Twenty-two people have died in B.C. due to COVID-19 in the last 72 hours, as the number of people hospitalized continues to climb. There are 819 people hospitalized, up from 646 on Friday when B.C. changed the way it reports on hospitalizations to include everyone who has tested positive in the hospital regardless of what they were admitted for. There are 99 people in intensive care, up from 95 on Friday. The province also reported 5,625 new cases over the weekend. However, due to testing capacity being overwhelmed the true number of new infections is anywhere form three to five times higher.
Provincial health officials are expected to give an update today on the status of gym closures and limits on gatherings at events and restaurants. Restrictions were introduced December 22nd amid a fifth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant. They were set to expire first thing this morning but Health Minister Adrian Dix says the order was extended yesterday so they would remain in place until today’s briefing. Officials are also expected to address a separate order posted yesterday directing school boards to collect information on the vaccination status of staff.
BC schools must now collect information on employees’ vaccination status and report the numbers to the government, according to a new Public Health Order posted online yesterday. The order falls short of an industry-wide vaccine mandate for teachers and other education staff. It’s still up to individual school boards to decide whether COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for employment. The order was quietly posted on the BC government’s website yesterday afternoon ahead of a scheduled news briefing with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry today. It’s expected that Henry will give more details when she speaks to media.
Warm wishes are pouring in for B.C. Premier John Horgan, who announced yesterday his cancer treatment is complete. In a message posted to Facebook, Horgan says he’s finished 35 sessions of radiation and gave his thanks to the Victoria Cancer Clinic Staff. The 62-year-old premier announced in October he had discovered a lump on his neck. Following a biopsy, it was revealed the growth in his throat was cancer. The premier was also treated for bladder cancer in 2008 and lost his brother to cancer in 2018.
A new study out of UBC suggests cannabis is being detected in twice as many injured drivers since its 2018 legalization. Researchers analyzed blood samples from more than 43-hundred “moderately injured” drivers who received treatment at four B-C trauma centres between 2013 and 2020. Before cannabis was legalized, 3.8 per cent of injured drivers had T-H-C concentrations above the Canadian legal driving limit of two nanograms per millilitre. That percentage rose to 8.6 per cent after cannabis was legalized.
Now that Health Canada has approved Pfizer’s antiviral pill treatment for COVID-19, a local doctor is explaining more about how it works and who it will likely be prescribed to. The authorization posted to the Health Canada website yesterday morning says the treatment has been approved for adult patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of becoming more seriously ill. Medical Director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, Dr. Brian Conway says clinical trials showed taking the medication within the first three days of infection considerably reduced the risk of hospitalization. In order to be eligible, recipients must have a positive COVID-19 PCR test and be at a higher risk of being hospitalized.
Fewer Canadians than ever before are reporting confidence in their ability to repay their debt, according to a new report from insolvency firm MNP. Just 55% of Canadians are confident that they can comfortably cover their living expensive in the next year — a 5 point drop from the previous year. A staggering 43% report being concerned about their current level of debt. “Nearly two years into the pandemic, financial confidence among Canadians has reached a record low, with household debt becoming increasingly worrisome,” says Grant Bazian, president of MNP. “Canadians’ financial optimism typically wanes as the holiday bills become due, but this year more than any other, Canadians are feeling more financially insecure, likely as a result of the Omicron variant, and resulting pandemic fatigue, along with rising inflation, and the potential for interest rate increases this year.” The financial reality for many Canadians becomes even more clear as nearly half — 46% — report that they are $200 away or less from not being able to meet all of their financial obligations. Three in 10 Canadians report already not making enough to cover their bills and debt payments while 31% say it has become much less affordable to set aside money for savings.
Health Canada has given its approval to the country’s first oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment. B-C’s medical health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, says the province expects to receive four-thousand doses this week of Paxlovid (PAX’-low-vid), which is designed to help the body fight off a COVID-19 infection. She says gyms and other exercise facilities will be allowed to reopen in B-C on Thursday with new safety measures in place, but other restrictions will remain in effect until February 16th.
British Columbia health officials announced on Tuesday that there have been 1,975 new COVID-19 cases reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the province to 301,121. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said that there are 37,167 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. Of the active cases, 854 (+35) COVID-positive individuals are currently hospitalized, a new record for BC, and 112 (+13) are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation. The statement also says that the numbers are provisional and will be verified once confirmed. New cases and total active cases are broken down by health region as follows:
- Fraser Health: 731 new cases, 18,271 total active cases
- Vancouver Coastal Health: 503 new cases, 9,727 total active cases
- Interior Health: 478 new cases, 5,580 total active cases
- Northern Health: 88 new cases, 1,374 total active cases
- Island Health: 175 new cases, 2,200 total active cases
- Outside of Canada: No new cases, 15 total active cases
There have been two new COVID-19-related deaths in British Columbia, for a total of 2,492 deaths in the province.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is allowing gyms to reopen but says patrons will have to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Henry says capacity limits have also been imposed on gyms as part of what she describes as a “cautious step” in lifting COVID-19 restrictions. She says other restrictions put in place in December will remain in effect until February 16th — including the closure of bars and nightclubs and 50 per cent capacity limits on restaurants, theatres and stadiums. Henry says those restrictions are still necessary due to the high rates of transmission of COVID-19 and the number of people needing hospital care
Health officials say B-C is expecting to receive four-thousand doses this week of Pfizer’s newly approved antiviral treatment to help fight off COVID-19. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says Health Canada is also looking at approving two other COVID-19 vaccines, including one made from tobacco plants. But she has a warning for people holding out for alternatives to M-R-N-A vaccines. Henry says the new vaccines won’t be available for some time while the unvaccinated are at particular risk of serious illness from the quickly spreading Omicron variant.
People working to help the homeless are struggling to support those living on the streets as the highly transmissible Omicron (OH’-mih-kron) COVID-19 variant sweeps through communities. Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters in New Brunswick, says staff are also seeing more people dealing with addiction — largely to crystal meth — as well as more complex and acute mental health issues. The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and health leaders released a statement last week calling on governments to support the growing number of people facing homelessness and the staff straining to meet the need.