Record 45 new cases, eighth death in Northern Health

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged a growing problem with COVID 19 outside the Lower Mainland as a single-day record 45 of new cases was reported for the Northern Health region on Wednesday.

An eighth death was also reported for the region.

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However, after peaking at 270 as of midday Monday, active cases stood at 240 while hospitalizations held steady at 33 and the number of patients in intensive care remained at seven.

As well, as of Tuesday the positivity rate - the percentages of tests yielding a positive result - declined slightly to 7.4 cent from 8.3 per cent the day before, based on a seven-day rolling average. At 8.4 per cent, Fraser Health's remained the highest. A rate above five per cent raises a concern for health officials over potential spread of the virus.

Speaking with provincial media, Henry said cases are now leveling off in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities but, when the time it takes for cases to double is taken into account, "the places where we're seeing the most rapid growth is in the North, the Interior and to a lesser extent here on the Island."

She said the orders - which include making masks mandatory in public places, a ban on social gatherings of any size and a prohibition on travel by sports teams - were expanded to cover the entire province because "we were starting to see movement around the province."

"It's slightly different in different areas, what is driving the infections, but the main things that are driving infections in all of B.C. is social connections and social gatherings and interactions," Henry said.

As to next steps, Henry said she has met with her colleagues to look at options as the current orders are scheduled to come to an end this Monday.

Northern Health, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday confirming patients have been transferred from the region to other parts of the province during the pandemic. Two are at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria according to the Victoria Times-Colonist.

Across the region, it said there are 41 critical care "base beds" and a further 23 "surge beds" and has about 100 ventilators, including transport ventilators.

University Hospital of Northern B.C. is home to 23 base beds, 16 surge beds, 20 ventilators plus four transport ventilators.

Fort St. John Hospital holds four base beds and five ventilators plus four transport ventilators. Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace is home to five base beds, four surge beds, five ventilators and two transport ventilators. A further nine base beds, three surge beds, three ventilators and 10 transport ventilators are distributed across other acute care facilities in Northern Health.

On Tuesday, as many as 300 mostly maskless people gathered in front of Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer's office in Fort St. John and a smaller crowd of about 30 near his office in Dawson Creek, to protest the so-called "Great Reset" of the post-pandemic world.

Like she has when similar gatherings have been held in the past, Henry said the participants represent a small minority of the general population.

"It really makes you angry to see these small groups of people who are trying to make a point that is misguided," Henry said. "But we can't let ourselves take that in because we need to support each other, we need to remember kindness and and calmness because that is what is going to get us through as a community until the other end."

The seventh person to die from COVID was a man in his 80s, Northern Health confirmed. His death was announced on Tuesday.

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