British Columbia

COVID-19 claims 49 lives in B.C. over the weekend, as province prepares to begin vaccinations on Tuesday

Forty-nine people died from COVID-19 in B.C. over the weekend, B.C.'s provincial health officer announced Monday, as she revealed the province's first residents are set to be vaccinated Tuesday.

Province recorded 2,146 new cases over 3 days between Friday and Monday

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C.'s curve has flattened since she introduced restrictions more than a month ago. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Forty-nine people died from COVID-19 in B.C. over the weekend, B.C.'s provincial health officer announced Monday, as she revealed the province's first residents are set to be vaccinated Tuesday.

The number of people who died "is a tragedy that all of us feel," Dr. Bonnie Henry said, reporting 2,146 new cases over a three-day period. 

The province recorded 698 cases between Friday and Saturday, 689 cases between Saturday and Sunday, and 759 cases between Sunday and Monday.

Amid the grim tally, Henry noted the first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrived in B.C. late Sunday night, with immunizations set to begin Tuesday. On Monday, a long-term care worker became the first person in Ontario to receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

 

In B.C., the first vials of the vaccine, some 4,000 doses, will be distributed this week to front-line health-care workers and long-term care home workers in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.

The vaccine will be available next week in every health authority across the province. 

"This is momentous news," Henry said.

"It's the first step in our path to protecting people most at risk in our communities and taking the pressure off our health-care system, so that care is available for all of us."

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The Pfizer vaccine requires two separate doses three to four weeks apart.

However, Henry said B.C. will administer all its doses this month to immunize as many people as possible, rather than holding a second dose in reserve.

The province expects to receive a larger shipment in the next two weeks. The second doses will be administered in January, Henry said.

"Right now, we are at peak risk in our community," she said. "Making sure that we protect as many people as possible with that first dose is our first priority." 

The first doses will not go to long-term care residents in B.C., unlike Quebec, where residents there received their first shots Monday.

Henry said Quebec was able to receive its shipments at two major medical sites that also function as long-term care homes. Those sites have the freezers needed to store the vaccines at ultra-low temperatures. 

B.C. has no such facilities.

"We are bringing people to where we can provide the vaccine," Henry said.

The province is eyeing the Moderna vaccine, which can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, for use on long-term care residents, pending approval this month. 

359 people hospitalized, 87 in ICU

As of Monday, there were 10,039 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 359 people in hospital, including 87 in intensive care. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 647 people in B.C. have died of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

 

Henry announced three new outbreaks Monday and said six had been declared over. Fifty-five outbreaks persist in long-term care homes, along with seven outbreaks in acute-care facilities.

Henry said B.C.'s curve has flattened since she introduced restrictions more than a month ago, including a ban on all social gatherings with anyone outside of a person's immediate household.

Transmission in large gatherings has declined steeply, Henry said, but the virus continues to transmit in close settings, such as small dinner parties.

She cited challenges in Interior Health, where large groups are clustered in shared accommodations in work camps. Fraser Health also continues to see the bulk of new cases in B.C.

"The measures we have put in place have made a difference," Henry said, noting she doesn't yet know whether more measures will come into effect.

'Pre-Christmas quarantine' not foolproof

With the holidays approaching next week, Henry reiterated that no event or gathering in the province is free of risk. 

Gatherings in homes, she noted, don't have the same protections, such as masks and Plexiglas dividers, as grocery or retail stores. 

Henry said a "pre-Christmas quarantine" for families to gather is not foolproof, as not everyone has the same definition of quarantine. She said she's heard of a number of creative workarounds, including dropping off cookies at doorways, Zoom holiday dinners on big screen TVs, and post-meal virtual karaoke.

"There will be a time where we will be able to take our masks off, where we can see and hug our loved ones and friends," she said. 

"But we are not yet there." 

About the Author

Alex Migdal

Journalist

Alex Migdal is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. He's previously reported for The Globe and Mail, Guelph Mercury and Edmonton Journal. You can reach him at alex.migdal@cbc.ca.

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