COVID-19 in B.C.: Mandatory healthcare vaccinations; over 500 new cases; canine COVID-19 detection team; and more

For a second consecutive day, the new case count has remained above the 500 case mark.

Active cases increased in three regional health authorities but remain about the same as yesterday in two others.

Today (August 12), B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix held a news conference to announce new public health orders about vaccinations for healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health is launching a team of dogs that have been trained to detect COVID-19.

Dix pointed out that the provincial immunization program, which began in December, had an “immediate and dramatic” impact upon outbreaks in healthcare facilities—there were 49 healthcare facilities outbreaks on January 15, which were reduced to almost none in February.

Measures had been introduced to require reporting of vaccination status of healthcare workers, and required testing for those who remained unvaccinated.

However, the number of healthcare outbreaks has been rising over the past few weeks.

Dix said that these outbreaks are not “qualitatively” of the same nature as those from November to February, but he said that they remain “disruptive”.

In a move to protect vulnerable residents at healthcare facilities, Henry announced new public health orders for all workers at longterm care and assisted-living facilities are now required to have vaccinations as a “condition of employment”. Full vaccinations of healthcare workers in these facilities must be completed by October 12.

The order will also apply to volunteers and personal-service workers who enter longterm care facilities—anyone one who isn’t vaccinated won’t be allowed to serve in these capacities at these facilities any longer.

Henry acknowledged that this new order is a change from measures put in place in June, such as required testing for unvaccinated workers, which were thought to be sufficient.

“We have now seen that with the transmission of the new variants that we need extra protection in this highly risky situation,” she said.

She added that there has been transmission from unvaccinated staff in healthcare facilities.

“This is a necessary step to protect residents, and to protect staff, in longterm care,” Dix explained.

Henry had said at a previous briefing that she has “very little patience for people who are not vaccinated in healthcare”.

Canines for Care COVID-19 detector Finn
Vancouver Coastal Health

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) announced today (August 12) that Canines for Care is now being deployed to detect COVID-19.

For over five years, this VCH canine scent detection team has been seeking out and detecting Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) in healthcare settings in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada, and the work conducted by these canines has helped to reduce infection rates. VCH was the first health organization in the world to use this canine detection program.

Allison Muniak, who is VCH’s executive director of quality and patient safety, infection prevention and control, and risk management, explained that the detection program has been “led by a multi-disciplinary team of medical professionals, dog handlers and infection prevention practitioners”.

The program was developed six months ago, and involved three dogs: two Labrador retrievers, Micro and Yoki, and one English springer spaniel, Finn.

The team developed a methodology to use COVID-19 samples—using COVID-19 saliva, breath, and sweat samples from consenting patients—and to conduct training safely for both dogs and their handlers.

A third-party reviewer found that Micro and Finn had 100 percent sensitivity and 93 percent specificity in identifying COVID-19, and Yoki recently received validation with similar results.

The dogs can potentially be used for screenings at airports, cruise ships, and public events.

Today, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 513 new COVID-19 cases (including one epi-linked case).

Currently, there are 3,834 active cases, which is an increase of 249 cases since yesterday.

With nine more hospitalized cases than yesterday, there are now 81 individuals in hospitals, and 33 of those patients are in intensive care units (four more than yesterday).

The new and active cases include:

  • 271 new cases in Interior Health, with 2,199 total active cases (154 more cases than yesterday);
  • 108 new cases in Fraser Health, with 750 total active cases (51 more cases);
  • 92 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 539 total active cases (46 more cases);
  • 29 new cases in Island Health, with 220 total active cases (two fewer cases than yesterday);
  • 13 new cases in Northern Health, with 116 total active cases (same number as yesterday);
  • no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada, with 10 total active cases (same number as yesterday).

Unfortunately for a second day, there has been one new COVID-19-related death (also in Interior Health). The cumulative total number of fatalities is now at 1,779 people who have died during the pandemic.

With 256 recoveries since yesterday, an overall total of 148,702 people who tested positive have now recovered.

During the pandemic, B.C has reported a cumulative total of 154,362 COVID-19 cases.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
Province of British Columbia

Since the provincial immunization program began in December 2020, B.C. has administered 7,141,196 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

As of today, 82.3 percent (3,814,635) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 71.6 percent (3,318,751) received their second dose.

In addition, 83.1 percent (3,596,148) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 73.3 percent (3,168,620) received their second dose.

No new healthcare or community outbreaks have been declared, and there also weren’t any new business closures or public exposure events.

Currently, there are eight active outbreaks in longterm care facilities:

  • five in Interior Health: Nelson Jubilee Manor, Kootenay Street Village, Cottonwoods Care Centre, Brookhaven Care Centre;
  • three in Fraser Health: Holyrood Manor, Kin Village West Court, Evergreen Baptist Care Society;
  • one in Island Health: Discovery Harbour.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has included the following five flights on its lists of public exposures (for affected row information, visit the BCCDC website):

  • August 6: KLM 681, Amsterdam to Vancouver;
  • August 6: Air Canada 292, Vancouver to Winnipeg;
  • August 7: Air Canada 248, Vancouver to Edmonton;
  • August 7: Flair 8200, Vancouver to Montreal;
  • August 7: WestJet 712, Vancouver to Toronto.

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