B.C.'s COVID-19 cases trending in right direction, officials say as 500 new cases reported

British Columbia’s provincial health officer and health minister say the province’s COVID-19 case count is “trending in the right direction.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say public restrictions will ease if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to drop.

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The province reported 500 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 32 in Island Health. There are 177 active cases on the Island. The central Island region — which includes the Cowichan Valley, Oceanside, Nanaimo, and Alberni/Clayoquot — has the most, with 132 confirmed cases. There are another 22 in the south Island, and 22 in the north.

There have also been 14 new deaths, bringing to 1,104 the number of COVID-19 related fatalities since March.

None of the deaths were on Vancouver Island, but Island Health confirmed that two recent deaths are linked to the outbreak at Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo.

Seven residents and one staff member have tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility. Island Health said there have been multiple rounds of follow-up testing on staff and residents, and no new cases have been identified since Jan. 6.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of each of these individuals as they grieve the loss of a cherished loved one,” said Island Health president and chief executive Kathy MacNeil.

“To the staff at Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence and Island Health staff involved, please know that the entire Island Health family is behind you and is thankful for the compassionate care you are providing during this difficult time.”

The goal in the coming days is to vaccinate all residents of long-term care within the Island Health region.

According to a statement from Henry and Dix, 98,125 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province.

Dix told a news conference on Tuesday that the province was still on track to begin administering second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Cowichan Valley School District has had its fourth confirmed COVID-19 exposure since classes resumed after the holidays, this one at Alexander Elementary School.

The potential dates of exposure are Jan. 13-15. Notices went out to families on Monday night.

Chemainus Secondary School, Cowichan Secondary School and Quamichan School have also had COVID-19 exposures this month. An exposure is when a single person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 attends a school during their infectious period.

Duncan Christian School, a private school that is not part of the district, will be closed until Feb. 1 after several people in the school community tested positive for COVID-19.

Public health officials work with staff at schools to find anyone who could have been exposed to COVID-19. Those found to have the virus or to be a close contact with someone infected will be told to self-isolate.

Anyone not contacted by public health should continue attend school as long as there are no COVID-19 symptoms evident.

There have been a total of 62,412 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began. There are currently 4,345 active cases.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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