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508 new COVID-19 cases and 9 more deaths in B.C.

“If we must travel, then we must, more than ever, continue to use our COVID-19 safety rules”

DR. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, on Friday announced 508 new cases, including six epi-linked cases, of COVID-19, for a total of 63,484 cases in British Columbia.

There have been nine new COVID-19-related deaths, for a total of 1,128 deaths in the province.

To date, 110,566 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 2,202 of which are second doses. Immunization data is available on the COVID-19 dashboard at: www.bccdc.ca

There are 4,479 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 315 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 74 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

Currently, 6,719 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 56,455 people who tested positive have recovered.

There have been 132 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 228 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 13 in the Island Health region, 79 in the Interior Health region, 55 in the Northern Health region and one new case of a person who resides outside of Canada.

There have beeen two new health-care facility outbreaks at Royal Inland Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital. The outbreak at Queen’s Park Care Centre is now over.

There has also been one new outbreak at the North Fraser Pretrial Services Centre.

Henry and Dix added: “Today, B.C.’s provincewide COVID-19 Immunization Plan was shared. It outlines the age-based approach for immunization and population protection being used here in British Columbia. This approach will ensure those who are highest risk of severe illness and death receive the vaccine first.

“We need to remember our risk remains high right now, even as we protect more and more people with vaccine. We are not at the point where we can lift restrictions in our community or long-term care.

“We must continue to use our COVID-19 layers of protection and do all we can to stop transmission in our communities right now. This includes staying home when we are sick, getting tested, washing our hands, giving a safe distance to others and following our safety basics. It also means staying close to home and only travelling if it is essential. We have seen how travel even within our province can bring the virus from one place to another with ease. If we must travel, then we must, more than ever, continue to use our COVID-19 safety rules.

“We can break the chains of transmission and bend the curve through our individual actions. This weekend, choose to bend the curve, not the rules.”

B.C. launches interdisciplinary COVID-19 Care Network with three dedicated clinics

Adrian Dix

BRITISH Columbians who are recovering from COVID-19 now have access to three post-COVID-19 recovery clinics at St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH), Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), and the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey.

In addition to the direct care provided to patients, the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) has provincial oversight for coordination and for integrating knowledge and best practice at the clinics through a new Interdisciplinary COVID-19 Care Network (ICCN).

Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Friday: “We know some people who recover from COVID-19 experience long-term health effects. Through the dedication of a large team of experts and health leaders across the province, we are working to ensure that specialized care is available to British Columbians, when they need it.”

The clinics provide an opportunity for patients to receive specialized care and allow for specialists to further understand the long-term adverse effects of COVID-19. The clinics connect patients with a network of specialists, allied health professionals and subspecialists through a mix of on-site and telehealth-enabled appointments.

“This new network ensures that B.C. patients not only will have access to care in the most efficient manner but that we will be sure that we have a province-wide approach to learning more about how best to manage this new condition,” said Dr. Adeera Levin, lead of  the ICCN and currently executive director of BC Renal, within PHSA. “The network is a first in kind for any province to our knowledge, rooted in patient centered care and innovation.”

Dr. Zachary Schwartz, internist and physician lead of the VGH clinic, said: “We quickly identified the need to learn more about the potential long-term effects of those suffering from COVID-19 in order to provide the support needed to British Columbians. The clinics will offer standardized assessments, education, and opportunities to participate in research studies.  The network of clinics will allow us to learn from each other, understand patients’ journeys in more detail, and provide the expert level of care expected.”

The St. Paul’s Hospital clinic has already seen more than 160 post-COVID-19 patients. Physician lead and internist Dr. Jesse Greiner said, “We want patients to feel like they are not alone. We are here. We’re listening. With patient partners, researchers, specialists, and primary care physicians across many health authorities, we are working together to learn from and support one another to ensure that patients get the care they need.”

“As we move through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are learning that the long-term effects of COVID-19 impact people in many different ways. For this reason, it is crucial that we work together to ensure our patients get the care they need to recover from this virus,” said Dr. Victoria Lee, President and CEO, Fraser Health.

Research is a key component of this network, particularly since the clinics have thus far seen the small percentage of patients who were hospitalized with severe COVID-19. One early joint VGH – SPH – UBC study showing more than half of participants had abnormal breathing tests three months after they first started feeling sick with COVID-19. Further examination with CT scans showed one in five had lung scarring, which is permanent damage that will lead to compromised lung function.

