British Columbia’s death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 1,000, marking the latest grim milestone for a pandemic that continues to rage across the province.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on Monday that 22 more people had died from the disease since Friday, bringing the total since March to 1,010.
“These of course are our grandparents, our friends, our aunts, our uncles, our sons and daughters,” Henry said. “We know that this has been a challenging time.”
The weekend also saw 1,475 new cases confirmed in B.C. — 538 on Saturday, 507 on Sunday and another 430 on Monday. Nine of those cases are epidemiologically linked, meaning they have not been confirmed by laboratory testing.
The number of active cases fell by nearly 1,000 to 5,220, Henry said. Of those, 358 were in hospital, a number unchanged from Friday. Three patients were able to leave intensive care during the weekend, bringing that number down to 72.
About 87 per cent of the province’s 58,107 total cases have recovered since the pandemic began.
Six new outbreaks were declared at long-term care and group homes, while another four were declared over — including at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
Henry on Thursday extended the province’s restrictions on social gatherings to Feb. 5, saying the curve of the outbreak is trending up again.
While the weekend’s case numbers showed that bend may be turning downwards again, Henry said it’s important people continue following the guidelines.
Vaccine rollout further explained
The province’s top doctor also further explained why she’s recommending British Columbians get their second vaccine dose 35 days after their first, rather than the two-to-three weeks recommended by Pfizer and Moderna.
Henry said the first dose of a vaccine for COVID-19 gives “amazing” immunity, so the government’s decision to allow for a 35-day gap before the second dose is administered is rooted in science.
She said the decision to delay the second shot is about maximizing the vaccines’ distribution, while balancing the supply and making sure the province has a safe and effective immunization program.
Henry said protection from COVID-19 two weeks after the first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines was over 92 per cent.
“That is, quite frankly, amazing from a public health perspective looking at an immunization program,” Henry said. “What we’re learning is that the short-term protection is achieved rapidly, and it’s very high.”
Health officials are also watching closely how effective the vaccine is when the time between doses is extended.
“Is there an issue between the six weeks and 12 weeks, for example?” Henry said.
“We’ll be monitoring and changing our program if needed, depending on how much vaccines we have, and what we’ve learned about the effectiveness of the booster.”
Henry also said about a 70 per cent herd immunity can help prevent transmission in most cases. Although it may not prevent some super-spreader events, it could be enough to stop widespread community transmission, she added.
With files from the Canadian PressView link »