Friday, February 26, 2021

COVID-19 case count for BC spikes upwards, with 521* new cases reported Friday ... Government notes of additional vaccine supply to come

Update: Early Friday evening the totals were revised from those released earlier in the day, with the number of case reports dropping from 589 to 521. 

Revisions are reflected in the BC CDC data charts at bottom of this page

*********** Original story *********
After some good progress in lowering the volume of new cases, British Columbia took a step backwards today, with the Friday COVID report making note of 589 new cases,  a jump of just under 200 cases from yesterday. 

More than half of the new cases were reported in the Fraser Health Authority region, which remains the province's hottest zone for COVID cases.

The statement from Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix was noted as provisional, owing to delayed case information, the full report of the day's findings will be posted to the BC CDC dashboard once it has been verified.

“Today, we are reporting 589 new cases, for a total of 79,262 cases in British Columbia. 

There are 4,665 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 8,040 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 73,188 people who tested positive have recovered. 

Of the active cases, 232 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 63 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.  

There have been seven new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,355 deaths in British Columbia. We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19. “There have been no new health-care facility outbreaks." 

Across the province, British Columbia's Health Authority regions outlined the following reports for the day:

157 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 317 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 31 in the Island Health region, 39 in the Interior Health region, 

There were 33* new cases reported in the Northern Health region on Friday, that brings the total to date since January 2020 to 4,511 positive cases reported in the Northern Health  region.  

* -- Numbers were revised later Friday evening

British Columbia recorded no new cases of COVID in the province from people who reside outside of Canada. 

The pace of vaccination continues to increase, to date, 252,373 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 73,808 of which are second doses.

Today's review also included some welcome news on vaccines, with the British Columbia officials making note of two approvals from the Government of Canada towards expanded vaccine availability.

“Today, the Government of Canada announced the approval of two versions of a new COVID-19 vaccine – the viral vector vaccine produced by Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Verity-Serum Institute of India vaccine. 

This is very encouraging news for everyone in British Columbia. 

Unlike the vaccines that have been available to date, this new, two-dose viral vector vaccine has the benefit of being ‘fridge stable,’ making it much easier to transport and distribute around the province. 

This new vaccine will be integrated into our provincial immunization program as delivery and supply is confirmed in the coming weeks. The additional supply will allow us to look at accelerating immunization of priority populations and essential workers. 

This is another exciting and encouraging step forward for all of us. It means we have one more layer of protection available to us and are one step closer to getting through this pandemic."

BC CDC Data for Friday has been delayed, we will update this space as the new information is provided

BC CDC Data for British Columbia for February 26 2021

BC CDC Data for Northern Health region for February 26 2021

The BC Centre for Disease control has some valuable Coronavirus notes related to COVID-19 you can explore that information here.

You can learn more about the outbreak from both the Province and the Federal government from the links below:

Federal Government site

British Columbia Government site

The World Health Organization website also offers up the latest advisories on the global situation.

More from  Northern Health can be reviewed here 

You can review our archive of past statements and local information here.   

Local governments and organizations have also provided for increased awareness of COVID-19 issues, those past advisories  can be reviewed here.

For notes from across Canada and British Columbia we have been archiving the latest items through our political portal Darcy McGee

Ottawa Observations

Victoria Viewpoints


One more week of Lockdown for Lax Kw'alaams

Members of the Lax Kw'alaams community north of Prince Rupert have one more week of restrictive measures in place, that following the announcement of an extension to the current Lockdown in effect.

The announcement from Thursday notes that the Band Council and local Emergency Measures Committee have been monitoring the situation in Prince Rupert over the last two weeks and with an increase in reports of positive cases of COVID-19, as a result the measures previously announced will remain in place.

The extension to the Lockdown will now mean that it is in effect until March 3rd, at which time conditions will be reassessed. 

Lax Kw'alaams has been under the Lockdown order since the first reports of COVID on the North Coast from mid January.

You can access more details to what is involved from the Lax Kw'alaams Facebook page.

Further notes on items of interest from the community can be reviewed from our archive page here.

Latest update from Northern Health has Acropolis Manor holding steady at 56 cases of COVID

The ongoing outbreak at Acropolis Manor has thankfully claimed no more lives to date, with the total of those passing from COVID-19 at the Long Term Care facility since mid January still listed at 14.

