Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Dramatically Different ... 'the virus has changed and is spreading rapidly" -- Doctor Bonnie Henry

With the Omicron variant now accounting for over 80 percent of all COVID cases in British Columbia (slightly less in Northern Health for the moment) Doctor Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix hosted their first public briefing of 2022. 

The session a mix of how the province will evolve in its approach to the coronavirus, with a review of the state of health care at this point of the evolution of the virus itself.

Observing of the  start of the new year, Doctor Henry noted she hoped it would be the last time that there would be a need to open a new Year with COVID briefing.

"As you know, the virus has changed and is spreading rapidly, the Omicron strain that has now taken over here in British Columbia means that we are in a different race, in a different storm now. The Omicron variant of concern has taken over the Delta variant and is now the cause of 80 percent of the new cases that we have seen across British Columbia. It varies slightly in the North, where it's not quite that high yet, but the data that's posted on the BC CDC Website makes it clear that this has been a variant that has been dramatically different and is spreading in a different way" -- Doctor Bonnie Henry

She noted of the slow creep of hospitalizations move upwards, observing of a rate of transmission that means that at this people most people in British Columbia likely have a friend, family member or colleague who has been infected with the COVID variant,  highlighting how at the moment Omicron has the advantage.

She recounted the previous work from vaccinations, booster shots and the many other measures of protection such as mask wearing, hand washing, staying home if sick as key to the ongoing efforts.

"This is the right thing to to do and this is what will get us through this phase as well. It means a lot of people will get sick and we are seeing that now. But your vaccine will protect most people from serious illnesses and hospitalizations and we need to make sure that we continue to do those other measures as well"

The new variant means new challenges, with some of the past measures use previous like case and contact tracing now no longer useful to the approach, mainly owing to the speed of the Omicron transmission, with the focus now on proactive measures to move through the next few weeks which will be of concern.

With the Doctor observing of high levels of British Columbians off work and creating new challenges for business owners and service providers in the province, with Dr Henry calling for the reactivation of the COVID 19 plans of the past to deal with worker shortages and offer ways to adapt.

Reducing contacts at the workplace, offering options to working at home, limiting customers at any one time an using a range of protection protocols were some of the key points of Dr. Henry's presentation, with a particular focus on the need for vaccine requirements among the items that were highlighted.

On themes of Education, Dr Henry observed how the Schools were the safest place for children and how schools could work to ensure that they work to keep the schools open, calling it the highest priority.

"We know that schools are safe, they're the best and safest place for our children, and they are essential. They are essential for their social and emotional development as well as their intellectual development. 

And it is not because we have any concerns about that, it's because as we have watched what is happening with Omicron and how it is affecting so many people.  I have tasked schools specifically to take stock and prepare plans to safely operate over the coming months with the potential for reduced staff and keep children safely in school and reducing the risk of functional closures because of staff illness. 

It's essential that we keep our schools open for children, just as we've kept grocery stores, and pharmacies and hospitals open. This is going to be and remains our highest priority.  

We need to do this and to do this we need flexibility from everyone. From administrators and staff, teachers and parents and of course kids too. If you're children are higher risk it may mean things like pausing extra-curricular activities to focus on school and the importance of school"

For the Health Minister one of the key points for Mr, Dix was to relay the data on Hospital bed availability in the province. with surge beds now added to the medical system, British Columbia has 11,582 hospital beds, 9,034 of which are currently occupied, an increase over the last number of days but still down from a month ago.

In Critical Care, 454 of the 728 Critical Care Beds are occupied, the Health Minister observed how they have added to space by suspending a number of other health procedures as of the start of the year.

Mr. Dix also reviewed the progress of the provincial vaccination campaign,  noting that more and more invitations have been issued for first dose, second dose and booster dose invitations.

"Since October 27th we have sent out one million, five hundred and forty two  thousand booster dose invitations which is 40 percent, with an anticipation of reaching 46 percent by the end of this week. The focus for those booster shots to date has been those most vulnerable to severe  outcomes."

Among those to get their boosters to date, a growing number of those 60 years of age and over, as well as health care workers and those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

"Since New Year's Eve, December 31st, we have invited 378,634 people for boosters and more invites are going out as we speak And we will continue to invite those eligible over 18 over the rest of this week to clear all those by the end of this week, all those who passed six months since their second dose will have been invited to book by the end of this week"

Mr. Dix noted that as of today that some 710 locations are available to get a vaccination with more sites coming online daily including  pharmacies and health clinics.

When it comes to Public Health Orders, in reply to a question   the Minister reinforced that the public needs to continue to pay attention to the orders and follow them.

"All of us have to assess these new circumstances and recommit ourselves to following public health guidance and orders and when there are Public Health Orders. Because we've been, I think balanced in dealing with Public Health Orders, in the time those public health orders need to be adhered to. 

And the public health guidance, you need to adhere to that too, for your own health and those that you love. And if we continue to do that we're going to get through this period. 

But this is immensely challenging and different than the Delta series, the pervious waves we've seen or the challenges that we've seen from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic 

And we're going to keep adapting and learning every day and as are people in BC and I think together we can respond well to this situation as well."

The full presentation from this afternoon can be reviewed below:

The first full release of data for 2022 was also delivered today, the review noting for the Northern Health region of 125 new cases over the last 24 hours, with a total number of active cases listed at 737

When it comes to Hospitalizations in the Northern Health region, 18 patients are currently hospitalized related to COVID, with 5 patients currently in Critical Care.

The Northern Health data from the BC CDC for January 4

The full overview of the data can be explored here, with our archive of notes available  here

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