“COVID-19 presents a special opportunity for research — we are leveraging the unprecedented focus on a single threat to bring together investigators and patients, who would otherwise be isolated, to create and mobilize new insights to benefit our community and beyond,” said Dr. Chris Carlsten, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Scientific Director of Legacy for Airway Health and professor of medicine and head of the division of respiratory medicine at UBC.

Prior to the opening of the clinics, patients were receiving specialized care with standardized post-COVID-19 protocols established by a large team of experts from Fraser Health, Providence Health Care, VCH, BC Centre for Disease Control, PHSA and several others.

Post-COVID-19 care expertise is also available to medical practitioners around the province, usually within the same day, through the Rapid Access to Consultative Experts phone line. In addition, educational materials are being developed to support patients and physicians.

The clinics are currently seeing COVID-19 patients who are discharged from hospital, as well as those referred by other physicians.

Semi-conscious driver found in Surrey with drugs and stolen shotgun

A recent check of a semi-conscious man in a vehicle resulted in the seizure of drugs, cash and a stolen shotgun in Surrey’s Whalley area.

On Wednesday, January 20 at 8:15 a.m., a Surrey RCMP frontline officer was approached by a concerned citizen regarding a semi-conscious driver who was parked in a running vehicle in the 10300-block of King George Boulevard. While checking on the well-being of the driver, the officer noted signs of possible drug or alcohol consumption and launched an impaired investigation.

The officer also observed open alcohol and suspected drugs inside the vehicle. The driver was subsequently arrested for possession for the purpose of trafficking and refusing to comply with a breath demand. Officers took the driver to a local hospital for medical attention, before taking him into police custody.

As the investigation progressed, the vehicle was searched and officers located approximately 21 grams of suspected cocaine, 68 grams of suspected fentanyl, approximately $1,400 cash, a stolen shotgun, and ammunition.  

The driver was held in custody and, on Thursday, January 21, 36-year-old Ian Langthorne was charged with six offences related to the illegal possession of a firearm, drug trafficking, and impaired driving.

“We are grateful to the concerned citizen who flagged down the officer. As a result of their actions, officers were able to get a significant amount of drugs and a stolen gun off the streets, and put a stop to what could have been a dangerous situation on our roads,” said Cpl. Joanie Sidhu, Surrey RCMP Media Relations Officer. “Our frontline officers are trained in quickly adapting their response to changing circumstances. In this case, a check well-being turned into a much bigger investigation.”  

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, or Crime Stoppers, if they wish to remain anonymous, at 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca.

‘If teachers aren’t prioritized for vaccination, safety measures in schools must be improved’: BCTF

Teri Mooring

B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Teri Mooring said on Friday that if teachers aren’t prioritized for a vaccine, the government must take immediate action to improve safety measures in schools.

In a statement, Mooring said: “Our collective duty during the COVID-19 pandemic must always be about keeping people safe and saving lives. Making sure our elders are not put at risk or die because of COVID-19 needs to be our top priority.

“BC teachers, like many others, will be disappointed to see there is no prioritization for the frontline workers who have kept our schools, public services, and economy open. There had been hope in prior announcements that such prioritization would be possible. However, the vaccine supply limit is beyond our control and those among us who are most vulnerable of death and serious illness must be vaccinated first. Hopefully more vaccines are approved and this immunization strategy will be appropriately adjusted and accelerated.”

She added: “There is no denying that teachers are stressed, anxious, and even afraid. We do not have the layers of protection in our schools that exist in other environments. If teachers are not prioritized for a vaccine, this government must take immediate action to improve safety measures in our schools. We must have a mandatory mask mandate, we must have better physical distancing measures, and we must have ventilation upgrades for our classrooms. Schools need the same safety measures as every single other workplace. This government and school districts must do more.”

B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan

Photo: Pfizer Facebook

PREMIER John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead for B.C.’s immunization efforts, on Friday announced details of the next phases in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan that will will see approximately 7.4 million doses of vaccine administered to every British Columbian who is eligible to receive it between April and the end of September.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all in extremely difficult ways,” said Horgan. “Together, we have faced this pandemic with strength, courage and compassion, and we are starting to feel optimistic that, one day, COVID-19 will be in our rear view. At every step, our plan puts the health and safety of our most vulnerable people at the centre, and when it’s your turn, I encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine and help us move forward, together, to a healthier province.”

