Henry says B.C. on precipice of COVID-19 surge if guidelines not followed

Vaccine delays, variants and disregard for guidelines have put the province in a dangerous position

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the next two weeks are a critical period for the province, urging people to follow public health guidelines and ease transmission of COVID-19.

In a media briefing on Monday, Henry said she had a "specific request" for all British Columbians.

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"In the last couple of weeks, we have plateaued at about 500 new cases of COVID-19 per day," she said. "This is too many. This leaves us at a precipice, at the brink, where we can see rapid takeoff if we start to see any of these new variants transmit in our community."

Those variants include the U.K. variant — which has five cases in B.C. linked to travel, with those affected in isolation — and the South Africa variant, which has produced three cases so far and has been transmitted in the community without a known origin.

Health Minister Adrian Dix reinforced Henry's message.

"The hands unwashed, the mask unworn, the physical distance ignored, the non-essential travel taken, the risks discounted," Dix said. "It thrives on public health orders and guidance disobeyed, unheeded, and our skills unused."

The plea from Henry also comes as further delays are announced regarding supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

Henry said the amount of vaccine expected in early February will be "dramatically reduced," and it is unknown how much vaccine will be received in the two weeks after.

"Because of the limited supply, we have made the decision to delay second doses up until day 42 for these short periods of time," she said.

Henry said the remaining limited supply will go toward long-term care homes yet to be vaccinated and to outbreaks in acute care centres and communities.

The province has so far administered 119,850 doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Of those doses, 33,023 have gone to long-term care staff, 25,701 have gone to long-term care residents and 3,000 of those have been second doses to date. In assisted living facilities, 4,050 doses have gone to staff while 7,147 have gone to residents.

"That includes all of the long-term care and assisted living facilities in Island Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health, and we will have all of the long-term care and assisted living facilities in Northern Health and Interior Health by Wednesday of this week," Henry said.

Case count update

In a three-day period over the weekend, Interior Health saw 234 new cases — an average of 78 per day.

Elsewhere in the province, there were 314 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 618 in Fraser Health, 73 in Vancouver Island Health, 104 in Northern Health and one in a person who normally lives outside Canada.

The province also reported 26 additional deaths due to COVID-19.

The province now has 4,392 active cases with 328 in hospital, including 68 in critical care.

Another 6,607 are under active public health monitoring due to exposure to confirmed cases.

To date, 57,831 of B.C.'s 64,828 cases have recovered, while 1,154 have died.

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