Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Nov. 9, 2020.
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. 9:
• Total number of confirmed cases: 18,714 (4,891 active)
• New cases since Nov. 7: 998
• Hospitalized cases: 133
• Intensive care: 43
• COVID-19 related deaths: 281 (5 new)
• Cases under public health monitoring: 9,179
• Recovered: 13,425
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 37
LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.
8 p.m. Huge distribution problems in B.C. for promising deep-freeze vaccine
A new vaccine, with a Vancouver connection, could be available in B.C. in the first quarter of 2021, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday.
However, the province will have to overcome a significant supply-chain challenge to get it distributed — as it must be kept at minus-70 C or lose its effectiveness.
“That is one of the lights at the end of the tunnel,” said Henry, referring to the RNA vaccine — developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE — that is now shown in large-scale trials to protect more than 90 per cent of people from COVID-19.
“I think it’s fantastic. The preliminary analysis that they’ve done on a subset of (volunteers) shows that there’s good effect from the vaccine. So that’s great news. And that means that we’re on track for potentially having this vaccine available, both around the world, but here in Canada and in B.C., in the first quarter of 2021.”
Henry warned, though, that distributing the vaccine — developed using biotechnology from Vancouver company Acuitas Therapeutics — would be challenging because there were not a lot of ultralow temperature freezers in B.C. or freezer trucks that could handle the vaccine.
“It means the logistics of getting this vaccine are going to be complicated,” Henry said. “But the B.C. (Centre for Disease Control) has been working with Health Canada and the public health agency, and across this country, to make sure we have the logistics in place to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available and approved for use.”
Dr. Horacio Bach, an expert in vaccines at the University of B.C., said the distribution of deep-frozen vaccines around the world was a big issue.
“You need airplanes with minus-70 containers, and then they have to be kept that cold at the airport and then distributed say to Kelowna, and then from there. It’s a huge problem,” Bach said.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, announced 998 new coronavirus cases in B.C. over the last two days, along with five new deaths.
The updated numbers bring total confirmed cases in B.C. to 18,714 and the deaths to 281.
There are 4,891 active cases with 133 people in hospital, including 43 in ICU.
There are 9,179 people in self isolation after being potentially exposed to the disease. Of the new cases, 536 were reported between noon Saturday and noon Sunday and 462 between noon Sunday and noon Monday.
The majority of cases continues to be in the Fraser Health region (that covers 1.8 million people).
Henry said there were 37 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities, including two reported between noon Saturday and noon Monday. Of those outbreaks, 32 are in long-term care facilities. So far, 535 staff members at long-term care facilities have caught the disease. The COVID-19 death toll in B.C. is 281.
There were no community outbreaks reported over the past two days, and several school exposures were reported.
Premier John Horgan says the worsening COVID-19 crisis may prevent him from being able to recall the legislature in time to send out $1,000 economic aid payments to British Columbians before Christmas.
Horgan said Monday he hopes to name his new cabinet within the next two weeks, and then reconvene the legislature shortly afterwards, giving him the ability to pass new spending measures to combat the pandemic.
“There is a timeline but I might not meet it,” Horgan told reporters.
“We do hope to bring the legislature back before Christmas, but we have, with the increasing cases in the past 10 days or so, that has challenged our ability to bring people together in Victoria for swearing in.”
MLAs can’t be sworn into office until after Nov. 16, when Elections B.C. officially returns the election writ.
12:30 p.m. – Premier Horgan says British Columbians need to reduce social interactions
B.C. Premier John Horgan isn’t ruling out a return to Phase 1 COVID-19 restrictions if the province’s case numbers continue to skyrocket.
“That’s the end result if we don’t start to see these numbers come down,” Horgan said during a Monday new conference.
Phase 1 restrictions , which were introduced in March, included the closure of all dine-in establishment and personal service business. The partial lockdown lasted until restrictions were eased on May 18 when the province entered Phase 2 of the government’s restart plan.
On Saturday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, ordered a host of new restrictions on social gatherings in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions for the next two weeks in an effort to knock back a “dangerous” increase in cases of the novel coronavirus.
The restrictions include no indoor social gathering of any size with anyone other than your immediate household.
“We need to stay local and reduce to only essential travel,” said Horgan.
The premier said it is important that B.C. keeps essential services — including surgeries and schools — functioning and operating as safely as possible.
“All of this is in jeopardy if we don’t continue to focus on working together, each other, taking our responsibility to bring the case numbers down,” Horgan said.
