B.C.'s death toll has inched closer to a new plateau during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nine people died on the weekend from the virus as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 1,959 positive tests since Friday (Nov. 13) for a grand total of 22,944 since January.
One of the deaths took place in northern B.C., Health Minister Adrian Dix confirmed at a news conference in Victoria today (Nov. 16), rising the region's toll to five out of 299 across the province.
The new cases included 14 within Northern Health's jurisdiction, increasing its infection count to 518 since the authority's first confirmed case in March.
There are now 61 active cases in the region, one less than Friday's update, including nine in hospital, all of which are in critical care.
Among the 6,279 active cases in B.C., 181 are admitted in hospital, six of which, and maybe more, are in northern B.C.; 57 of the total are in ICU.
The latest three-day provincial case counts are as follows:
- 654 = Friday to Saturday
- Two deaths
- 659 = Saturday to Sunday
- New single-day case-count record
- Four deaths
- 646 = Sunday to Monday
- Three deaths
“As the number of cases and outbreaks is showing, we are in the most challenging of times,” said Dr. Henry. “We have come through a wave – we’re now in the midst of our second."
She implored British Columbians to stop all unnecessary social gatherings and avoid unnecessary travel, and once again addressed the question of wearing masks.
Dr. Henry was asked why people are not required to wear masks when outdoors in public -- on hiking trails, for example.
"The things that we have learned about this virus are that it doesn't transmit very easily outdoors," she said. "So if I'm walking by somebody, even on a trail, if I'm running past somebody, if I'm walking down a crowded street and we're just passing by each other, those are not risky situations.
"So, no. There's not a reason necessarily to wear a mask outdoors."
Asked about vaccines, Henry said there has been some encouraging news recently about vaccines becoming available soon, but said the details on who will be elgible to get the vaccines first are still being worked out.
"It will give us an opportunity to start by protecting those who are most at risk, protecting people in our health care system, and then I am confident, by this time next year, we'll have vaccines available for anybody in British Columbia."
The virus claimed a fourth life in northern B.C. last week, as per Dr. Henry.
PrinceGeorgeMatters has reached out to Northern Health for details, but have yet to respond as of this publication (Nov. 16).
There are 10,928 people being actively monitored for the virus after coming into contact with someone previously tested positive, while 16,087 people have recovered.
On Thursday (Nov. 12), the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) reported 43 COVID-19 cases in Prince George's local health area from October, which was the biggest spike in the region and more than double from September's total of 20.
Twelve northern B.C. schools have been flagged for possible COVID-19 exposure, including three in Prince George:
- Hudson's Hope Elementary-Junior Secondary - Oct. 26-Nov. 4, 2020
- Ron Brent Elementary School - Oct. 30, 2020
- Roosevelt Park Elementary School (SD52) - Oct. 21-22, 2020
- Immaculate Conception School (Independent, Diocese of Prince George) - Oct. 21-23, 2020
- Fort Nelson Secondary School (SD81) - Oct. 15-16, 2020
- Notre Dame School (Private) - Oct. 13-14, 2020
- Prince George Secondary School (SD57) - Oct. 2, 2020
- Dawson Creek Secondary School - South Peace Campus (SD59) - Sept. 23-25, 2020
- David Hoy Elementary School (SD91) - Sept. 17-18, 2020
- Quesnel Junior Secondary School (SD28) - Sept. 10-11, 15-18, 2020
- Nak’albun Elementary School (Independent) - Sept. 16-18, 2020
- Ecole Frank Ross Elementary School (SD59) - Sept. 10-11, 2020
Should a student or teacher receive a positive COVID-19 test in any case, Northern Heath's school notification process is as follows:
- Contact tracing is initiated to determine how the individual was infected and who they were in close contact with
- We identify and notify close contacts who may be at an increased risk, and advise them to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days
- Only Public Health can determine who is a close contact
- Learning groups, friends or other connections may not be determined to be a close contact
- Public Health staff works closely with the school and school district throughout the case and contact management process to maintain close communication with the school community
Dr. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are scheduled to provide B.C. with a written virus update tomorrow afternoon (Nov. 17).
- with files from Nelson Bennett, Business In Vancouver