After a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases earlier this week for the Northern Health region, the case count climbed back to an alarming 184 new cases Friday over the previous 24-hour period.
By comparison, Vancouver Coastal, which serves a population of 1.25 million, reported 75 new cases, 109 fewer than Northern Health, which has about 300,000 residents. In all of B.C. there were 667 new cases reported Friday, including 246 in Fraser Health, 101 in Interior Health and 59 in Interior Health.
“I had started to get a little bit encouraged, it looked like our numbers were going down this week and then we had 184 today,” said Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins.
There were 129 cases in Northern Health reported in Thursday’s update and 67 on Wednesday, after the four-day long weekend total of 351. B.C. has averaged 558 new cases per day over the past seven days. Northern Health currently has 734 active cases, compared to Fraser Health (2,221), Vancouver Coastal (724), Interior (817), and Island (572).
It’s been an especially deadly week for B.C. with 50 people succumbing to the virus so far this week. Thirteen new deaths were reported Friday, with 11 of those deaths in the Fraser Health region and two in the Interior. That brings the provincial death toll to 2,055 since the pandemic began in January 2020. The Delta variant of the virus, which is highly transmissible and results in more serious illnesses, is being blamed for the higher rates of infection which created the fourth wave of the pandemic. In Northern Health, a person in their 20s died on Thursday. Earlier in the week, the virus claimed the life of a northern B.C resident in their 30s.
According to the B.C. Centre Disease Control, the Prince George and Peace River local health regions are producing the highest number of cases within the Northern Health region with nine of the 15 local health areas averaging 20 cases or more per 100,000 population.
From Oct. 3-9, there were 284 cases recorded in Prince George, 115 in Peace River North, and 100 in Peace River South. In that same week, Smithers had 73 cases, Quesnel had 64, Nechako had 65, Terrace had 54, Burns Lake had 31, Upper Skeena had 25, Kitimat had 18, and Snow Country/Stikine/Telegraph Creek had nine.
In that same week, Prince Rupert had 15 cases, averaging 15.1-20 cases per 100,000, while Fort Nelson (three) Nisga’a (one) and Haida Gwaii (one), all had lower infection rates.
There are now 734 active cases of COVID-19 in Northern Health with 82 of those patients hospitalized and 18 being treated in critical care. That’s after 58 critical-care patients were flown by plane from Northern Health hospitals to hospitals on Vancouver Island and in Greater Vancouver. Of those 58 patients, 45 were confirmed COVID cases and all but one was not fully vaccinated. Twenty-five of the transported patients were from Peace River health areas.
A new outbreak was declared Friday at G.H. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel. Already-reported outbreaks continue at the primary care unit and internal medicine unit of UHNBC in Prince George and at Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton. The Jubilee Lodge outbreak at UHNBC was declared over on Oct. 7, while Site C outbreak ended on Tuesday.
The continuing crush of COVID patients in medical centres and a trend of higher-than-average case counts throughout most local health regions in northern B.C. prompted Northern Health chief medical officer Dr. Jong Kim to push for tough circuit-breaker measures, which prompted a new provincial health order which took effect at midnight Friday. The new measures will be in place through Nov. 19 and are as follows:
- Personal gatherings both indoor and outdoor will be restricted to fully vaccinated people only.
- Indoor gatherings will remain restricted to five people, and outdoor gatherings restricted to 25 if they are all fully vaccinated.
- All indoor/outdoor organized events (weddings, parties) will require a COVID-safety plan and require everyone to wear a mask and be fully vaccinated, utilizing the B.C. vaccine card.
- Indoor events will be limited to 50 people even fully vaccinated and outdoor events will be limited to up to 100 people.
- Worship services will be limited to virtual services only
- Restaurants will continue with in-person dining with the use of the B.C. Vaccine Card but serving of alcohol will be limited to 10 p.m.
- Fast-food restaurants and unlicensed cafés without table service can provide take-out only or require patrons to present the BC Vaccine card showing they are fully vaccinated.
- Licensed establishments and those with table service must not serve alcohol between 10 p.m.-9 a.m. and must require patrons to present the BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated.
- Sports events with spectators will be limited to 50 per cent capacity and attendees must wear masks and show proof of vaccination on their B.C. Vaccine Card.
- People are strongly encouraged to remain within their communities and only travel for essential reasons like work or medical trips
The changes apply to the entire Northern Health region except local health areas west of Kitwanga including Terrace, Kitamat, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Stikine, Telegraph, and the Nisga'a area. The provincial health authority said the exceptions are areas where the virus has not been able to spread due to high rates of vaccination and people observing health precautions.
During the week of Oct. 7-13, 68.3 per cent of British Columbians who became infected with COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated, and in the two weeks from Sept. 30-Oct. 13 they accounted for 76.3 per cent of all COVID-related hospitalizations in the province.
Of the 4,019 new cases in B.C. from Oct. 7-13, 2,478 (61.7 per cent) were not vaccinated, 265 were partially vaccinated (6.6 per cent) and 1,276 (31.7 per cent) were fully vaccinated.
Of the cases that required hospitalizations in the past two weeks, 312 (71.1 per cent) were not vaccinated, 23 (5.2 per cent) were partially vaccinated and 104 (23.7 per cent) were fully vaccinated.
In the past week in B.C., the cases per 100,000 population adjusted for age of eligibility of vaccine were: 273.3 (not vaccinated), 76.2 (partially vaccinated, and 30.4 (fully vaccinated).
Over the past two weeks the number of hospitalizations per 100,000 were 51.3 (not vaccinated), 10.4 (partially vaccinated) and 2.3 (fully vaccinated). According to those figures, people who chose not to get vaccinated were 22 times more likely to be hospitalized than people who have received their two doses.
Northern Health is providing mobile drop-in vaccination clinics this weekend for people 12 and older. On Saturday, a mobile clinic will be set up in front of CN Centre at 2187 Ospika Blvd., from 2-7 p.m. If you can’t make it then, the Prince George Civic and Conference at 808 Canada Games Way is the place to go, with clinics operating Wednesday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Proof of being fully vaccinated will be a requirement for Canadians hoping to cross the land border into the United States when it re-opens on Nov. 8