The provincial health officer offered a grim COVID-19 warning on Monday, as she reported almost 2,000 cases over the previous three days and nine deaths.
“As the number of cases and outbreaks is showing, we are in the most challenging of times,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “We have come through a wave, we are now in the midst of our second. It has become even more challenging, and the virus is not stopping.”
British Columbia — early in the pandemic a worldwide role model for COVID-19 management — is now among a group of regions internationally that are facing a dramatic surge in cases (including other parts of Canada, the U.S., Russia and Italy.)
Henry reported 1,959 cases between noon Friday and noon Monday, with nine deaths.
Health Minister Adrian Dix warned further restrictions could be coming on Thursday.
Henry said she was considering closing B.C. schools early for the Christmas break as part of discussions with health officers in other provinces.
She said many people were infectious for 10 days after COVID-19 symptoms appeared and that many cases did not come with a high temperature — meaning temperature checks at schools would not be effective.
There are now 6,279 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 181 of those cases in hospital including 57 in intensive care.
B.C. has been posting record COVID-19 hospitalizations since Nov. 12, while active cases and new cases are all at record levels.
B.C. is now testing around 10,000 people a day.
Henry said there had been 22,944 cases reported since the first COVID-sick person appeared in Metro Vancouver in late January after a business trip to Wuhan, China.
There are 10,928 people in quarantine after being potentially exposed to the disease — also a record number.
Henry said the nine people who died were mostly long-term care home residents with pre-existing health issues. Six died in the Fraser Health region, two in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and one in Northern Health.
There have been 299 COVID-19 deaths so far in B.C., and 16,087 people have recovered.
Seventy per cent of the weekend cases were in the Fraser Health region, which accounts for 35 per cent of B.C’s population.
Henry said that while her office does not report cases by ethnicity, the fact that a large percentage of Fraser Health residents were of South Asian descent was being reflected in the case loads.
She said the bulk of COVID-19 transmissions at the moment were occurring in family homes and in high exertion indoor spaces like yoga and spin classes, both areas subject to stricter health orders enacted last week.
“We have seen quite a lot of transmission in the South Asian community, particularly in the Fraser Valley and the Fraser Health region. We know that that’s where a lot of people of South Asian descent live,” Henry said.
“We have seen transmission in that community related to events. We also recognize that many of the people in the South Asian community are essential workers. They’re people who run our food processing plants, our trucking, health care workers. Many people in the South Asian community work in our health care settings.”
Banquet halls, often used in the South Asian community for important events, were closed by Henry in September, along with nightclubs.
There were 11 new health care facility outbreaks reported between Friday and Monday, bringing that total to 52, and two community outbreaks — at the Platinum Athletic Club in Surrey and Cambridge Elementary in Surrey. One teacher from Cambridge elementary is in hospital.
As a second pharmaceutical company reported its experimental vaccine was more than 90 per effective in preventing COVID-19 — based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial — Henry said she was confident that by this time next year a COVID-19 vaccine would be available to anyone in B.C.
High-risk people in B.C. were likely to get access to a vaccine earlier, she said.
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