B.C. may not move to Step 4 by Sept. 7 as COVID-19 case counts increase: top doctor

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British Columbia’s top doctor says the province may not advance as expected to the next step in its COVID-19 restart plan as case counts surge in the Interior Health region.

As provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry was announcing tighter restrictions to cover all of the Interior Health regions, she said it won’t be a surprise if the province doesn’t advance to Step 4 in September.

Henry announced restrictions currently in place in the central Okanagan, such as mandatory mask-wearing and reduced limits on indoor and outdoor events, will be expanded across the region in an effort to limit the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The province has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with many occurring in the Interior Health region, which Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix attributed to lower vaccination rates.

Henry also notes that the displacement of many residents because of the wildfires has made containing COVID-19 especially challenging.

She says the larger caseload is placing too much pressure on local health services, prompting them to widen the safety measures to the entire region.

Roughly 76 per cent of eligible residents have received a COVID-19 dose in Interior Health, dropping to 68 per cent for those who have received both doses, Dix said.

Henry says the province is seeing a high number of transmissions at private events, such as weddings or funerals, in the Interior Health region.

“This is a pre-emptive measure,” Henry says. “And it is important for all of us to recognize that we can control the things that we are doing that is transmitting this virus and one of the most important ones is to be immunized.”

Dix added that there will be “significant” things that those who refuse vaccinations will not be able to do.

“We can do better and there are issues in parts of Interior Health,” he said.

“It’s time for people to get vaccinated.”

For Canada’s 300,000 employees working in federal public service, an order was issued today by Dominic LeBlanc, Federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, to get vaccinated by the end of October, and all crown corporations will be expected to follow.

“This is now a mandatory requirement to go to work in a federal workplace or for the Government of Canada,” said LeBlanc

That includes Canada’s big banks, airlines and railways among other federally regulated industries.

Now, the private sector is also pushing vaccination mandates.

Live Nation Canada, the biggest event promoter in the country now has a vaccinate mandate for all artists, crews and attendees, or a negative test starting October fourth.

With cases surging across the province, Dr. David Forrest, an infectious disease specialist with Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, said it’s recently admitted more COVID patients.

“There are three in ICU in Nanaimo with COVID.”

There’s a concern about cases unless the vaccination rate in the province increases and restrictive measures are re-introduced.

“I suspect we are going to see significant increases in COVID cases in hospitalization rates, critical illness and death,” Dr. Forrest said.

With files to the Canadian Press.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin
The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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