Tuesday December 8, 2020 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends
British Columbians are being asked (well, ordered) to stay home this Christmas season, unless out for essential travel (work and school), or buying essentials (like groceries and putting gas in your car). The at-home order includes household-only holiday celebrations (though people living alone may team up with one or two other people).
The Provincial Health Officer’s order — first in place November 19 — now stretches through the 12 days of Christmas, to midnight of January 8, 2021. Call it a ‘winter break’, during which the chain of transmission of the COVID-19 virus can hopefully be broken, or at least flattened to a level much lower than we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Overloading the hospital system is a real worry for public health officials. Health-care workers have been on high alert and doing long hours under stressful conditions since the pandemic hit in March of this year. Supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) are apparently robust, but that can also be a concern.
And when hospitals are overloaded with COVID patients (as they are now — with 352 people in for COVID, of whom 74 are in ICU), that challenges the availability of health care staff to perform regular surgeries. Health Minister Adrian Dix gives regular surgery-count updates each week, and the numbers have been strong since the surgical restart in May, but COVID overload could change that.
“While we have seen the start of encouraging trends in our COVID-19 curve, the number of new cases and people with serious illness requiring care in hospital remains high. This is why the public health orders and restrictions remain in place and why we must continue to stay local and keep to our households through the holiday season,” said Dr Henry and Minister Dix in their December 8 joint statement.
“Take in the holiday lights in your neighbourhood, have a virtual visit with friends or support a ‘drive in and drop off’ charitable toy drive,” it was recommended by public health today.
“Let’s work together to protect our communities and those who are most vulnerable and make it a safe and enjoyable holiday season for everyone.”
BC’s response to COVID-19 is outlined online at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support
Vaccines begin to arrive in BC:
Tomorrow Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry, along with Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr Ross Brown (who has been organizing the vaccine delivery strategy) will be available to media at 3:30 pm. They will present the plans for rolling out vaccines to people in BC.
A test run for handling the arrival of vaccine vials and distribution of vaccine doses was done yesterday in BC, said Dr Henry in her Monday media availability.
At first, only 4,000 vaccine doses will be available, said Premier Horgan on Twitter today. In accordance with nationally-established protocols, those vaccine doses will go to high-risk people — at first to elderly people and likely also staff in long-term care, and perhaps some Indigenous communities in this first round.
Apparently that initial round of vaccine doses will be administered this week, according to the premier. This will be the Pfizer mRNA vaccine which requires ultra-low temperatures (-80°C) during transport, and should only be diluted just prior to use.
Deaths in long-term care:
Most of the COVID deaths in BC (about 80%) have been among people who live and work in long-term care and assisted living, as well as in acute care. This week someone on Vancouver Island died as a result of the outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. Province-wide there have now been 543 deaths (including 16 since yesterday).
There are presently 58 assisted-living, long-term care homes, seniors’ rental buildings and acute-care facilities with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks, according to BC Health today. Most are on the lower mainland (14 in Vancouver Coastal and 35 in Fraser Health), with two on Vancouver Island (Tsawaayuss-Rainbow Gardens and Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead).
There are outbreaks in eight hospitals (acute care).
BC COVID stats at December 8:
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) stats present 566 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 38,718. Of those, 9,315 cases are active, 352 are in hospital (74 in ICU), and 8,963 are self-isolating due to known exposure to the virus.
To date, 2,112 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19. While 27,897 are considered recovered (producing a negative test result after a known infection), many people have resultant health impacts in a group now known as the ‘long haulers’.
The disease affects people of any age, though seniors seem impacted more (due to reduced immune response due to age) and children under age 10 seem to be less impacted than all other age groups.
Vancouver Island COVID stats at December 8:
There are 207 active COVID cases on Vancouver Island, with nine of those in hospital (four in ICU). That leaves 198 in isolation due to known exposure — ‘home for the holidays’ has distinct meaning for those folks this Christmas season.
Total cases year-to-date in Island Health stands at 735, of which 521 are considered recovered.
Of all 735 cases, 25 (3.4%) have been seen in children under age 10. Youth ages 15 and up are attending school half-days, hybrid or fully remote to limit any possible exposure; the age 10 to 19 group has seen 65 cases on Vancouver Island (8.8%).
Dr Henry says the 10-19 age groups sees most cases in ages 18 and 19 as the activity of teens that age is similar to that of young adults.
Among working-age adults are the highest numbers, though on Vancouver Island for some reason COVID numbers for people in their 40s are lower than the overall BC number:
- Age 20-29: 144 cases (19.6% of island cases)
- Age 30-39: 126 cases (17.1% of island cases)
- Age 40-49: 87 cases (11.8% of island cases)
- Age 50-59: 117 cases (15.9% of island cases)
People in their 60s — many of whom may still be actively working but possibly have immune systems that are beginning to be less robust — are tracking some strong numbers with 94 cases to date (12.8% of island cases). The elderly set (people over age 70 years) has seen 77 cases (10.5%) but has also seen the most deaths.
There have been seven deaths due to COVID-19 in Island Health, the most recent one yesterday through an outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital.