Don't plan for a Super Bowl party in B.C.; COVID-19 variant cases causing concern | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Don't plan for a Super Bowl party in B.C.; COVID-19 variant cases causing concern

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Image Credit: Flickr/Province of B.C.
February 01, 2021 - 3:51 PM

B.C.’s share of COVID-19 variant infections is on the rise, which the province’s top doctor says is “one of the most concerning” issues facing health officials right now.

There have been 18 cases of a COVID-19 variant recorded in recent days, seven of which were found this past weekend.

Of those cases, four were the South African variant and 14 were the UK variant. Dr. Bonnie Henry said only one was found within Interior Health — she did not say what community the variant has appeared.

The variants don’t necessarily show up in rapid testing, so B.C. has ramped up its genome sequencing to get a fix on how the variants are showing up.

“We've done a little over 11,000 whole genome sequences here in B.C., which is a high percentage compared to our cases overall, and we are ramping up,” Dr. Henry said.

Currently, B.C. has the ability to do about 500 whole genome sequences a day and while that work continues, Dr. Henry said it’s of the utmost importance that people are more careful about reducing transmission.

“This is one of the things that is factoring into all of the decisions that we have to make together over this next coming weeks,” she said.

“We have a vaccine that is coming in, in small amounts and we've been in a little bit of a pause, because of vaccine supply. But there are other vaccines that are currently being evaluated by Health Canada and we're hopeful that many of them may become available for use in the coming weeks.”

Until then, she urged British Columbians to maintain their COVID-19 precautions so health officials “can get a better sense of where these variants are and how they're spreading.”

Dr. Henry said that in the last few weeks there’s been a decrease in the number of cases among young people, school-aged children and older people but there has also been an increase in people in the 19 to 40 year age group.

This, she said, is for a variety of reasons.

“Some of them are related to workplace exposures, but many are related to social exposures,” she said.

That will determine where health orders stand. An announcement on those will be made on Friday, when the previous order expires. That said, don’t make plans to gather for Super Bowl, Lunar New Year or any event that usually requires group participation.

“If we are not able to control this and start seeing spread again, we can undo all the good work that we have done,” she said.

British Columbians “need to stay apart, stay small and stay local as we get through this next few weeks, and make our way into spring,” she said. “There are brighter days ahead, but we need to remember to be kind to be calm and to be safe.”

While the emergence of variants and weak vaccine supply to be setting B.C. back in its return to normal life, there has been some good news.

B.C. appears to be flattening its curve, with fewer cases being recorded after the weekend than has been the case.

Dr. Henry said there were 1,158 new cases over the last three days for a total of 67,937 cases in B.C. to date.

There are 4,134 active cases. 289 people are hospitalized, 79 of whom are in ICU.

There are 7,242 people being actively monitored in self-isolation.

This weekend there were 21 new deaths for a total of 1,210 COVID-19 related deaths in BC.

Of all the new cases, there were 194 in the Interior Health region, 295 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 493 in Fraser Health, 78 in Island Health and 98 in Northern Health.

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