 675 employees, that meant nine permanent workers and 19 casual employees were forbidden by a public health order from working and face termination in two weeks unless they get vaccinated, said CEO Karen Biggs.

“Some people chose to retire at this time rather than be vaccinated,” she told Postmedia via email. “Others are on long term disability or leaves so we don’t know their vaccination status.”

The province has collected data from all but four of the 546 long-term and assisted-living homes in the province. Of the 48,897 staff members approximately 96 per cent have had their first dose, and 93 per cent have had both doses.

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Any scheduled workers who hadn’t been vaccinated were placed on immediate leave, according to Biggs.

Karen Biggs, CEO at Menno Place in Abbotsford.
Karen Biggs, CEO at Menno Place in Abbotsford. Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG

“Unvaccinated staff go on unpaid leave until the (Oct.) 26,” said Biggs. “After that date, if they have not started a vaccination plan, they will be terminated so we can post their positions permanently, with benefits.”

Workers who choose not to be vaccinated will face “definite employment consequences,” said Mike Old of the Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents 20,000 of the workers in senior homes, most of them care aides.

He said the union has an obligation to support its members and would review any grievances on merit. And he said “anybody can go the B.C. human rights tribunal” with a complaint but he admitted the odds of winning a decision at the tribunal are slim.

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Old said long-term and assisted-living homes are required by law to ensure all workers are vaccinated. Workers will have a chance to apply for a medical exemptions but conditions for those are strict, he added.

Under new provisions of the health order released this weekend, workers with one dose as of Tuesday could continue to work as long as they wear PPE, get regular rapid tests and plan a second dose in 28 to 35 days.

Those with zero doses can keep their jobs if they get their first dose before Oct. 25, after which they would remain off work for another seven days and then will need to follow the same prevention precautions when resuming work.

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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.

6Sep

COVID 19: Human-rights advocates concerned by B.C.’s vaccine card

by admin

Disability, anti-poverty and civil-rights advocates worry proof-of-vaccination requirements will exclude their constituents.

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The COVID-19 vaccine-card requirement being rolled out in British Columbia is popular with a public weary of pandemic restrictions, but disability, anti-poverty and civil-rights advocates worry it will be another layer of social isolation for their constituents.

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The business community has also raised questions about their role in enforcing the rule.

Set to kick in Sept. 13, the measure will require people to show proof of vaccination to go to restaurants, casinos and gyms and indoor venues including concerts or sporting events, but won’t include a medical exemption for those who cannot be vaccinated. More details about its implementation are expected this week.

“My initial reaction to Dr. Bonnie Henry’s announcement of the B.C. vaccine card was frustration,” said Helaine Boyd, executive director of the Disability Alliance of B.C., who said the measure is open to a legal challenge as a contravention of B.C. Human Rights Code.

Henry couched the lack of a medical exemption as a temporary restriction on “discretionary activities,” but Boyd said swimming pools are included on that list, which will cut some disabled off from activities that count as hydrotherapy.

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And generally, “I imagine that social isolation will be further exacerbated by this,” Boyd said.

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender wasn’t available for an interview Friday, but did say she is “monitoring (the requirement) closely,” in an on air interview on CKNW’s Mike Smyth show, with respect to a potential violation of human rights law.

“A policy like this can be justified within human-rights principles,” she said, but “a policy like this needs to give deep consideration to human-rights principles and law, and I do have concerns on that front.”

It isn’t just the disabled who face barriers to the vaccine-card program, anyone who doesn’t have government identification or a personal health number faces difficulties, according to an “open response” issued by the Pivot Legal Society signed by 24 advocacy organizations, including the disability alliance.

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The document notes that undocumented migrants, low-income individuals and drug users are among the groups who will face barriers to the program, even though many of them are vaccinated, but unable to prove it.

In the response, the groups, which include the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Fuerza Migrante and B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, call on government to provide options for individuals who aren’t enrolled in MSP or have government ID to prove their vaccination status.