The government said B.C.’s four-phased COVID-19 Immunization Plan is based on scientific evidence, as well as expert advice and guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, B.C.’s Immunization Committee and B.C.’s public health leadership committee. The plan, which got underway in December 2020, starts by first immunizing those who are most vulnerable to severe illness and death, including long-term care residents and the health-care workers who care for them, remote and at-risk Indigenous communities, and seniors.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Province, with steady guidance by Dr. Bonnie Henry, has made decisions based on science, data and evidence from health experts,” said Dix. “Our plan puts people at the forefront of every decision, and our immunization rollout will guide us through the spring and summer, ensuring that those who are most in need of the vaccine will receive it as soon as possible.”

With each phase, more people in B.C. will be eligible to be immunized.

Phase 1 has had more than 103,000 people in B.C. receiving their first dose of vaccine and second doses are underway.

Phase 2, starting in late February, expands immunizations to additional vulnerable populations, Indigenous communities and Elders, health-care staff and all seniors over the age of 80. Together, these two phases are focused on people who are most at risk.

As age is the single greatest risk factor for severe illness and death, Phase 3, starting in April, will expand to include people between the ages of 79 to 75 and work backwards in five-year increments to include those age 60 and over. Also included in this phase are people with certain underlying health conditions that make them clinically extremely vulnerable (see backgrounder for details).

It is important to note that no one will lose their place in line. For example, if an elderly relative is in Phase 2 and cannot be immunized at that time, they can be immunized at any point thereafter.

“This is an extraordinary time with what is now the most significant step on our path to protecting our communities and our health-care system,” said Henry. “For many months, British Columbians have been working hard to keep their friends, family and communities safe, and I want to thank everyone for their continued commitment.”

As additional vaccines are approved and become available, people who are front-line essential workers or work in specific workplaces or industries may also be able to start receiving vaccines later in Phase 3.

Phase 4 is anticipated to begin in July 2021 for the rest of the eligible population, starting with people aged 59 to 55 and working backwards in five-year age groups until everyone over the age of 18 who wants a COVID-19 vaccine receives it.

“We’re working closely with our regional health authorities, our colleagues at the BC Centre for Disease Control over these first several weeks of the plan,” said Ballem. “Moving ahead, we will reach out to other community, faith and business leaders throughout the province to ensure that, by working together, the deployment of these vaccines is done quickly and safely. Every immunization for COVID-19 is one step closer to a healthier future for us all, and that is why so much effort and thought has gone into this plan.”

Approximately four million British Columbians are eligible to receive the COVID-19 immunization. Starting in March 2021, pre-registration for the vaccine will begin to open online and by phone for the general public, starting with those aged 79 to 75. Those who are considered “clinically extremely vulnerable” will receive their immunization beginning in April. People who are pre-registered will get a reminder to book their appointment as soon as they are eligible.

Additional details on the registration process, registration timing and availability and immunization clinic locations will be available in the coming weeks.

BACKGROUNDER

B.C.’s four-phased COVID-19 Immunization Plan is based on scientific evidence, as well as expert advice and guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, B.C.’s Immunization Committee, and B.C.’s public health leadership committee.

At every step, it is focused on protecting those who are most vulnerable to severe illness.

Phase 1 (current phase)
Timeline: December 2020 to February 2021

* Residents and staff in long-term care facilities

* Individuals assessed for and awaiting long-term care

* Residents and staff of assisted-living residences

* Essential visitors to long-term care facilities and assisted-living residences

* Health-care workers providing care for COVID-19 patients in settings like intensive care units, emergency departments, paramedics, medical units and surgical units

* Remote and isolated Indigenous communities

Phase 2
Timeline: February to March 2021

* Seniors aged 80+ who are not immunized in Phase 1

* Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) seniors age 65 and over, and Elders and additional Indigenous communities not immunized in Phase 1

* Hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1

* Vulnerable populations living and working in select congregated settings

* Staff in community home support and nursing services for seniors

Phase 3 – General population immunization
Timeline: April to June 2021

*Timeline may change based on vaccine availability
People aged 79 to 60, in five-year increments (D1 = first dose/D2 = second dose)

* Aged 79-75; D1: April/D2: May

* Aged 74-70, D1: April/D2: May

* Aged 69-65; D1: May or June/D2: June or July

* Aged 64-60; D1: June/D2: July

* Aged 69-16 who are clinically extremely vulnerable; D1/D2 April – June

Note: As additional vaccines are approved and become available, people who are front-line essential workers or work in specific workplaces or industries may also be able to start receiving vaccines later in Phase 3 and into Phase 4.