“Our objective is to make sure that workplaces can be safe. Our objective is to make sure that our economy can remain open.
“We do that through, I believe, hoping for compliance rather than rigorous enforcement, but enforcement is key and a vital part of the work that we will be doing in the weeks ahead.”
New federal support for Canada’s pandemic-battered airline industry will be contingent on carriers providing refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled, the government announced on Sunday.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau laid out the requirement as he announced that Ottawa is ready to respond to the sector’s desperate pleas for federal assistance by launching talks later this week.
Canada’s commercial airlines have been hit hard by COVID-19, with passenger levels down as much as 90 per cent thanks to a combination of travel restrictions and fear of catching the illness.
That has prompted airlines to furlough hundreds of pilots and technicians and discontinue dozens of regional routes since March. They have also cancelled numerous pre-booked trips, offering passengers credits or vouchers instead of refunds.
Many Canadians have since expressed anger over not getting their money back. The Canadian Transportation Agency received 8,000 complaints between mid-March and the end of August, most of which are believed to be related to refunds.
The Canadian Press
The B.C. government has extended its rent freeze through to July 2021 and suspended all rent increases set to take effect on Dec. 1, 2020, effective immediately.
As part of its ongoing response to COVID-19 and to allow for a new cabinet to be sworn in, the province is extending its rent freeze through to July 10, 2021.
The rent freeze was initially announced on March 18, 2020 as a COVID-19 measure and set to expire with rent increases being permitted again as of Dec. 1.
Following Monday’s announcement, all increases set for Dec. 1, 2020 or any date prior to July 10, 2021 will be cancelled.
9 a.m. – New outbreak declared at Fraser Health’s Normanna Living
A new outbreak has been declared at Normann Living, a Burnaby seniors care home.
The outbreak was declared after a staff member was found to have tested positive for COVID-19, and a rapid response team from Fraser Health is at the home.
“Communication with residents and families is underway. The staff member is currently in self-isolation at their home in long term care,” read a Fraser Health statement.
The team is now working to conduct contact tracing, enforce visitor restrictions and boost cleaning measures. All staff and residents are screened twice a day.
A COVID-19 vaccine may be rolled out by March to the most vulnerable, which along with other advances could fundamentally change the course of the pandemic, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Monday.
Bruce Aylward also told the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly that interim results announced from Pfizer Inc’s late-stage vaccine trials were “very positive.”
“There is still much work to be done, this is just interim results … but some very positive results coming today which should hold great promise hopefully for the entire world as we move forward,” Aylward told the 194-member state forum.
Pfizer said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine with partner BioNTech was more than 90% effective .
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says news that a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Pfizer seems very effective in clinical trials is encouraging but it’s not an immediate solution to the pandemic.
In a news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau says an eventual vaccine is no use now to anyone who catches the virus that causes the illness.
So he says that there might be light at the end of the tunnel, but Canadians have to keep up good safety and hygiene practices until the vaccine arrives.
Canada has bought the rights to 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, if it proves effective and Health Canada approves it for use here.
A new provincial health order issued this weekend is banning indoor and outdoor social gatherings and group physical activities for a period of two weeks, in light of a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases throughout Metro Vancouver.
“In the last two weeks, we have seen a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and outbreaks in health-care facilities centred primarily in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions,” said Henry on Saturday.
“These are the result of transmission in people’s homes and in many workplaces, including food processing facilities, retail locations, public venues, as well as with indoor group physical activities.”
With B.C.’s second wave of infection underway, officials are hoping the two-week period will help significantly slow rates of infection.
A number of B.C. flights have been flagged for COVID-19 exposures.
Over the weekend, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control added seven new flights to its COVID-19 exposure list.
Those who were on board an international flight with a confirmed case of COVID-19 are required to self-isolate and watch for symptoms for 14 days.
Those were on board a domestic flight with a confirmed case are not required to self-isolate but must monitor closely for possible symptoms.
The B.C. Ministry of Health clarified new public health orders for those in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions on Sunday, indicating there are to be no social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household until Nov. 23 at noon.
It says this includes not only gatherings in your home, but also outdoors, at restaurants or at other venues.
Restaurants can remain open but guests must stick to a table with their own household members. These can include an immediate family member or a close friend or people that you have regular close contact with such as a co-parent who lives outside the household, said the ministry.
B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS
LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information
Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.
–with files from The Canadian Press