It also asks government to ensure public health orders don’t target undocumented individuals and “there is no police enforcement of public health guidelines.”

For the disability community, “the minimum would just be for them to get in contact with us and the rest of the disability community about this medical exemption issue rather than ignoring us,” Boyd said.

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Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the vaccine-card program Aug. 23, which was viewed as a necessary measure to curb rising COVID infections, particularly the highly infectious Delta variant, among the unvaccinated.

Some 77 per cent of British Columbians over the age of 12 were fully vaccinated as of Friday, almost 85 per cent had at least one vaccine dose, according to the Ministry of Health.

Businesses support the idea, but will monitor its implementation to see if they need help from government to back up the front line workers who will be expected to enforce the rule, said Ian Tostenson, CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Service Association.

“There’s this incremental cost if you need to put someone through the (vaccine-card) verification process,” Tostenson said, which financially stretched venues might need help with.

Premier John Horgan advised business owners to call police if their employees face abuse from the anyone unable to show proof of vaccination, but Tostenson said establishments might also have to hire additional security.

“We don’t want confrontation, that’s not the business we’re in,” Tostenson said. “And so we try to avoid that as much as we can.”

depenner@postmedia.com

twitter.com/derrickpenner


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1Sep

Daphne Bramham: Changing B.C.’s Dickensian-era child labour laws is worth celebrating

by admin

For decades, British Columbia had the worst child labour laws in North America. That’s changing and worth celebrating this Labour Day.

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For decades, British Columbia has had among the worst child labour laws in North America, worse than states like Arkansas, Alabama and Texas that Canadians usually view askance.

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So, it is real cause for celebration this Labour Day that finally, in October, B.C. children will be protected by laws that conform to international standards. But there’s still work to be done because not included in the reforms are bans on the most Dickensian of jobs.

It’s surprising enough that it’s only in its second term that the union-backed New Democratic Party government is finally dealing with the egregious and exploitative child labour laws.

But it’s astounding that the provision that allows children to work in mines as trainees, work with explosives, toxic substances and heavy equipment wasn’t the first thing addressed, instead of the last. Because the government has yet to define “hazardous work”, although Labour Minister Harry Bains promised to deliver that “later this year.” Yet, for now, it means the old rules apply, albeit for those 16 and older, rather than 12.

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Bizarrely, serving alcohol has long been deemed more dangerous than mining. Youth have to be 18 to work in a bar.

That there has been no prolonged public outcry to make these changes sooner is also astonishing since it’s been nearly 140 years since Charles Dickens wrote about the plight of child labourers in England.

Two decades into the 21st century, B.C. kids 14 years old and younger have continued to be injured at work. More than $1.1 million was paid out in job-reality disability claims for them between 2007 and 2016, according to WorkSafeBC.

Starting in October, the minimum working age rises to 14 from 12.

There are a few exceptions. Kids as young as 12 will still be able to do things like babysit and deliver newspapers and flyers. (As an aside, Postmedia stopped using child carriers years ago.) They will also still be able work on their families’ farms or businesses owned by their immediate family as long as that work is within the safety criteria.

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But 14- and 15-year-olds will only be allowed to do “light work”. Things like working as lifeguards, golf caddies, camp counsellors. They can stock shelves, do yard work, harvesting by hand, stock shelves, bus tables, wash dishes and that sort of thing.

Finally, youth caregivers will be protected under the Employment Standards Act if they work more than 15 hours a week.

But, until October, 12-year-olds can still work up to 20 hours a week during school. When school is out, they’ve been able to work up to 40 hours a week.

Children should never have been substitutes for adult workers and certainly not now, even if British Columbia faces an acute labour shortage as baby boomers continue their inexorable march into retirement.

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Paradoxically, as we surf the fourth wave of COVID-19, those shortages should provide more hope than despair to workers — if not employers.

As a result of the pandemic, the government has already mandated changes that improve the working conditions for long-term care workers.

Since June, it has required three days’ paid sick leave for any workers who have COVID or have been in contact with someone who has. Until the end of the year, the province has been reimbursing employers for up to $200 a day of such leave.