The latest information on the only current Long Term Care Facility outbreak in Northern BC coming from Northern Health with a statement from Thursday, which notes:

Ongoing monitoring and testing of residents and staff has not identified any new cases for several days. While the outbreak status is considered stable, full outbreak measures remain in place, and public health will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The current outbreak lists 33 residents and 23 staff members has having tested positive for the coronavirus. 

In a follow up correspondence through Facebook,  Northern Health notes that of that total, 16 residents and 22 staff members are considered recovered.

As to when Northern Health will declare the current situation at Prince Rupert's Acropolis Manor as over they note that:

Facility outbreaks are declared over only after two consecutive (14 day) COVID-19 incubation periods have passed with no potential exposures to a confirmed case.

As we outlined on Wednesday evening, the situation at Acropolis Manor, along with ongoing COVID exposure notes from SD52 have contributed to the current high level of case counts in Prince Rupert over the last month. 

Something that has seen this community listed as the one with the most reports across the Northwest for two consecutive weeks now.

The latest notes on the British Columbia response to the COVID situation can be explored here.

For more notes on Health care in Prince Rupert see our archive page here.

BC Liberals set February 5th 2022 as the date for their Leadership convention

The recently announced campaign by Ellis Ross to become the next leader of the BC Liberal party will apparently be a marathon run, as opposed to a short sprint.  

That as the party sets February 5th, 2022 as the date when they will select the replacement for their most recent ship's captain Andrew Wilkinson, with the party looking to find the right candidate to put them on a footing to challenge the NDP when the next provincial election rolls around in four years time.

The party has also provided for a Frequently Asked Questions portal on their website, which looks to provide more information on the process ahead.

The list offering some guidelines for those that may wish to seek the leadership and make the near year long run to the top of the party's email chain of command.

So you want to be the next leader of the BC Liberals?
Here's what you need to know

(click to enlarge)

Mr. Ross the MLA for Skeena  and current opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy declared his quest for the leadership on February 18th

So far he is the only declared candidate to jump into the race.

We've created an archive to track his campaign which you can review here.

Further notes on the provincial political scene can be explored from our political blog D'Arcy McGee.

City maps out potential locations for Student housing in Prince Rupert; though so far no indication of any progress on theme from Coast Mountain College

The City has laid out some options on locations  for Coast Mountain College
should they wish to provide for some student housing in Prince Rupert

Monday's Prince Rupert City Council session provided for  one amendment to the city's zoning plans for downtown area, with inclusion of a note on availability of land for student housing, something which may catch the eye of officials at the Terrace home office of Coast Mountain College.

Included in the report from the city's contract planner Chris Buchan (available from Monday's Council Agenda) was some background on the challenges facing local and international students when it comes to find accommodation  in the city:

MAJOR CHANGES: Student Housing: Housing remains a challenging issue for the City of Prince Rupert. In response to the inquiry about student housing options in the City Core, it is proposed to provide a definition within the Zoning Bylaw for student housing and to included it as a permitted use in the C2 Zone. Student housing is proposed to be defined as follows: 

“A residential unit that can house up to 10 related or unrelated people. Residents of these developments must be registered as a post-secondary student. In the case of related people, only one of the family members needs to be registered as a post-secondary student.” 

This new permitted use will increase the housing options available in the downtown area to both local and international students. A new parking standard for student housing is proposed to be 0.2 vehicles per bedroom. This is a standard used for student housing in the City of Nanaimo for students registered to the local university. This standard is designed for residents who collectively have fewer vehicles. 

It also contributes to the desired density increase in the Prince Rupert downtown core. It is worth noting that because this use would only apply to C2 zones, transit services are provided throughout the downtown area.

Zoning Map provided as part of the Rupert Talks survey project underway
Student Housing is proposed as one use for areas designated as C2

(photo from City of PR survey material, click to enlarge)

The topic of Student housing has also been included as part of the City's current Rupert Talks consultation on the new zoning concepts recently introduced by Council. 

With City Council seeking comment and feedback from the public related to the need and their proposed location for the housing.

You can review Mr. Buchan's Report to Council from the City's Video Archive starting at the 58 minute mark. Though somewhat surprisingly, none of the members of Council had any follow up questions or observations to share on the topic from Monday's session.

