B.C. to issue guidelines this week for a gradual reopening of religious services
Reopening would start with outdoor services and could expand to indoors in time for Passover, Easter
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she's worked with a panel of faith leaders to come up with guidelines that will allow for a gradual reopening of religious services, starting with outdoor gatherings.
She says guidelines for small outdoor services will be issued in the coming days, with the goal of introducing in-person gatherings in time for Passover and Easter, important faith celebrations coming up in the next few weeks.
"We have been consulting through this process to see how we can have some limited in-person gatherings for those very important celebrations and do that safely," she said. "Some churches or synagogues are finding other ways to have those services, but, for some, it will be very important to have some limited indoor access for those important celebrations."
She says she expects guidance on limited indoor gatherings to be issued next week and is aiming for a larger return to religious services by mid-April.
Average of 502 daily cases over the weekend
B.C. health officials announced Monday that 10 more people have died of COVID-19, as the province recorded 1,506 new cases over the last three days.
During the live news conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed 269 people are being treated in hospital, 76 of whom are in critical care.
There are currently 4,987 active cases of COVID-19 across the province, while the province had its lowest number of deaths over the last week since the start of the second wave.
Since the pandemic began, 1407 British Columbians have died as a result of contracting the virus.
Henry says 163 cases have now been identified as being linked to variants of concern for a total of 880 cases, including 195 that are still active.
Monday's update is the first since 648 new cases were announced on Friday — the highest daily case count since Jan. 7.
1st shipment of AstraZeneca arrives
Henry also addressed news that some European countries have temporarily stopped administering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine over reports of people developing blood clots after receiving that shot.
"We have to remember as well that 17 million doses of AstraZeneca have been given [and], so far, 37 cases of blood clots have been detected. That's lower than what we might see, even in the general population, without vaccination."
Watch | Dr. Bonnie Henry lays out the data on blood clots and the Astra-Zeneca vaccine:
Earlier Monday, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix released a statement, as the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the province, outlining a plan to use the new vaccine for front-line workers and workers in industries where full use of personal protective equipment and barriers can be challenging — such as food processing plants and work camps.
The province is also bumping up its vaccination timeline, as vaccination bookings for people age 84 and up started Monday, with people 80 and older able to book their vaccinations on Friday ahead of schedule.
Over the last three days, 28,360 people received vaccine shots in B.C., meaning more than 10 per cent of eligible British Columbians have now received at least one dose.
On Sunday, Health Minister Adrian Dix told CBC News B.C. has now vaccinated about half of everyone in the over 90 age category.
On Thursday, health officials eased restrictions for the first time in four months to allow outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people but asked that people stick to the same group.
The latest daily numbers represent an average of 502 new cases of COVID-19 over the last three days, as the province's trendline continue to slowly go up. Despite the province's daily case numbers hovering above 500 in recent weeks, Henry said the riskiest settings are indoors, while the chance of spread outside is minimal.
Due to the risk of indoor St. Patrick's Day gatherings, Henry said, she has decided to restrict alcohol sales after 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
By provincial health officer order, alcohol sales will be restricted to ensure a safer St. Patrick's Day for everyone. Effective March 17 at 8 PM until March 18 at 9 AM, the service and sale of alcohol is prohibited. Learn more: <a href="https://t.co/m3xLAynkOS">https://t.co/m3xLAynkOS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CovidBC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CovidBC</a> <a href="https://t.co/1BR27xRwId">pic.twitter.com/1BR27xRwId</a>—@BCGovNews
Outbreak at VGH
On Monday, a statement from Vancouver Coastal Health said two patients had tested positive for COVID-19 in an in-patient unit at Vancouver General Hospital in the Jim Pattison Pavilion.
The unit is now closed to all admissions, transfers and most visits, but other hospital facilities, including the emergency ward, remain open.
Another unit, which is also in the Jim Pattison Pavilion, remains closed after an outbreak there last month. But the health authority says a similar outbreak on a separate unit has ended and restrictions there are lifted.
Elsewhere across the Lower Mainland, Fraser Health says outbreaks continue in units at Mission, Surrey and Chilliwack hospitals, as well as Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody and Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge.
At the UBC Hospital, cases of the virus have also been confirmed in the Koerner Pavilion.