But come next year, it promises that the temporary program will be made permanent in some form. How that will work is part of the discussions it is currently having with business, labour and Indigenous leaders.

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For struggling employers, who’ve barely survived months of shutdowns, restrictions and increased costs due to COVID, this likely seems more bad news.

Everywhere you look there are Help Wanted signs are plastered on doors, windows and utility polls as well as on social media.

Attracting workers back after the lockdowns and finding replacements for those not returning leaves businesses with few alternatives.

One option is better wages and working conditions. That’s especially so in the hospitality sector where, according to RBC Economics, wages remain 57 per cent below other service-sector jobs.

Another option is fast-tracking investments in technological changes that over the coming years will replace tens of thousands of low-skilled jobs.

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But it’s a third option that is highlighted by RBC Economics in its June report on rebuilding Canada’s labour market: End the systemic dysfunction.

By making use of the existing “underutilized talent pool” alone could increase gross domestic product by $30 billion a year. RBC challenges policy-makers to provide better access to child- and elder care, which will free up more women to work.

It urges providing the infrastructure so that the skills and credentials of immigrants are recognized.

Internationally trained doctors, nurses and veterinarians spring most readily to mind. But there are others, including those in desperately needed trades, who aren’t working because of regulatory barriers.

Ever since 1894, the first Monday in September has been a Canadian holiday set aside to celebrate workers’ achievements and to campaign for change.

This year, British Columbians have reason to celebrate. But they also have reason to keep lobbying for other desperately needed changes that will help the pandemic’s economic recovery.

Dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

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26Aug

B.C.’s vaccine passport will ‘ostracize’ people who can’t get the shot, says lawyer

by admin

VANCOUVER —
When the province announced B.C.’s new COVID-19 vaccine passport, Leigh Eliason was stunned.

“I’m sad. I’m sad for what this has become,” she said.

The 41-year-old Maple Ridge woman has complex health issues, including an autoimmune disease called neuro vestibular dysfunction. At its worst, she says, the illness left her bedridden for more than a year.

She’s doing much better now but says with no vaccine studies on people with her condition, she’s worried getting the COVID-19 shot could trigger severe symptoms.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m pro-body autonomy and my choice for myself is I’m not comfortable,” she said.

Beginning Sept. 13, proof of vaccination will be required to go to restaurants, gyms, concerts and other ticketed events. There are no exceptions.

“These new measures will help reduce transmission and keep our communities safer,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer said on Monday.

But for Eliason, the changes mean she won’t be able to watch her daughter on stage.

“I’m devastated I’m going to miss seeing my daughter perform,” she said.

Human rights lawyers say they are hearing from many people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons.

“The people that we’re hearing from at the Human Rights Clinic are people with allergies to components of the vaccine, maybe people who received a first dose and had a reaction to the shot and have been advised by their doctor not to get the second shot,” says Vancouver lawyer Laura Track.

Track says she expects the passport mandate to be challenged in court.

“Our human rights laws in Canada protect people from discrimination on the basis of both disability and religious grounds,” she said.

Her concerns are echoed by lawyer Christine Van Geyn of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

“People who wish they could be vaccinated but can’t be are now sort of ostracized from society and I think that poses a very big constitutional problem,” Van Geyn said.

“There are reasons people can’t be vaccinated. They are rare but in a province the size of British Columbia, that amounts to a lot of people,” she explained.

Van Geyn says the province needs to create accommodations in the vaccine passport program for people who can’t be vaccinated because of a disability.

Eliason also hopes health officials will make exemptions.

“We’re losing empathy for one another. Everybody’s so angry,” said Eliason. “It’s going to cause a lot of division where we already have so much division.”

She says her daughters are both vaccinated but understand their mom’s decision.

8Aug

COVID-19: Five ways B.C.’s fourth wave is different than the others

by admin

British Columbia’s latest wave of COVID-19 infection is very different to the first three waves

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British Columbia is now in its fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It began at the end of the first week of July after tough restrictions and high vaccination rates had managed to beat the third wave down.

