2021-03-25 BC

Press briefing

Today’s press briefing was slightly odd, as it did not include the daily stats. (Those came out in written form a few hours later.) Mostly Dr. Henry answered questions which have been coming into her office.

This is a very loose rendering of the questions she addressed:

Q: Is the increase in young people in hospital due to greater risk or just greater spread in the community? A: We’ve been watching that a lot. We’re seeing an increase in young people in the hospital (green and red lines below) and a decrease in older people, especially the people over 80 (lavender) in long-term care homes:

The hospitalization rate for people under 60 has been low and stable for a long time, as you can see in this chart:

Editorial: note that the points on the graph are very coarse, with all of Jan-Mar lumped into one point.

The international data does say that B.1.1.7 is more transmissible, which worries us, which is why we ramped up our screening so hard — we’re screening almost all of our positives now. We have not seen an increased risk of hospitalization, but we are seeing a slight increase in ICU risk if you are hospitalized with a VOC.

Also, because it’s younger people in the hospital, they survive, and thus spend longer in the hospital, which makes the number of people in hospital go up.

Q: Why are you easing restrictions when cases are going up? A: It’s not so much about easing restrictions as recognizing at this phase in the pandemic that we need to focus on those things we CAN do safely.

Editorial: I interpreted this response as, “we are trying to get people to do safe things instead of unsafe things by making the safe things legal”.

Q: Where are the cases coming from? A: 1) Social events, small gatherings indoors. 2) workplace settings (~33-40%), both big and small. We’re addressing big workplace sites with measures including vaccination and shutting down the site for long enough that people don’t go back and spread. Also we are stepping up enforcement.

Q: VOCs? A: They are replacing and taking over, but what works against COVID Classic also works against the VOCs.

Q: How come MY condition isn’t on the medically vulnerable list to move up in line? A: A lot of people looked hard at who should be on that list, and we only have so much vax. Also, chill, you’ll get your vax soon one way or another.

Q: Am I eligible for the occupation track? A: If you are, your health authority will contact you. And chill, the age-based track is moving fast.

Dr. Henry also made announcements about the loosening of some restrictions.

  • In addition to religious services being allowed to have outdoor services, they will allow indoor services for four days (of the congregation’s chosing) during the upcoming holidays with some pretty strict limitations. For example, each service can only have 50 people or 10% of available seating (whichever is less); services have to have a long enough delay between them that congregants in each service cannot mingle with each other.
  • Starting 1 April, there can be up to two adults and one child visiting long-term care homes, and they must be allowed to visit for a minimum of one hour (or until the resident gets tired). They may touch. There are still a bunch of measures: they must book an appointment, they can only visit one resident, they must wear a mask, etc.

Dix mentioned that they had wanted to get 10% of the population vaxxed by the end of April, and we’re at 12.5%. (I estimate that we’ll be at ~17% by the end of the month if we stay on our current pace. I expect that we’ll actually do better than that, as we keep increasing our daily doses.)

Then reporters asked questions. Here is a very loose summary of the Q&A:

Q: Studies have shown that older people and those with cancer don’t respond as well to one shot, shouldn’t we give them their second dose faster? A: Those were antibody studies, and antibodies aren’t the only thing in the immune system. We have actual data from the field on old people from our long-term care data, and that data says old people do surprisingly well with one dose. For cancer, that study was for certain types of blood cancer, we’re monitoring. If it turns out that one shot isn’t good enough, we’ll shorten the delay.

Q: The P.1 VOC is growing scary-fast, what % overall, and will P.1. affect back to school? A: P.1 is like 17-20% of VOCs. B.1.1.7 is the biggest one, we are managing aggressively, it’s not going to affect back-to-school. We are watching P.1 closely; it’s mostly in VCH but some in FH and Interior. There was a large cluster in VCH and and two smaller clusters in Interior which are now contained.

Q: How are you going to make long-term care homes let visitors in? Q: We have had trouble with care homes being recalcitrant about letting visitors in, which is part of why we are publicizing what they are supposed to let you do. Contact the ombudsperson, contact my office if they don’t let you in.

Q: Any thought to requiring care home visitors to get vaxxed first? A: No. The residents are pretty much all vaxed plus we still have measures (e.g. masks), and eventually everybody will be vaxxed.

Q: How are you going to make sure different visiting groups at care homes don’t mingle? Various: you have to book, you have to stay in your loved one’s room.

Q: Three seniors living at same address, one 78 y/o and two 74 y/o called on the same day to book appointments, were given appointments on the same day, went, the 78 y/o got their shot and the 74s were turned away, wtf? A: It’s challenging to implement different algorithms in different parts of the province which is why we are asking people to follow the rules. The important thing is we are getting people immunized as best we can right now, there will be hiccups.

Q: Lots of seniors don’t speak English, live alone, family isn’t helping, how can they book appointments? A: We are trying, and we ask communities to reach out to help. Also, there’s translation capability in the phone booking system.

Q: If we can have indoor religious services, can we open movie theatres? A: Religions have Charter Rights, movie theatres do not. Also, we’re only allowing indoor gatherings for a few services. If it works well, then we will consider opening more.

Statistics

Today: +800 cases, +5 deaths, +28,037, +32 second doses, +3875 AZ doses. VOCs: +152 of B.1.1.7, +3 of B.1.351, +36 of P.1.

Currently 306 in hospital / 79 in ICU, 5,856 active cases, 9,964 under monitoring, 87,351 recovered.

We have 181,949 doses in the fridges; we are running 7.5 days behind supply.

Charts

Supply

The details have been finalized; the US is going to deliver 1.5M AZ doses next week, yay! (This is a loan, not a sale or gift; we have to pay it back later.)

Unfortunately, part of a vaccine’s regulatory approval is approving the factories where it is made, and Canada never approved the specific US factory where that batch was made. I don’t know how long it will take to do that, but I’m guessing a few weeks.

Eventually, BC will get somewhere around 200K doses, which will let public health significantly increase immunizations in the occupation track.

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