Renewed calls for caution after COVID-19 incidents at hotel, hospital, worksite, winery, farm, restaurant
VANCOUVER -- Health officials in British Columbia are issuing renewed calls for caution following a recent rash of COVID-19 incidents affecting everything from a Vancouver hotel to a Site C work camp in the province's north.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry scheduled a last-minute briefing on Friday to address the growing number of exposure events that have popped up in different regions of B.C. this week.
"While public health teams have been extremely effective in identifying and containing transmission, these flare-ups in our communities around the province are a concern," Henry said.
"It is not necessarily unexpected, but it is a warning to us that we need to do more to keep things in balance."
Those flare-ups have contributed to an increasing number of daily infections in the province. The last 10 days have seen an average of about 21 cases per day, up from a daily average of about 11 in the preceding 10 days.
The latest community exposure to be uncovered took place at the Sandman Suites hotel in Vancouver's West End over the course of nine days, from July 7 to July 16.
Henry stressed that anyone who may have been exposed must self-monitor for symptoms, limit their contact with others throughout the virus's incubation period, and call 811 immediately "if any – any – symptoms develop."
This week also saw a COVID-19 outbreak force the shutdown of the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver. The source of the outbreak, which has forced a number of families and staff members into isolation, is still under investigation.
"Contact-tracing is ongoing to understand how this virus was introduced into people in the NICU," Henry said. "Everybody involved is right now being monitored carefully."
The hospital's maternity unit remains open, and a satellite NICU has been opened to continue providing treatment to babies in need of intensive care.
A worker at the Site C camp in Fort St. John has also tested positive for the virus, as has an employee working in the restaurant of Poplar Grove winery in Penticton. Last Sunday, a customer carrying COVID-19 dined at Chewies Oyster Bar, a popular seafood restaurant in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood.
Poplar Grove and Chewies have both implemented heightened COVID-19 protocols, and neither incident prompted a public alert from health officials.
The Interior Health Authority is also still dealing with the fallout from a series of exposure events that took place on and around Canada Day in Kelowna. Henry said as of Friday, officials had identified 35 infections associated with the various private parties, mostly involving younger people in their 20s and 30s.
"This is one of the more concerning issues to us," she added. "We need people to start thinking about how we can socialize safely over the coming weeks. We anticipate there will be more cases in the coming days as people who were exposed are now starting to develop symptoms."
Health officials said if people want to continue enjoying their current licence to socialize during the pandemic, they need to be responsible. That means keeping gatherings small, staying physically distanced from people outside your bubble, and keeping track of who you hang out with.
Henry asked anyone who is planning to host a gathering to collect contact information for everyone attending so that it can be passed off to health officials for speedy contact-tracing if there's an exposure event. Even smaller hang outs should have a designated "contact-keeper," Henry suggested.
"Once you have been exposed, there's nothing we can do to prevent you from developing disease," the provincial health officer said. "We just need to wait it out and ensure that if you do get sick that you are not passing it on to others and that’s' how we break those chains of transmission."