COVID-19: B.C.’s pandemic taking heavy toll on seniors as test positive rate soars

© DON CRAIG Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will give the latest figures on newly confirmed cases, deaths, recoveries and more.

B.C. seniors living in long-term care homes are again taking the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, accounting for two-thirds of deaths over the past 10 days as outbreaks surge.

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s latest COVID-19 situation report, 10 per cent of all British Columbians aged 80 and over tested in week ending Nov. 14 were found to have COVID-19.

“Incidence among elderly adults (over 80) in week 46 (Nov. 8 to Nov. 14) is at least 50 per cent higher than in week 45 and 10 times higher than week 38,” the report states. “Given their greater risk of severe outcomes, this greater involvement of elderly adults in concerning.”

On Monday, the provincial health officer said that 583 residents of long-term care home have COVID-19 and that there had been outbreaks at five more such homes and medical facilities for a total of 54 with active outbreaks.

Dr. Bonnie Henry also confirmed that most of the 17 people who died in B.C. between noon Friday and noon Monday were “seniors and elders in long-term care.”

During the first 10 weeks of the pandemic there was a surge in long-term care facility outbreaks – beginning with the Lynn Valley Care Centre outbreak that killed 20. For the next 20 weeks, those outbreaks declined.

However, in the past 10 weeks, health-care facility outbreaks and deaths are back on the rise.

“As we’ve moved into this phase of our pandemic, our hospitalizations and our transmission in long-term care has increased.” Henry said. Many of the seniors who have died from COVID-19 were being treated in their care home facility.

The average age of people being hospitalized in B.C. is 64. Henry said there were now 277 people being treated in hospital with COVID-19 including 59 in intensive care.

Henry said the greatest risk of transmission in long-term care facilities came from sick workers.

Nothing, Henry said, is more urgent than protecting care homes. “I’m not sure I know of anything more we can do and it is absolutely staff and people who work in care homes that are the index case in many cases.”

Only one of the 348 people who have died from the disease in B.C. was under 40.

Henry reported 1,933 new cases of COVID-19 between noon Friday and noon Monday – with Fraser Health accounting for 67 per cent of those. There are 7,360 active cases in B.C.

Henry said the disease was getting worse as the weather cooled and the days darkened.

She said social interactions must be reduced, with no hosted social events. The only organized social events allowed at the moment are weddings, funerals and baptism with a limit of 10 people.

Henry said there were 10,200 people in quarantine after being exposed to the disease.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the rate of influenza in B.C. was “exceptionally low.” More than one million flu vaccines have been administered in the province over the past six weeks.

Henry said that movie theatres were among her list of businesses that must close until at Dec. 7.

Dix said that he had spoken with Catholic Archbishop J. Michael Miller over the weekend, after Miller complained about orders banning in-person religious services.

Miller had pointed out there had been no COVID-19 exposures at any of B.C.’s 78 Catholic churches, adding “To limit the religious freedom of believers to worship is a very serious matter, since such freedom is specifically protected in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Dix said not being able to attend a faith event was a significant loss.

“But the effort to get the message out virtually and to have virtual services is really important because it helps us to stop the spread of COVID-19.”