Health officials in British Columbia provided an update Tuesday on the COVID-19 crisis in the province.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said parents can now register their children, ages five to 11, to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, once it is approved by Health Canada.
She said the province is looking at early November to be able to provide vaccines for that age group.
Eligibility could be based on children in high-risk communities and families with multiple children who can get vaccinated together.
Henry also said she is officially changing the indoor public mask mandate to include everyone ages five and up. It includes malls, shopping, grocery stores, libraries, community centres, pubs and bars as well as workplaces where people interact with larger parts of the public.
The revised mandate aligns with the COVID mask mandate in schools, which requires everyone from kindergarten and above to wear a mask indoors.
The situation in B.C.’s north continues to be a concern for health officials.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday that 55 people have now been transferred from Northern Health ICU to Vancouver Island, Coastal or Fraser Health regions.
Of those, 43 have tested positive for COVID-19 and 42 are not fully vaccinated, Dix added.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 14 patients alone were flown from Northern B.C. to other regions.
“That’s how they spent their Thanksgiving weekend,” he said.
Long-term care homes and assisted living facilities staff must have at least one dose of a COVID vaccine Tuesday in order to maintain employment.
Dix said Tuesday there are still 1,955 staff in long-term care who are not vaccinated at today’s deadline. That is about 5 per cent of the workforce.
However, Dix added these include casual staff that is not on the schedule at this time.
All B.C. health-care workers must be vaccinated by Oct. 26.
Staff at long-term care homes may be moved or reallocated to help with facilities that are facing staff shortages due to the vaccine requirements, Dix said.
There are about four care homes in B.C. where fewer than 85 per cent of staff are vaccinated, but Dix did not provide any specifics on those care homes.
On Friday, the province reported 743 new cases of COVID-19, along with five additional deaths.