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COVID-19 outbreaks declared at 3 hospitals in B.C.

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Fifteen people have contracted COVID-19 at a Vancouver Island hospital amid an ongoing outbreak of the respiratory illness. The outbreak is one of at least three confirmed coronavirus outbreaks now active in B.C. hospitals.

A spokesperson for Island Health says health officials discovered the latest outbreak on the centre unit of Saanich Peninsula Hospital, north of Victoria, on Thursday.

"There are currently a total of 15 hospital-acquired cases attributed to this outbreak," the spokesperson said in a statement to CTV News. "At this time, all patients are experiencing mild illness."

Two other outbreaks are ongoing on acute-care units at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Chilliwack General Hospital, while health officials in Fernie have reported a "respiratory infection" outbreak on an acute-care unit at Elk Valley Hospital.

The Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak was declared just over a month after 11 patients contracted the illness on an acute-care ward at nearby Victoria General Hospital.

"There are still people getting sick and ending up in hospital," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday during an update on B.C.'s respiratory illness season.

"Hospitals are settings – and long-term care homes are settings – where we know that it can be transmitted quite rapidly between people."

Health authorities say the Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak is contained to the affected unit, and anyone with an appointment at the hospital should attend as usual.

While COVID-19 outbreaks are once again emerging in the province, Henry said health officials are increasingly concerned about outbreaks of influenza, which "have been more severe."

Saanich Peninsula Hospital's emergency department has been closed overnight since July due to prolonged staffing shortages.

The nighttime closures were slated to end on Sept. 5, when the hospital would return to a 24-hour emergency schedule, however difficulties with recruiting doctors have kept the department closed for the foreseeable future.

Ambulances continue to be diverted to either Royal Jubilee Hospital or Victoria General Hospital during the overnight hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Thirty-six people with COVID-19 died in B.C. last week, down from a peak of 70 deaths two weeks earlier, according to data released Thursday by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

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