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April 19: travel restrictions on top of extended gathering restrictions; toddler dies of COVID

“The sustained pressure of this year of pandemic is profound” ~ Health Minister Adrian Dix

Monday April 19, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [Update in blue text below – April 20, 2021]

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends

Today Premier John Horgan led the COVID-19 update livestreamed briefing, on this day where heightened social distancing restrictions might have been lifted (in place March 29 to April 19, before today’s announcement).

Before getting to any of the details and new public health orders, let’s not forget that this past weekend a very young child (under the age of two) in the Fraser Health region died of COVID. The COVID transmission did *not* occur in an early learning center (as confirmed by BC Health in a communication with Island Social Trends today) but did receive care at BC Children’s Hospital to try and save the child’s life. The child reportedly did have other known health issues, but Dr Henry made it clear that it was COVID which caused death.

child, COVID, nurse, hospital
A child receiving care for COVID in hospital (web).

This was upsetting for Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry to announce, yet it was not overly highlighted in today’s media session other than of course to note her emotion upon telling it. Though she did offer this quote: “This reminds us of the vicious nature of this virus.”

The virus simply seeks human bodies in which to reproduce. The age of the person is irrelevant. This point actually should have been made much clearer much earlier in the pandemic, but the priority was first to immunize the elderly in long-term care.

Today there was no statement about vaccination for children. That road has not yet been traveled.

Today’s Quotes & Highlights:

A few key quotes and things to know from the 2 pm public session (which was preceded by a one-hour tech briefing to media):

Premier John Horgan:

Premier John Horgan
Premier John Horgan: “Keeping people alive and safe” during COVID. [April 19, 2021]
  • Today the Premier asked people “to work together to get to the May long weekend” and “salvage our summer”, but saying the summer that everyone wants (travel, gatherings, etc.) won’t happen if the pandemic can’t be brought under control. The goal is to achieve community/herd immunity at 70% coverage of the population (first dose, anyhow) by the end of June.
  • Non-essential travel must be local only, the Premier announced. The new order is for people not to leave their health authority area. For Vancouver Islanders, that means not leaving the island unless travel is essential. This has been done in collaboration with the travel sector, Horgan explained.
  • Travellers will be checked “at random” by police, said Horgan. He made the comparison to those ‘drinking and driving’ road spot-checks done in the year-end holiday season.
  • These changes are “done with a heavy heart but resolute purpose”, the Premier said today.
  • “It’s profoundly disappointing to see behaviour of that kind,” said Horgan about the people who were seen out partying without physical distances on beaches in Vancouver this past weekend. “We are all susceptible to the ravages of COVID-19,” he said, being reminded by the death of a two-year-old.

Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry:

Dr Bonnie Henry, April 2021
Dr Bonnie Henry was very sad to report the death of a 2-year-old due to COVID, during her April 19, 2021 press conference.
  • Case numbers are heading in the right direction (downward) but are still very high, said Dr Henry today. Indeed, there were 2,960 new cases over the past weekend (average 987 per day, and in fact 1,000 for today).
  • Health-care workers “are so tired, and afraid of making a mistake.” Health-care workers “are not feeling personally at risk” (as much as last year) but are frustrated about people partying, said Dr Henry with reference to the need to “avoid overwhelming the health care system”.
  • A second dose of COVID vaccine will be made available to everyone by September of this year, said Dr Henry. Of course that depends on supply via the federal government’s procurement system.
  • By the end of April we will see a decrease in hospitalizations and deaths for people most at risk (over age 65)” due to COVID, if people follow the rules, she proposed.
  • Pfizer and Modern are the vaccines used in the age-based clinics. Those products “continue to be safe and ahead of schedule”, said Dr Henry, adding that appointment bookings are now happening for people age 63+. “In the next few weeks we’ll be vaccinating everyone over age 65,” she seemed very pleased to say.
  • The Get Vaccinated appointment registration and booking system has been handling $240,000 to $260,000 people per week, and we’re using up all the vaccine we have as it arrives”, said Dr Henry.
  • Over 114,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered for people over age 55. Of those, over 88,000 were done at pharmacies and that will continue.
  • Dr Henry went over the hospitalization case profile, noting an increase among 20-to-29 year olds (3.7% to 5.0%) with most of those patients being women. The most notable increase in case numbers was among people in their 50s (men 50 to 59 years, and women 55 to 59 years of age). Maybe more grandparents were visiting with families and/or more families were visiting seniors in long-term care homes, as seen in a “recent surge” in March among people over age 70 years (amidst a trend of overall decline in that age group of which most are vaccinated).
COVID, hospitalizations
“Who is in Hospital with COVID-19” – December 2020 through March 2021. [ BC CDC ]

