British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. for Dec. 9

B.C. officials revealed details of how vaccines will be distributed across the province Wednesday afternoon.

B.C. plans on immunizing 400,000 people against COVID-19 by March 2021

A vending machine that dispenses personal protective equipment and hygienic items is pictured at Waterfront Station in Vancouver on Dec. 4. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
  • B.C. plans on immunizing 400,000 people against COVID-19 by March 2021.
  • Priority given to residents and staff of long-term care homes and health-care workers in the first phase.
  • There are close to 4,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arriving this week. 
  • These doses will be stored and distributed at two locations: one in Vancouver Coastal Health and the other in Fraser Health. 
  • There are 9,329 active cases of COVID-19 across B.C.
  • 338 patients are in hospital, with 75 in intensive care.
  • 559 people in B.C. have died of the disease since the pandemic began.
  • Provincewide restrictions on social gatherings, events, travel and sports have been extended until midnight on Jan. 8. 
  • Mink samples at a Fraser Valley farm have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

Wednesday marked a major milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, asHealth Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

The federal government announced the approval after scientists finished a two-month review of the company's clinical trial data.

The department said the vaccine was 95 per cent effective, well tolerated by participants and has no important safety concerns. 

B.C. officials revealed details today of how vaccines will be distributed across the province.

Premier John Horgan, joined by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Ross Brown, said the province plans on immunizing 400,000 people against the coronavirus by March 2021, with priority given to residents and staff of long-term care homes and health-care workers.

The first batch of vaccines, around 4,000 in all, arrive this week and will be distributed from two clinics: one in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and the other from the Fraser Health region. 

As more doses of the vaccine become available, priority will be given to seniors over 80, people with underlying health conditions, people who are underhoused, and people living in remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

By April, front-line workers including teachers, grocery store workers, firefighters, and people working in food processing plants will be prioritized.

On Wednesday, health officials announced 16 more people had died of COVID-19 in B.C. and confirmed 619 additional cases. A total of 338 people are in hospital, with 75 people in intensive care. To date, 559 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C.

Provincewide, COVID-19 restrictions have been extended to Jan. 8 at midnight.

That means residents can only socialize with people in their household, and all events and gatherings must be cancelled. British Columbians are being told not to travel outside their local communities for non-essential reasons, whether it's to visit family or take a vacation.

194 fines in 3½ months

The B.C. government says 194 tickets have been handed out in the past 3½ months to businesses or individuals who have broken the provincial health officer's orders on COVID-19.

They include nearly 40 fines of $2,300 to organizers of gatherings or events.

Another 142 people received $230 fines for refusing to comply with the direction of law enforcement.

10 deaths in Langley Memorial outbreak

A total of 10 people have died in the outbreak at Langley Memorial Hospital's acute facility, Fraser Health confirmed Tuesday.

According to the health authority, 24 patients and four staff have tested positive since the outbreak was declared Nov. 5.

The hospital is only accepting patients for urgent, emergency, cancer and daycare surgeries, and patients requiring treatment in the mental health, critical care, maternity or pediatric units.

A separate outbreak in the hospital's long-term care unit was declared by Fraser Health on Nov. 18.

3 more deaths at West Vancouver care home

A long-term care home in West Vancouver, B.C., says three of its residents died from COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing its total number of deaths to 18 since the pandemic started.

The Capilano Centre said, as of Sunday, it had 42 residents with active cases, while 14 people have recovered. 

Fifteen staff members have also tested positive and are self-isolating at home. A total of 36 have been cleared to return to work. 

"Staff and managers at Capilano are working around the clock to contain and manage this outbreak," Connie Luck, the centre's executive director, wrote in an email to families on Monday.

"I appreciate how hard this is for families, friends and staff." 

Luck said the centre is testing anyone with symptoms of the virus and notifying residents' families of positive results. The centre is also screening staff twice daily. 

Mink samples test positive

Five mink samples at a farm in B.C.'s Fraser Valley have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, fuelling concerns of possible new mutations of the coronavirus.

The province's agriculture ministry says the results were expected after eight workers on the farm tested positive last weekend.

Health officials sent the mink samples for testing to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has been notified of the results under international reporting requirements

If minks are infected, experts say there's the potential for the virus to mutate within the mink population, which has been seen elsewhere.

READ MORE:

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

As of Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. PT, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 429,035, with 71,968 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,866.

On Tuesday, Alberta joined most other provinces in implementing a mandatory mask rule and banning social gatherings as infections continue to soar.

Meanwhile, people across Canada were watching closely as seniors in the U.K. became the first people in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials.

Cole Pinnow, the president of Pfizer Canada, said Health Canada's approval means the country can start to return to a sense of "normalcy," with millions of Canadians set to be vaccinated over the coming months.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is meeting with premiers virtually Thursday, with vaccine distribution, health-care funding and improving long-term care facilities on the agenda.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of taste or smell.
  • Headache.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or o​​​​​​ther extreme symptoms should call 911.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

With files from The Canadian Press

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