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Roughly speaking, the first wave was weak and ran through March and April 2020, the second wave was stronger and ran from October 2020 to February 2021. The third wave was the strongest — with average cases peaking at 1,130 a day with more than 10,000 active cases in mid-April.

Case numbers are again rising steadily in B.C., as are active cases, though there have not been as many deaths. There were 464 cases of COVID-19 reported last Friday with 2,411 active cases.

Here’s a look at how the fourth wave is different from the earlier waves of infection in our province.

Interior Health driving the fourth wave of infection

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in B.C. in March 2020, the cases were concentrated in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and during the third wave were driven by cases from Fraser Health (especially the northern parts of Surrey).

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During the fourth wave the majority of cases (59 per cent last Friday) were in Interior Health — in particular the Central Okanagan region including Kelowna. This is despite Interior Health being less than half the size of Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health and roughly the same size as Island Health — that accounted for around six per cent of cases last Friday.

As of last Friday, almost half of all cases in intensive care were in Interior Health hospitals, while 56 per cent of all active cases in the province are in that region.

It is younger people now who are spreading the infection

In her most recent press conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the fourth wave of transmission was being spread mostly among people aged 20-40.

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“We know that many people in this age group were the last to access vaccine and for many of them case counts had come down and it may not have been a priority with the many different things people have going on in their lives,” Henry said, adding most of the disease was spreading at social events that were permitted when the third round of restrictions were lifted.

Some of those restrictions have now been reintroduced in Interior Health, including the closing of pubs and nightclubs and mandatory mask wearing in indoor public spaces.

The first two stages of the pandemic were driven by older age groups, in particular people living in assisted living and care homes who also took the brunt of the pandemic’s death toll.

We have vaccine and a high vaccination rate in most places

The first two waves of infection occurred as scientists across the world frantically developed vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines proved to be the most effective and were introduced in Canada in late December and played a key role in beating down the third wave. As of last Friday, across B.C. 68.9 per cent of all eligible people (aged 12 and over) had received the double dose of vaccine needed to maximize immunity.

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However, that rate differs according to health region, with Interior Health and Northern Health having lower rates. For example, the Central Okanagan rate is 63 per cent, while it’s 57 per cent in Nelson.

So the fourth wave is different in that it is occurring despite world-leading vaccination rates in B.C .

It’s a different strain of the disease now driving the fourth wave in B.C.

The first strain of COVID-19 that emerged from Wuhan, China, in late 2019 is now simply called the “wild” virus and has mutated in thousands and thousands of ways — some of which have been classified by the World Health Organization as “variants of concern.” These variants have also been renamed to make the names easier to digest and to remove the stigma attached to where they came from. For example, the U.K. variant became known as the B.1.1.7 variant and is now called the Alpha variant.

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It was the Alpha variant that began taking a foothold in B.C. early in 2021. However, at around the same time a new variant emerged in India that was quickly identified as being more contagious than the others and in the Interior Health region now accounts for 80 per cent of cases. It is called the Delta variant and is driving the fourth wave.

Travel restrictions are being lifted and things are returning to normal

The first three waves of infection occurred during times of varying levels of restrictions, but in particular tough rules around travel. The latest wave is emerging as travel restrictions are being lifted. As of Monday, the federal government has ruled than any American citizen or permanent resident can cross into Canada without any quarantine as long as they are fully vaccinated.

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Curiously, there is one exception to this rule — applicable to people who live in Point Roberts (Wash.), Hyder (Alaska) and Northwest Angle (Minn.) — that allows unvaccinated Americans to enter their nearest Canadian community “to carry out everyday functions” but not travel beyond that community.

These three locations are all unique — for example, it’s impossible to get to Point Roberts without passing through Canada.

In B.C., Dr. Henry has set Sept 7 as the date all restrictions will be lifted, but that can be changed if the fourth wave does not subside.

dcarrigg@postmedia.com


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