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B.C., Northern Health both shatter single-day case counts, 11 new deaths provincially

Active cases now sit at 6,589
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (via Flickr/Province of B.C.)

Times continue to be challenging in B.C. as COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the province. 

In a written statement today (Nov. 17), Dr. Bonnie Henry announced another 717 positive cases (new record) since her last update yesterday for a new provincial total of 23,661 since the pandemic struck in January. 

Out of the newly recorded cases, officials said Northern Health tallied 21 of those, bringing the authority's total since March to 539. 

This is also a new single-day case total for the authority; the previous record was 16.

There are 6,589 people listed as active for COVID-19; 198 are in hospital and 63 of whom are in critical care. 

Active health monitoring has risen to 10,960 people who have recently come into contact with someone previously infected with the virus, while 16,469 have recovered.

Officials added there have been 11 new deaths from the virus in the past day, which brings the new provincial fatality rate to 310.

In the statement, Henry said an uptick in cases on Vancouver Island, in Interior Health and in the north have been caused mainly by travel to and from the Lower Mainland.

Earlier today, Northern Health issued a statement urging residents in the authority to adhere to COVID-19 precautions and behaviours, saying they are concerned with a rise of cases in the region. 

"Recent orders in the Fraser Valley issued by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to address cases in the Lower Mainland are not currently directed at Northern Health," the statement reads. 

"However, we need your support to avoid more stringent measures. We are encouraging against non-essential travel and are asking people to ensure they are following all of the current orders, guidance, and advice."

Another major area of concern for the north is deaths from the virus. In a three-day span, there have been two deaths. 

The authority confirmed to PrinceGeorgeMatters that the fourth and fifth tragic passings were two residents living in the Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek, where a facility outbreak was declared on Nov. 2.

The victims were both men.

The outbreak was originally a single-staff case at Rotary Manor, but days later, Northern Health reported additional infections, totalling two staff and seven residents

The one reported on Friday (Nov. 13) by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was in his 70s, while the other reported by Health Minister Adrian Dix on Monday (Nov. 16) was in his 80s and was one of nine in total that passed on the weekend.

Northern Health has issued the following guidelines to help stop transmission and spread: 

  • Maintaining our social connections are important for our well-being. However, please keep your bubble small and limited to your household and a handful (up to six) close friends or family (your 'safe six')
  • When planning your holiday gathering, please avoid travel and choose to celebrate with individuals in your bubble
  • Physical distancing measures are especially challenging for young people. It is important they also keep their bubble small and, as much as possible, limit their interactions to a close group of friends from within their school cohort
  • Essential workers, such as health-care workers and teachers, play a critical role in our communities and therefore it is imperative they also keep their bubble small
  • Remember: The provincial health officer’s orders to household gatherings applies province-wide. This means no more than six people from outside your household bubble should gather in your home

A fourth school in Prince George may have also been potentially exposed to COVID-19.

In a Northern Health letter sent to parents and obtained by PrinceGeorgeMatters, it explains students and staff may have come into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus between Nov. 9 and 10.

The letter also states the safety protocols in place for Van Bien were ‘followed precisely’ and the risk of any further spread is considered low. 

Van Bien is the third School District 57 (SD57) listed for possible COVID-19 exposure since students went back to the classroom in September.

Ron Brent Elementary (Oct. 30) and Prince George Secondary (Oct. 2) are the other institutions; Immaculate Conception, an independent school, was also flagged on (Oct. 21-23).

Dr. Henry also released an op-ed yesterday with many British Columbians recently calling on the province to mandate masks, something she says is already being done.

"Some people are asking when we will see masks mandated in B.C. The answer is that they already are.

"Despite how it might appear when we watch the news or go on social media, research shows that most of us in B.C. are doing the right things most of the time. Ordering universal mask use in all situations creates unnecessary challenges with enforcement and stigmatization.

"We need only look at the COVID-19 transmission rates in other jurisdictions that have tried using such orders to see what little benefit these orders by themselves have served.

She added the rapid spread in the province is being seen in social gatherings in which masks would not normally be worn in including, also saying she expects people to wear masks in indoor places such as shopping malls, stores, on ferries and on transit. 

"Right now, we are seeing rapid transmission in social gatherings where masks would not be worn anyway, in certain workplaces and risky indoor settings, like group fitness activities.

"The orders we have in place now complement our clear and expressed expectation that people will wear masks in indoor public places like shopping malls, stores, on ferries and transit.

"Our orders also mandate that businesses and workplaces must have COVID-19 safety plans in place.

"These should include mask-wearing, in addition to barriers, reduced numbers of people in spaces, screening of workers and the public and availability of hand cleaning and sanitation."

While health officials try to get the numbers under control in the province, with records being smashed nearly each day, Henry said a mask is one of many ways to protect each other and those around you but saying that a mandated provincial health order 'can never replace our personal committment.' 

"Mask use is important, and we need everyone to have the same understanding of our expectations. Wearing a mask will never eliminate all risks, but it is a significant part of the layers of protection that can help protect us, our loved ones and our community.

"Now more than ever, it is a measure we must all take.

"We need to be responsible for our own actions - that is how we all pull together. I wear a mask, and I expect each of you who can to wear one too."

- with files from Kyle Balzer, PrinceGeorgeMatters