Health Minister Adrian Dix:

Adrian Dix, health minister
Health Minister Adrian Dix on COVID in BC: “What happens in hospitals always reflects what happens in communities.” [April 19, 2021]
  • “Our hospitals are stretched, our health-care workers exhausted. They are taking care of our friends and loved-ones and we need to take care of them through our actions, so they can continue to do their jobs for us.”
  • “The sustained pressure of this year of pandemic is profound” — having an impact on everyone.
  • Dix says that public health has “reacted and have had the capacity to make change”, as the pandemic has gone along. But “there’s no questions everyone is feeling it”, he said about stresses on everyone in the health-care system.
  • “Last March (2020) and not knowing (what would happen in the pandemic), we took action system-wide. That’s not what we’re doing now,” with reference to targeted use of 20 hospitals for treating COVID-19 patients and continuing with elective/scheduled surgeries as much as possible.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth (before 2pm briefing):

“We’ve been looking at a number of options that are available to us. But we do acknowledge there are issues around travel and the PHO has indicated this is a critical issue in terms of preventing transmission,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth earlier in the day. He will have specifics to announce about enforcement of new orders, later this week, said Premier Horgan today.

Today’s COVID profile in BC:

  • There have been 120,040 cases of COVID-19 in BC to date, with 2,960 of those new over the past weekend (three days tally). Currently 9,352 cases are active, and 14,711 people are isolating due to known exposure.
  • So far there have been 5,872 identified cases as caused by variants of concern (B.1.1.7 – 3,908; B.1.351 – 71; and P.1 – 1,893). Of those, 191 cases are still active.
  • The number of people in hospital due to COVID is still quite high at 441, with also a top number of people (138) in ICU. Total of 6,073 hospitalizations to date.
  • The positivity rate is still quite high at 9.5% though that’s down from 10%+ peak in recent weeks.
BC, COVID, April 19 2021
COVID-19 dashboard for BC at April 19, 2021 with graph showing daily case counts pandemic-to-date. [BC CDC]
  • There were eight more deaths reported for over the last three days (April 16 to 19), of which one person was a two-year-old in the Fraser Health region. The child did have other health issues but Dr Henry confirmed it was COVID causing the child’s death. Anyone with a heart would have choked up upon hearing that news; it’s a moment in the pandemic that no one will forget — not just that it was the first death of a child in BC due to COVID, but that the child was so young and reminded us all that no children are yet being vaccinated against the “vicious virus” as both Dix and Dr Henry have now called it.
  • Vaccination supply received in BC to date is 1,696,370 of which 1,380,160 doses (81.3% of supply) have been administered (88,151 of those have been second doses). Across BC, 135,503 AstraZeneca doses have been administered, mostly in pharmacies (just two have been second doses).
  • About 32% of the 4.3 million adults in Canada have received their first dose of COVID vaccine.

Today’s COVID profile in Island Health:

  • There have been 4,341 cases of COVID-19 in Island Health to date, with 108 of those new over the past weekend (three days’ tally). Currently 430 cases are active.
  • The number of people in hospital due to COVID on Vancouver Island is 29, with five in ICU. Total of 207 hospitalizations to date.
  • The positivity rate is still quite high at 3.8% though that’s down from a 5%+ peak in recent weeks.
COVID, Island Health
COVID-19 dashboard for Vancouver Island at April 19, 2021 with graph showing daily case counts pandemic-to-date. [BC CDC]
  • Vaccination supply received in Island Health to date is 268,940 of which 215,454 doses (80.1% of supply) have been administered (10,186 of those have been second doses). In Island Health, 11,593 AstraZeneca doses have been administered, mostly in pharmacies (no second doses).
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