2021-04-19 BC

Measures

WorkSafeBC continues to not mess around, shutting five more businesses in Fraser Health.

Press Briefing

There was a LOT that was covered in the briefing today. See the slides.

tl;dr: AZ in the pharmacies is opened up to everybody over 40; Measures stay in place for another 5 weeks, at which point things should be a LOT better; checkpoints and providers are going to make sure you don’t travel, dammit; some hospitals are getting slammed.

Travel

Premier Horgan said that:

  • Minister Farnsworth, the Minister of Public Safety, is going to put in an Order on Friday which restricts non-essential travel between Health Authorities. This will be implemented in part by random checkpoints which they emphasized multiple times would be similar to the sobriety checkpoints they have near Christmas. They recognized that checkpoints have historically been used as a tool of oppression against BiPOC, and they promise that these checkpoints (which they also fiercely argued were not, in fact, “checkpoints”) would be different.
  • They have been working with providers to make it so that the providers will not book travel related things to out-of-area people. For example, vacation rentals won’t book out-of-area people; BC Ferries will ask you why you are travelling. Also, BC Ferries will not grant passage to RVs.

These measures — and the existing “circuit breaker” measures will be in place until after Victoria Day (24 May). Horgan and the others repeatedly said that things would look very different after 24 May (due to vaccinations). From what I have seen in Israel and the UK, I believe them.

Hospitals

Dix took the podium and talked about hospital demand. He said that:

  • Overall provincial occupancy rates are under but close to base-bed capacity. This is slightly under normal. (He did not explain that, but I think it’s common enough to have people spend less than a day in hospital that sometimes you have more than one person per day in a bed.)
  • While overall we are sort of okay, there are hotspots where we are veering towards not-okay. In particular, there are 20 hospitals which were designated as COVID hospitals, and 12 of the 20 are operating at >95% base bed capacity in either normal beds or critical care beds.
  • There is stuff they can do, and to a limited ex.tent, have been doing, including moving patients from busy hospitals to less busy hospitals. (This is in addition to opening surge beds.)
  • There are a few places where they have already had to dip into surge beds.
  • They stocked up on ventilators in preparation, so we have plenty.
  • What we don’t have a lot of cushion for is staff. The health care workers have been working hard for a long time and they are tired. DIx and company reported that they are also demoralized at how people are not Doing The Right Things.
  • Interestingly, things would be a lot worse if there were influenza this year. So far this year, there have been ZERO cases of influenza. You read that right, zero with a Z. In normal Aprils, 20-23% of inpatient beds and 10-12% of ICU beds are taken with influenza. (Note: why do we put up with the flu????)
  • The proportion of 20-29 year-olds has gone up slightly from 3.7% to 5%. The most notable increase is in people 50-59. The over 70 cohort has been declining steadily.
  • We are seeing a slight decrease in cases from public health measures. Vaccination will also decrease the number of cases, but hospitalizations lag cases, so we’re going to see more hospitalizations for a while.
  • We’re hoping that the end of respiratory virus season will also help to decrease cases.

Case news

Dr. Henry gave the stats (see below) and also mentioned that a 2 y/o child died over the weekend. She said that the child had underlying health complications, but that ultimately COVID is what killed them.

This was the youngest death we’ve had in BC.

And there was much sadness.

Vaccinations

Dr. Henry gave a vaccination update:

  • As of April 14, 27% of adult population has gotten at least one dose.
  • As of April 14, they expect to have enough vax to vax another ~1.5M doses by May 31. This will mean about 60% of adults will have access to 1 dose, assuming that the schedules are met.
  • The federal government has committed to getting everybody dose 1 by the end of June. (NB: I don’t know if this refers to the additional 8M that Pfizer promised to deliver in May and June, or if this is vax on top of the promised Pfizer.)
  • The federal government has committed that dose 2 will be available for everybody by Sept. 2021.
  • The vax is highly effective 2-3 weeks after the first dose, so we should see an reduction in hospitalizations starting at the end of April for those over 65.
  • About 60% of the clinically extremely vulnerable people have gotten vaxxed already. That should be done by mid-May.
  • All of the long-term care homes and assisted living homes have been offered vax, with over 90% uptake.
  • Significant vaccination has been done for many higher-risk workplaces (e.g. mines, food processing, farming, etc.)
  • For the mRNA age-based clinics, we’ve been vaxxing 200-240 people per week, using up all that arrives.
  • They will continue to vax frontline workers, esp first responders, school staff, and child care, using vax as one of the outbreak response measures, and doing communities with higher transmission first.
  • The following vax levels have been achieved:
Age cohortDose 1Dose 2
90+87%16%
85-8986%7%
80-8483%3%
75-7976%2%
70-7456%1%
65-6924%1%