Phase 4
Timeline: July to September 2021

*Timeline may change based on vaccine availability
People aged 59 to 18, in five-year increments: (D1 = first dose/D2 = second dose)

* Aged 59 to 55; D1: July/D2: August

* Aged 54 to 50; D1: July/D2: August

* Aged 49 to 45; D1: July/D2: August

* Aged 44 to 40; D1: July/D2: August

* Aged 39 to 35; D1: July or August/D2: August or September

* Aged 34 to 30; D1: August/D2: September

* Aged 29 to 25; D1: August or September/D2: September

* Aged 24 to 18; D1/D2: September

Immunization for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals

British Columbians aged 69 to 16 with the following conditions will be eligible for earlier immunization in Phase 3, as they are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable:

* solid organ transplant recipients

* people with specific cancers:
* people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy

* people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy

* people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment

* people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer

* people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP (Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase) inhibitors

* people who have had bone marrow or stem-cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

* people with severe respiratory conditions, including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

* people with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency, homozygous sickle cell disease)

* people on immunosuppression therapies enough to significantly increase risk of infection (biologic modifiers, high-dose steroids, AZT, cyclophosphamide)

* people who had a splenectomy (spleen removed)

* adults with very significant developmental disabilities that increase risk (details to come)

* adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (Stage 5)

* women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

* significant neuromuscular conditions requiring respiratory support

Learn More:

To view the B.C. COVID-19 Immunization Plan PowerPoint, visit: 

http://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BC_COVID-19_Immunization_Plan.pdf

To learn more about B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan, visit: 

www.gov.bc.ca/covidvaccine

For technical immunization information, visit the BC Centre for Disease Control online:
www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine

For more information on what to expect when you go to get vaccinated for COVID-19, visit:
www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine/getting-a-vaccine

Gauravjit Singh, 26, of Philadelphia arrested for COVID-19 PPE fraud

NEWARK, New Jersey: A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, man has been charged in connection with a $700,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) fraud scheme, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced this week.

Gauravjit Singh, 26, is charged by complaint with one count of wire fraud.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, beginning in May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singh engaged in a scheme to defraud by making various misrepresentations, including by claiming that he was a purveyor of PPE and that he had contacts at a factory in Nanjung, China, that manufactured medical gowns. 

Singh induced his victims to enter into an agreement with one of his businesses, Mask Medical LLC, pursuant to which Singh would be paid approximately $7.125 million in exchange for 1.5 million medical gowns, which ultimately were destined to the City of New York.

His victims wired Singh, though his company GJS Solutions LLC, a deposit of approximately $712,500. After receiving these funds, Singh made additional misrepresentations and excuses, ensuring the victims that they would receive the medical gowns. Instead of purchasing and delivering medical gowns, Singh used the funds for personal expenses, including transferring funds to his brokerage account and using the funds for online gaming and other personal expenditures.

The count of wire fraud is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charge.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Additional victims associated with Singh’s conduct may reach out to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or visit www.fbi.gov.

Indian government says it will not repeal farm laws, farmers will continue protest

Indian farmers' leaders from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in New Delhi for talks with the government.

New Delhi (IANS): The deadlock between the farmers’ leaders and the government over the three farm laws seems to continue as the 11th round of talks on Friday at Vigyan Bhawan lasted till lunch only and ended without a solution.

No date for the next round of talks has been decided yet and the meeting will be held whenever farmer leaders are ready for a dialogue on the proposal given by the government in the 10th round of talks, on January 20.

The ministers came to the hall for five minutes after lunch but no discussion happened. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar clearly refused to repeal the laws, while farmers’ leaders said that they will continue their protest.

Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka told IANS that Friday’s meeting was very disappointing. “At lunch, the ministers asked us to discuss the issues among ourselves and left. We kept waiting for them for more than two hours after lunch and later the meeting was called off.”

Another leader Harpreet Singh said the discussion was held for only 20-25 minutes before lunch. “When the ministers came back after lunch, they asked us to rethink about rejecting the government’s proposal to suspend the new farm laws for one and half years. Apart from this, the government cannot do anything. After this, they left.”

