COVID-19 numbers dropping in B.C., but no plan to reduce restrictions yet, Henry says

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said public-health restrictions are working, as she reported 1,759 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, including 50 in Island Health.

An average of about 600 new cases were reported each day since Friday, with the lowest number, 558, on Monday.

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“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Henry, “but as you can see by today’s numbers, COVID-19 continues to spread in our community, which means the risk remains for all of us.”

Henry said the province is not yet at the point of reducing restrictions, but is getting closer.

She said Saskatchewan’s plan to begin a phased reopening starting May 30 came as a surprise. B.C.’s plan isn’t just based on the number of people vaccinated but on a reduction in COVID-19 transmissions, deaths, hospitalizations and intensive-care unit admissions, she said.

From April 26 to May 2, 421 surgeries were postponed in the province, including 49 in Island Health as a result of staff and bed shortages. Four to five patients have been transferred to Island Health hospitals from the mainland.

B.C.’s restart plan will involve a phased-in approach and will be done on a provincial basis and not a regional one, Henry said. Increasing the size of gatherings for important ceremonies might be one way the province phases in reopening — last summer, the limit was 50.

“If you do things too quickly, we know this virus can surge very quickly, even in people who are immunized,” said Henry. “We only need to look at my colleagues in Nova Scotia right now to see that things can change very, very quickly with this virus.”

Nova Scotia reported 121 new cases on Monday, bringing total active cases to 1,655.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said while vaccinations hold promise, more than 400 people are in hospital with COVID-19 in B.C., including 150 in intensive care, and 20 COVID-related deaths occurred over the weekend.

“We’ve got to live very much in the present right now,” said Dix, “and that means following public health orders.”

Most new cases continue to be in the Fraser Health region, which had 1,201 over the weekend.

On Monday, there were 6,140 active cases in B.C.

The number of people in hospital is fewer than it was in recent weeks, said Dix, but “it’s still extraordinarily high.”

In Island Health, 18 people are in hospital for COVID-19 and six are in intensive care.

One of the deaths reported over the weekend was in Island Health. Most of the 20 deaths were people over 70 — one was over 90 and in long-term care — but two were in their 50s and two in their 40s.

On the heels of a data leak of more in-depth information about COVID-19 case locations last week, Henry said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control will release more “granular” surveillance data, including case rates and immunization rates by community health service area.

“We have been working on developing an interactive mapping app so that you can actually look at different neighbourhoods by both age and sex,” said Henry. “That will also be available in the coming days.”

Just over 2.1 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered — just over 100,000 of which were second doses — and as of Monday night, those 40 and older could book their vaccines through the age-based immunization program accessed through the Get Vaccinated website.

Henry urged people to ­register for vaccines at­ gov.bc.ca/­getvaccinated, or call 1-833-838-2323. “This is the most efficient and fastest way.”

Anyone who was given a first dose before the provincial registration system was established or got their shot through a pharmacy is asked to register and book their second dose online.

Dix said 2.3 million people have registered for vaccines, more than half of those eligible.

Vaccinated people must continue to follow all public health restric tions, said Henry, noting that the vaccines don’t provide 100 per cent protection and people who are immunized can still be infected and transmit the virus.

A vaccination plan for those between the ages of 12 and 17 should be unveiled this week.

Henry and Dix also acknowledged National Nurses Week, noting nurses’ bravery, perseverance, courage and compassion.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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