We've followed the need for student housing through the last few years, the last update from Coast Mountain College coming seventeen months ago, when Sarah Zimmerman, the Executive Director of Community Relations for the college observed that they were aware of the need for such types of housing for the students attending the Prince Rupert campus.

"We know there is a need for student housing in Prince Rupert and we are currently exploring options for the community there. Student housing in Prince Rupert is part of Northwest Community College's five-year capital plan and we continue to work to try to move it forward there." -- Coast Mountain College  Executive Director of Community Relations, Sarah Zimmerman in September 2019

An artists rendering of what the new housing at the Terrace campus
of Coast Mountain College will look like once completed

Since then, Coast Mountain College has seemed to put much of its focus on student housing towards the Terrace campus where a significant expansion of housing stock is now underway.  

The College has also in recent years added to the options for students in Smithers, with a housing complex in place in that community to address the housing needs for the students at that campus.

At times, it seems that any desire for similar housing in Prince Rupert has become lost in the shuffle, with few updates to explain why there continues to be a delay in providing for some, or to suggest that progress is at hand.

With the City looking towards a rebirth of the downtown core through a range of new initiatives and zoning designations, the time may be right for Coast Mountain College to provide such an update for Prince Rupert residents.

Taking advantage of this new push for downtown development to offer up some hints on what plans they may have in mind to fill a very real need for housing for their local and international student community on the North Coast.

For more notes on Coast Mountain College see our archive page here.

Time for a format change for the Prince Rupert Council call-in show

The times of COVID have proven to be challenging ones for all of us and for Prince Rupert City Council, just moving on with the public face of governance has apparently delivered no shortage of issues to deal with.

From the still to be developed ability to host some form of Public Hearing to move forward on a range of civic priorities, to the opportunity for local residents to comment on upcoming housing issues or other concerns of note, the lack of a public engagement strategy is creating a growing divide between the local officials and the residents they serve.

The most prominent display as to how COVID precautions have interrupted the traditional work of City Council is through the twice a month (most months) City Council Session, the gathering of elected officials and senior staff to share some information on key policy issues and the day to day work of a community.

For those that take the time to follow along at home these days, the last time that most of the city's elected officials gathered together in person at City Hall was November 9th, 2020

Since the November 23rd session,  the City Council format that has been adopted is that of a radio Call in show for the most part, the Mayor serving as host, with some supporting help from the Corporate Administrator and on occasion the City's Financial Officer or City Manager.

Everyone else phones in from their remote locations and if they are  paying attention on Council, that is making for a mess to be honest, of how the council is projecting their work on our behalf.

As it currently is set up (play the video at the top of the story), Council is making use of an archaic telephone system for the meetings, which has a few issues to solve it would seem.

While most of us are in the world of video conferencing these days, City council has taken us back to the days of Alexander Bell asking Watson if he can hear him ... with the frequent refrain  that of 'whomever has the TV on please turn it down ... please turn it down ... please turn it down', making for one of the most important themes of recent sessions. 

The current presentation is one that leaves many of the councillors comments lost or distorted, the ambient noises from wherever they are calling from making for too many distractions and at times drowns out the participants providing some important background information. 

The current system also offers no actual verification as to who is in attendance, the only way to know, is by way of monitoring the questions and answers if you can decipher them, as to who is participating on any given night.

While it's understandable that with COVID, the ability to meet in public session is complicated, Council has yet to explain why after some three months of this call it in process, they can't hold Council sessions in a larger venue such as the Lester Centre, or Civic Centre, taking appropriate spacing and measures for personal protection.

Unless the council members have all sequestered themselves at home for the last few months, they surely by now have gone shopping for Groceries, or attended to their day jobs which as we know all require measures to ensure safety. 

There surely must be some options available to hold to a live stream of a bubble meeting of  the seven members of Council twice a month, while we all await the COVID vaccinations that offer a return to more normal times.

Other communities it seems continue to find ways to work around COVID, Terrace recently hosted a significant special meeting on land use that attracted some vibrant conversation that lasted almost two hours and offered a range of comments to the Council members, all of it steamed live to the public at home, providing for a full and transparent account of what was a very controversial topic.

Port Edward recently moved to an online stream that includes the opportunity for residents to comment at the end of the session if they wish, bringing back the opportunity for Council members to hear directly from the public. 