Farmers’ leader Balwant Singh said the stalemate continues after Friday’s meeting as the government has clearly refused to repeal the laws while the farmers have said that they will continue the protest. “The Union Agriculture Minister said that consider the proposal that we have given as we don’t have a better proposal than this. If you (farmers) have any proposal, then tell us, the government will consider it.”

On the other hand, Tomar told farmers, “The government is thankful for your cooperation. There is no problem with the laws. Considering your demands, we had made a proposal for you but you couldn’t arrive at any decision. We will discuss it again but as of now no date is confirmed for a future meeting.”

Fatal pedestrian-involved collision in Abbotsford

ABBOTSFORD Emergency Services responded to a collision involving a pedestrian in the 31800-block South Fraser Way on Friday at 7:11 a.m.

Emergency service workers located a 37-year-old man who had been struck by a vehicle and had sustained fatal injuries. 

The driver remained on scene and is cooperating with this investigation. He did not sustain any injuries and is very shaken by this incident, police said.

The Integrated Collision Analysis Reconstruction Team, police investigators and the B.C. Coroners Service are investigating. South Fraser Way is currently closed between Countess Street and Center Street. Abbotsford Police will provide an update on their social media once the roads re-open.

Several witnesses have been interviewed, but investigators ask that if you have CCTV footage or dashcam footage or if you witnessed this incident, to call the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225.

Richmond RCMP have located wanted male Woon Chan (update)

FRIDAY UPDATE:

Richmond RCMP have located Woon Chan

RICHMOND RCMP are actively searching for a male being monitored by BC Corrections who allegedly removed his ankle monitoring bracelet. Woon Chan was last seen in the area of Minoru Boulevard and Firbridge Way.

BC Corrections monitoring contacted Richmond RCMP at approximately 3:51 p.m. on Thursday, January 21 after Chan’s bracelet reportedly went off-line.

Richmond RCMP officers flooded the area and located the ankle bracelet but, despite extensive efforts to locate him Chan remains at large.

Chan is believed to pose a risk to the public.

Chan is described as:

· Asian male

· 57 years old

· 5’6

· 130 pounds

· Slender build

· Short black hair

· Brown eyes

Chan was last seen wearing:

· A white jacket

· Black sweat pants

“We urge anyone who may have information on Chan’s whereabouts to call police,” says Cpl. Kenneth Lau, Richmond RCMP Media Relations Officer. “If you see him do not approach him and call 9-1-1 immediately.”

Richmond Watch General Investigation Services have conduct of this file.

Anyone with information regarding Chan’s whereabouts is asked to contact Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212 and quote file number 2021-1956. Should you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Premier Horgan says government can’t prevent people from travelling to B.C.

John Horgan Photo: BC NDP

PREMIER John Horgan on Thursday announced that a review of the government’s legal options have made it clear that it can’t prevent people from travelling to British Columbia.

In a statement, Horgan said: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our first and overriding priority has been keeping British Columbians safe. My thanks go to everyone in B.C. who has been working hard to keep the spread under control.

“We’ve heard from many people who are worried travel from outside B.C. has contributed to the spread of COVID-19. In response to those concerns, we asked for legal options on restricting interprovincial travel and a better understanding of the impact of travel on transmission.

“The review of our legal options made it clear we can’t prevent people from travelling to British Columbia. We can impose restrictions on people travelling for non-essential purposes if they are causing harm to the health and safety of British Columbians. Much of current interprovincial travel is work related and therefore cannot be restricted. Public health officials tell us what is most important is for everyone to obey health orders, wherever they are, rather than imposing mobility rules. Therefore, we will not be imposing travel restrictions at this time.”

Horgan added: “If we see transmission increase due to interprovincial travel, we will impose stronger restrictions on non-essential travellers. We will continue to work with the tourism and hospitality sectors to make sure all possible safety precautions are in place.”

He said: “Today, I spoke with my colleagues across Canada at the Council of the Federation and First Ministers’ meetings. The Prime Minister is exploring further international travel restrictions, and B.C. stands ready to assist. I asked my colleagues to carry a message back to their citizens: now is not the time for non-essential travel. We ask all British Columbians to stay close to home while vaccines become available. And to all Canadians outside of B.C., we look forward to your visit to our beautiful province when we can welcome you safely.”