AstraZeneca

Dr. Henry talked a little about AstraZeneca:

  • As of 14 April, 114K of AZ doses have been given, 91K through pharmacies. About 88K are in 604 pharmacies now.
  • Pub health has another 75K in the fridges.
  • Starting immediately, AZ is available to all over 40 via the pharmacies.
  • In certain high-risk communities, pub health will open targeted AZ clinics for those over 40, to complement the pharmacy-based program. Those communities are mostly in FH (West Newton, Whalley, North Delta, South Langley, West Abbotsford, Port Coquitlam, Kensington, and Fleetwood), but also in Dawson Creek and Squamish. Of those, the biggest is East Newton with about 16K people over 40 left to be vaccinated.

She also reminded people that they will close workplaces which have outbreaks, for a minimum of ten days.

Dr. Henry did not close with “be kind / be calm / be safe”.

Q&A

Remember: I paraphrase heavily and snarkily!

Q: Waaait, you (Horgan) said that we couldn’t do travel restrictions! WTF? A: Horgan: I never said it was impossible, I said it was really really difficult — and it is!

Q: Can people go to Whistler from Vancouver, since both are in VCH? A: Horgan: Well, if you can’t book a hotel room, you can’t stay there. But please stay home, we appeal to voluntary action, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll MAKE you stay home. NB: No, he did not answer the question.

Q: Is there heightened concern about outdoor spread? A: DrH: yes, but outdoors (with a small group of friends!) is a LOT safer than indoors.

Q: What authority is going to be doing the stops? A: Horgan: mumble mumble mumble Farnsworth on Friday mumble mumble like CounterAttack sobriety checkpoints (which are NOT checkpoints!).

Q: What are the consequences if you are stopped? A: Horgan: mumble mumble Farnsworth on Friday mumble mumble.

Q: What about going from Surrey to Vancouver, like for work? A: mumble mumble we get that people travel for work, we intend to not be heavy handed.

Q: If you live on the Island, then does that mean you can go anywhere on the Island since it’s all one Health Authority? A: Horgan: look, we’re asking people to use common sense. We’re not going after people doing reasonable things, we’re going after people who are flaunting the rules and the spirit.

Q: NACI hasn’t okayed AZ for people between 40 and 55, so we’re just going to ignore them? A: We’ve been following the evidence from all over and talking to our colleagues and we think we’re good now. Health Canada is the regulator, NACI provides guidance and advice about how to best use it, and they’ll get to it they just haven’t yet. And look! Over there! ON and MB and QC are all doing this too.

Q: It’s frustrating for us to not see violators punished, like the beach partiers. A: It sucks. However, that’s municipal police jurisdiction, not provincial government. Our job is to give them a framework to operate in, and their job is to execute against that framework. About the beach dance party — the police were busy with a homicide nearby that night, but I expect that the investigation into the weekend party isn’t over.

Q: 88 kilodoses are in the pharmacies, available to anyone over 40? Really? A: Yes, go! We don’t know how much more is going to come or when it is going to come, so we’ll figure out what we’re going to do with it once it gets here.

Q: Is the stress/exhaustion of health care workers going to effect quality of care? A: It’s really hard for health care workers right now. It’s going to get better as we vax, but it’s really hard right now, which is why we need everyone to Do The Things. No, she did not answer the question.

Q: Will people have to provide documentation at the checkpoints? A: They are not checkpoints! They are random stops that everyone will have to go through, like the sobriety checkpoints. Mumble mumble more details Friday mumble Farnsworth.

Q: DrH, you said COVID is less transmissible when it is warm, is that true of VOCs? A: DrH: We see respiratory illnesses of all kinds drop off (though they don’t go away completely) in April but hell if we know why. It just happens. We’re hoping it happens with COVID too, but fuck, we don’t know. We do know that it’s less transmissible outside. Go outside!

Q: How long are these travel measures going to be in place? A: Five weeks. We have another 5 weeks to get to 60% vax rate.

Q: How many officers will be dedicated to the checkpoints? A: Horgan: They are not checkpoints! And mumble mumble Farnsworth on Friday mumble mumble.

Q: If we can’t camp in provincial parks outside our HA, will we get our reservation fee refunded? A: Yes.

Q: Can Minister Dix give that last answer in French? A: Dix: Oui.

Statistics

Fri/Sat: +1027 cases
Sat/Sun: +933 cases
Sun/Mon: +1000 cases

Over the weekend: +8 deaths, +97,888 first doses, +181 second doses, +12407 AZ doses.

Currently 441 in hospital / 138 in ICU, 9,353 active cases, 14,711 under monitoring, 108,919 recovered.

Charts

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