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B.C.'s top doctor emphasizes COVID-19 precautions heading into holiday season

Forty-two new cases were reported in Island Health on Tuesday, bringing the total known active cases in the region to 513.
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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks during a press conference on decriminalization in the press gallery at the legislature in Victoria, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. British Columbia's provincial health officer says officials are considering the "harmonization" of COVID-19 restrictions across the province heading into winter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

British Columbia’s provincial health officer says officials are considering the “harmonization” of COVID-19 restrictions across the province heading into winter.

The basics will be the same for everyone heading into a challenging period when “we don’t want this virus to take off again,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.

Henry told a news conference she expects there will be added rules in areas where transmission remains high and immunization rates are low, including the Northern Health region, parts of the Interior and the eastern Fraser Valley.

Colder weather is pushing people indoors for gatherings and it’s important that people take extra precautions, including wearing face coverings, she said.

“It really is about what are the conditions that allow this virus to transmit more easily, where we see transmission happening to people even if they’re vaccinated,” Henry said. “Those tend to be those groups that are coming together, where you’re not generally wearing masks, so family gatherings, intimate dinners together in an indoor place that doesn’t have good ventilation that is crowded.”

Henry said she anticipates that Health Canada will be issuing recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccine for children five to 11 years old soon, and that she expects there will be enough doses for more than 300,000 kids in that age range.

If approved, she said she expects kids who have been registered will be able to receive the vaccine designed specifically for children before the upcoming holidays.

It will contain a smaller dose, meaning less discomfort with the shot, Henry said.

“It also means that this is tailored for the immune systems of younger children, so that it doesn’t cause as [many] side-effects and it can be strongly effective as well.”

The United States has rolled out its vaccination program for younger children and B.C. health officials are looking at data on how it’s working.

B.C. reported one more death and 338 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday for a total of 3,568 active infections across the province, including 376 people in hospital.

There were 42 new cases in Island Health, bringing the total known active cases in the region to 513.

Nearly 87 per cent of eligible B.C. residents aged 12 and up have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while 90.7 per cent have received their first dose.

Henry said the province has begun receiving shipments of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is being prioritized for health-care workers who are on leave because they haven’t yet been immunized as ordered by the health officer.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said 2,885 health-care workers remain unvaccinated, excluding those in long-term care facilities, while 97 per cent have had two doses.

— With a file from the Times Colonist