Stick to one bubble, Henry says as province records another 738 cases — 21 on Island

British Columbians need to collapse the multiple “bubbles” they have built up during the pandemic and keep to one, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday as she announced 738 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including 21 in the Island Health region.

There are now 7,616 active cases in the province, including 173 on Vancouver Island — 49 in the south, 109 in the central region and 15 in the north.

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Henry said the spike in cases means everyone should deflate their social circles to just household contacts. “We used to have the ability to have that team bubble and our social bubble, and maybe a work or school bubble, too,” said Henry. “Now we need to focus on our work, on school and our home bubble only. This is important for getting us through these next few weeks.”

On Wednesday evening, Island Health identified one additional case of COVID-19 related to an outbreak declared at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens long-term care home in Port Alberni on Nov. 16. One staff member and two residents have tested positive.

The most recent resident to test positive was a close contact to the initial staff case, and it’s not believed to be indicative of widespread transmission within the facility, Island Health said.

Residents considered close contacts to the initial staff case have been isolated in their rooms since the outbreak was declared.

Across the province, 294 people are in hospital with the virus — including three in the Island Health region — 61 of whom are in intensive or critical care.

The new cases in the province include 443 in Fraser Health, 169 in Vancouver Coastal, 70 in Interior Health and 35 in Northern Health. Another 13 deaths were recorded Wednesday, for a total of 371 people who have died of COVID-19 in B.C.

With recent daily new case counts of 500 or more, B.C.’s 29,086 cases to date will likely top 30,000 by Friday.

But there’s good news on the horizon, said Henry.

The B.C. Centre of Disease Control is working with the federal government to get “the right vaccine and to the right people as quickly as possible in the most efficient way,” starting early next year, said Henry.

Last week, Henry announced new restrictions on non-essential travel, social gatherings and high-intensity indoor fitness classes, and mandatory masks for indoor public settings and workplaces. The rules are in force until at least midnight Dec. 7.

Henry said she was surprised “at how soon in the fall we started to see the surge.”

Cases increased gradually in September and contact tracers continued to be able to find people associated with a cluster or outbreak. “Then we had explosive growth in the Lower Mainland and now we’re seeing that spreading around other parts of the province,” said Henry.

“The orders I brought in last Thursday were trying to get ahead in all the other parts of the province, not behind like we were a bit in Fraser Health.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said if you’re unsure about the orders, err on the side of not doing something. “When in doubt, rule it out,” he said. The province’s ability to serve people in the health-care system is dependent on the extent to which COVID-19 affects hospitals and health-care workers, said Dix.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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