British Columbia

COVID-19 variants continue to increase in B.C. as province announces 1,478 new cases over 3 days

B.C. health officials confirmed they had identified 42 more variant cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, as the province announced the second phase of its vaccine rollout plan on Monday.

8 people die over the weekend, as 42 more variant cases identified

B.C. announced on Monday it is extending the time between the first and second doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to four months to make sure every adult has at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of July. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. health officials confirmed they had identified 42 more variant cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, as the province announced the second phase of its vaccine rollout plan on Monday.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there were 1,478 new COVID-19 cases and eight more deaths over the last three days.

The number of hospitalized patients now stands at 236 people, 65 of whom are in intensive care.

With the 42 new confirmed cases of variants, there have now been 158 variant cases of COVID-19 confirmed in B.C.

Fraser Health says it is working closely with the Surrey School District after a student tested positive for a variant of concern at Cindrich Elementary School. Close contacts of that student have been contacted for testing and the school will remain open.

A total of 1,363 people in B.C. have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

There are currently 4,464 active cases of coronavirus in the province, with public health monitoring 8,210 people who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. More than 74,776 people who tested positive have recovered.  

 

New outbreaks have been declared in health-care facilities: at Glacier View Lodge in the Island Health region, Chilliwack General Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Fraser Health has also declared an outbreak at Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence in Mission, where one resident has tested positive and at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody.

There have been 10 patients who have tested positive in one unit at the hospital. That unit is closed for admissions, Fraser Health said in a statement. No other areas of the hospital are affected.

Outbreaks at St. Paul's Hospital, CareLife Fleetwood, George Derby Centre, Eden Gardens, Wexford Creek and Noric House have been declared over. 

So far, 275,681 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. — around four per cent of the population — with 83,777 of those being second doses.

All eligible adults to have 1st dose by end of July: province

The province also announced on Monday every eligible adult should be able to receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by late July after Health Canada's approval of a new vaccine and a decision to delay second doses.

Officials also announced they are extending the time between the first and second doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to four months. 

 

Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control — and countries around the world such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand — show "miraculous" protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of those two vaccines.

With additional supply from the newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the longer interval before the second doses, "everyone moves up the line, meaning more people will be vaccinated more quickly," Henry and Dix said in a statement Monday.

The accelerated timeline was announced as the province moves into the second, seniors-focused phase of the vaccine rollout plan, with an appointment system for seniors over 80 years old starting next week. 

More than 400,000 people are expected to be vaccinated from now until early April, Henry and Dix said.

Indigenous people over 65 years old and seniors over the age of 80 will be able to book their vaccine appointments this month.

Starting Monday, health authorities will contact residents and staff of independent living centres, and those living in seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff.

Seniors who do not live in care can call to book their own appointment or have a family member or support person do it for them based on a staggered schedule, which is as follows: 

  • From March 8: Seniors over the age of 90 (those born in or before 1931) and Indigenous people over the age of 65 (those born in or before 1956).
  • From March 15: Seniors over the age of 85 (those born in or before 1936).
  • From March 22: Seniors 80 and older (those born in or before 1941).

The phone numbers are listed on the provincial government's website. Phones lines are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. PT. Those who live in the Fraser Health region have the option to book online.

CBC British Columbia is hosting a town hall on March 10 to answer your COVID-19 vaccine questions. 

You can find the details at cbc.ca/ourshot, as well as opportunities to participate in two community conversations on March 3, focused on outreach to Indigenous and multicultural communities. 

Have a question about the vaccine, or the rollout plan in B.C.? Email us: bcasks@cbc.ca 

With files from Rhianna Schmunk

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