21 new COVID-19 deaths pushes B.C.'s December total to 272

More than 38% of all COVID-19 deaths in the province have been so far this month

B.C.'s death toll from COVID-19 rose by 21 overnight, to 713, with 272 of those coming so far in December, health officials said December 17.

This metric underscores the seriousness that some people face when they contract the virus that has spawned a global pandemic. The number of those in B.C. hospitalized with the virus fell by four overnight to 358 people, but 93 of those people are in intensive care units, which ties the record set December 15.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix said that the province has added a significant number of "surge" beds, or extra hospital beds, to increase capacity, compared to what was available last year. When those new beds are included, hospital bed occupancy across the province is at 69.9% – far lower than the 104% occupancy a year ago, he said.

"We have the capacity, if we need to, and as we showed in March, to lessen other activity in the healthcare system," Dix said, hinting that non-essential surgeries could be cut back if necessary.

In the week that ended on December 6, the province did 7,300 surgeries, Dix said, adding that this was a record number for the first week of December. 

"We have a lot of flexibility in managing the system right now," he said.

The number of people fighting active COVID-19 infections rose above the 10,000 threshold for the second time, after falling below that number in the past couple of days. The vast majority of the 10,009 people actively battling the virus has been told to self-isolate at home.

New infections rose for the second consecutive day, to 673, bringing the total number of those infected since the first case was discovered in B.C., on January 28, to 44,776. Of those, more than 73.6%, or 32,963 people have recovered.

Here is a breakdown of the new cases by health region:
• 145 (21.5%) in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 403 (59.88%) in Fraser Health;
• four (0.5%) in Island Health;
• 66 (9.8%%) in Interior Health;
• 47 (7%) in Northern Health, and
• eight people who reside outside the province (0.1%).

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry noted that there have been two new community outbreaks. One includes at least 30 people at Wingtat Game Bird Packers Inc. in Surrey, while the other is at a LNG Canada worksite in Kitimat, B.C., among employees of Diversified Transportation.

There were no new healthcare facility outbreaks and none were newly declared to be over. 

That leaves six B.C. hospitals, or acute-care facilities, with active outbreaks. They are:
• Saanich Peninsula Hospital in Saanichton;
• Langley Memorial Hospital in Langley;
• Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver;
• Richmond Hospital in Richmond;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey; and
• Burnaby Hospital in Burnaby.

"There are several long-term care outbreaks both in Fraser Health, and in Vancouver Coastal Health, and one in the Interior, where we've had larger numbers of people [infected,] and it has been such a challenge to try and stop the transmission," Henry said. 

"It is differentially the residents who have the more severe illnesses and are dying from COVID."

Despite that, it is healthcare workers, not residents, who are first to get access to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. That is because of the challenge in transporting the vaccine, which must be kept at between minus-70 degrees and minus-80 degrees Celsius. Up until yesterday, 1,215 healthcare workers have received the first of two vaccine shots, Henry said. 

The current count of those infected in all outbreaks at seniors' homes is 1,374 residents and 735 staff.

There are 56 seniors' homes and care facilities with active outbreaks across the province, including 15 such outbreaks in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. They are at:
• Arbutus Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Banfield Pavilion, in Vancouver;
• Revera Capilano Care Centre in West Vancouver;
• Columbus Residence in Vancouver;
• Crofton Manor in Vancouver;
• Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge in Richmond;
• German Canadian Benevolent Society Home in Vancouver
• Little Mountain Place in Vancouver;
• Renfrew Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Royal Arch Masonic Home long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• St. Judes Anglican Home in Vancouver;
• Sunrise of Vancouver, in Vancouver;
• Three Links Care Centre long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• Villa Carital in Vancouver; and
• Villa Cathay Care Home in Vancouver.

The 35 outbreaks at seniors' facilities in the ​Fraser Health region include:
• Agassiz Seniors Community in Agassiz;
• Agecare Harmony Court Estates in Burnaby;
• Agecare Court Estates in Burnaby;
• Al Hogg Pavilion in White Rock;
• Amenida Seniors Community in Surrey;
• Baillie House long-term care home in Maple Ridge;
• Belvedere Care Centre in Coquitlam;
• Bradley Centre in Chilliwack;
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Chartwell Langley Gardens in Langley;
• Chilliwack Lifestyles in Chilliwack;
• Courtyard Terrace in Burnaby;
• Fellburn Care Centre long-term care facility in Burnaby;
• Finnish Manor in Burnaby;
• Fort Langley Seniors Community in Fort Langley;
• George Derby Centre in Burnaby;
• Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre 2 long-term care facility in Delta;
• Harrison Pointe retirement home in Langley;
• Harrison at Elim Village in Surrey;
• Hilton Villa Care Centre in Surrey;
• Hollyrood Manor long-term care home in Maple Ridge;
• Lakeshore Care Centre in Coquitlam;
• Langley Gardens in Langley;
• Laurel Place long-term care facility in Surrey;
• Menno Home in Abbotsford;
• Morgan Place Care Society in Surrey;
• Northcrest Care Centre in Delta;
• Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in Surrey;
• PICS Assisted Living in Surrey;
• Queen's Park Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Royal City Manor in New Westminster;
• St. Michael's Centre in Burnaby;
• Tabor Home in Abbotsford;
• The Residence at Clayton Heights in Surrey; and
• White Rock Senior Village in White Rock.

The three outbreaks at seniors' homes listed in Northern Health are:
• North Peace Seniors Housing Society buildings in Fort St. John:
• Rotary Manor Dawson Creek in Dawson Creek; and
• Jubilee Lodge in Prince George.

The Interior Health region has three seniors' facility outbreaks, at:
• McKinney Place Residential Care Facility in Oliver;
• Mountainview Village in Kelowna; and
• Village by the Station in Penticton.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom 

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