Though in the case of the District, it may be an idea to archive those sessions on their Facebook page for residents to access later to see what's up as that community moves forward with its plans.

Council group shot for those who may have forgotten what 
the council members look like, visuals perhaps 
subject to change post COVID sequestering

(photo from home mailer from the City of PR)

At Monday's Price Rupert Council session, the collective hosted a return to one of the few public access options residents have to use,  that of the Committee of the Whole session, which included the opportunity for the public to participate, sort of.

The Prince Rupert version of keeping in touch requires anyone with an item of note to contact the Corporate Administrator  by voicemail or email to register their concerns, which Ms. Rosa Miller will then apparently read aloud to the Council Chamber on the council nights.

In effect adding the duties of Town Crier it seems to her growing portfolio of tasks.

On Monday, there were no such comments to share, no one apparently providing a contribution within the seven days required lead time; though to be fair to the folks at home, few probably knew of the opportunity to comment with the Notice only posted the Friday before the meeting, tucked away on the civic website.

It's not really all that surprising that no one participated, the list of rules to do so is somewhat daunting, the heads up towards participation somewhat lacking, none of it conducive to an easy flow for community engagement.

In June of 2020, Councillor Barry Cunningham cautioned Council to ensure that COVID-19 did not result in a lack of communication  with the residents of the community, something they may want to look back at to see how they've fared over time when it comes to that cautionary note.

"This is a very important piece of our planning that is going to come in the future and I really think public engagement is something that we've got to really look at carefully. By using COVID-19 as you know, sort of something that is going to block a lot of communication and that. I think we need to definitely find a way around it. Whether its a survey we put out in the paper or online or something like that ... I really think the overall picture, we've got to take a careful look at it, because so many times I've heard people say well I didn't know anything about that. And I know we've advertised it and everything, but how we're going to get it out to the public this time to get it right, I think is very important"-- Councillor Barry Cunningham speaking to Council in June of 2020 about the need to communicate with the public

If the Council members can't meet together with proper safety measures, they should explain why and then find another way of delivering their information beyond scratchy telephone calls. 

After all the city owns its own communication company, surely CityWest can offer up some advice.

At the moment the perception for a number of residents is that of a distant council that isn't hearing the community's concerns, their way of presentation of their work may have something to do with that.

Perhaps they could make some calls around the region to see how other communities are keeping their residents informed and part of the process, liberating some of their solutions towards use in Prince Rupert.

For more notes on Monday's council session see our Council Timeline feature here.

A wider overview of past Council discussion themes is available here.

Ecotrust Canada plans in Prince Rupert for 2021 take members to the water and the farm ...

This year will be an active one once again for the staff at Ecotrust Canada, with plans hatching from their Ocean Centre offices that will see a number of initiatives return or debut.

The plans for the year come through an update from the organization which looks at all of their initiatives for British Columbia with Prince Rupert the focal point for a few of them, including on ongoing work in the local fishery and some urban agriculture themes.

When it comes to the fishery, Ecotrust Canada once again will be providing the electronic monitoring and bio sampling for the Area A Crab Association as well as work with Metlakatla as part of the Restorative Ocean Farming project, the later part of the work towards securing food security for the Members of the Metlakatla First Nation.

Learn more about the program below:

On land this year will see more steps towards development of an urban demonstration farm in downtown Prince Rupert, which will be focus on improving food insecurity within the community and demonstrating the feasibility of creating a diverse array of growing options in the city and region.

Earlier this month, Ecotrust received a letter of support from the City of Prince Rupert towards their urban farm concept.

In November of 2020, Northern Development Trust provided for grant funding for the City of Prince Rupert and Ecotrust towards their partnership on the urban garden program.

The organization will also expand on its work towards developing a Northwest Food Distribution network, looking for ways to increase the movement of local food products between the communities of the region and that way increasing food accessibility and expanding markets for growers and producers.

For more notes on those local initiatives and much more see this information relay.

The organization also wants to hear from you, towards issues that are of importance to the community particularly as the region works to recover from the impact of COVID-19, you can access the five minute survey here.

You can keep up with more of their work through the Ecotrust Canada website and Facebook page.

For a look at more sustainability plans for the region see our archive page here.