Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for March 2, 2021.

We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.

Check back here for more updates throughout the day. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on March 2

• Total number of confirmed cases: 81,367 (4,679 active)
• New cases since March 1: 438
• Total deaths: 1,365 (2 new)
• Hospitalized cases: 243
• Intensive care: 63
• Total vaccinations: 283,182 people are immunized, including 86,537 who have had a second dose.
• Cases under public health monitoring: 8,445
• Recovered: 75,255
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 15

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IN-DEPTH:COVID-19: Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Here’s how to get your vaccination shot in B.C.

COVID-19: Have you been exposed? Here are all B.C. public health alerts

COVID-19 at B.C. schools: Here are the school district exposure alerts

COVID-19: Avoid these hand sanitizers that are recalled in Canada

COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


LATEST NEWS ON COVID-19 IN B.C.

7:30 p.m. – Judge grills lawyer about Dr. Henry not providing affidavit in COVID-19 church case

B.C.’s top trial court judge questioned a B.C. government lawyer Tuesday as to why Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, did not provide an affidavit in the case of three churches claiming their religious rights were violated when church services were restricted under COVID-19 regulations.

Gareth Morley, the government lawyer, had barely begun his submissions in the Vancouver court case before he faced a number of questions from B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson.

Morley told the judge Henry’s duty under the constitution was to protect public health in a way that proportionately and reasonably limited the Charter freedoms the three Fraser Valley churches claim were breached.

The judge asked him who decides what is proportionate, and Morley responded by saying it was Henry who did so and that that was the subject of review by the court.

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“Dr. Henry is really holding all the cards,” said Hinkson. “She knows why she’s doing things.”

The judge noted that there was no affidavit filed by Henry, although there was an affidavit filed by another doctor in the case.

“So how do I know what Dr. Henry is doing and why?” asked the judge.

Morley noted that the process of public health orders being issued allows a party affected by an order to seek a reconsideration of the decision, an avenue that was pursued in the case of the churches.

– Keith Fraser, Postmedia

7:30 p.m. – Horgan says not every community will get COVID-19 vaccination clinic

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Tuesday that not every community in the province will get a mass-vaccination clinic.

Horgan was responding to questions raised by the B.C. Liberals in the provincial legislature Tuesday over concerns from some provincial mayors that their communities will not have clinics.

Interim B.C. Liberal Leader Shirley Bond had raised concerns from Hope that it wouldn’t have its own clinic, and from Delta, that its most populous North Delta area wouldn’t have a clinic. Hope, a community of 6,200, is 50 kilometres by road northeast of Chilliwack.

The communities’ concerns are that residents would need to travel to get a vaccine, a particular concern for vulnerable and older residents, and one that has the potential to lessen participation.

“I cannot guarantee, as the member wants me to, that every community will have a vaccination centre, but I can commit that those in Phase 2, particularly the elderly and frail, will have access in their community,” Horgan responded.

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Phase 2, which begins this month, will vaccinate those in B.C. aged 80-and-over, and Indigenous and Metis people aged 65-and-over.

The rollout to the larger population won’t begin until April.

– Gordon Hoekstra, Postmedia

7 p.m. – Contagious variants detected at five Surrey schools

The Surrey school district says people at five schools in the region have tested positive for a COVID-19 variant of concern.

Surrey Schools superintendent Jordan Tinney said on Twitter that notices were sent out Monday night to students and staff at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary, A.J. McLellan Elementary, North Surrey Secondary, Frost Road Elementary and Princess Margaret Secondary after tests revealed that earlier COVID-19 exposures at the schools were variant cases.

Fraser Health has directed entire classes from the schools, along with other individuals, to stay home and self isolate. The individuals are also advised to get tested.

The variants are more contagious than regular COVID-19 and cases are accelerating in the province.

4:15 p.m. – State of emergency extended in B.C.

B.C. has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, which allows health and emergency management officials to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

The state of emergency, which was first declared March 18, 2020, has been extended through March 16, 2021.

3 p.m. – B.C. records 438 new cases, two deaths

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Two more people have died from COVID-19 and 22 more cases of the highly contagious “variants of concern” have been detected in the British Columbia, provincial health officials said Tuesday.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said there were 438 new COVID-19 cases recorded between Monday and Tuesday.

The majority of positive tests were recorded in the Lower Mainland, with Fraser Health reporting 249 new cases and Vancouver Coastal Health reporting 137.

Henry said a total of 182 variants of concern — 159 cases of the UK variant and 23 cases of the South African variant — have now been detected in B.C. but only eight of the cases were considered active.  Through contact tracing, health officials have determined that 13 per cent of the variant cases are linked to travel, while a further 60 per cent of the cases were determined to close contacts of infected travellers.

B.C. health officials aren’t sure how the remaining variant cases were acquired, which troubles Henry.

“That reflects that we have transmission going on in communities,” she said.

Henry said nine people have been hospitalized with the contagious strains, but all but one have recovered and been released.

There have been 81,367 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the start of the pandemic. The provincial death toll from the disease now stands at 1,365.

2:45 p.m. – Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

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Alberta’s health minister says the province is considering whether to follow British Columbia in extending the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming.

The B.C. government announced Monday that it will extend the wait between first and second doses to four months to get more people vaccinated overall in a shorter time period.

B.C. based its decision on data from the United Kingdom, Israel and Quebec that shows the first dose of vaccines is 90 per cent effective.

“There’s fantastic evidence that’s coming out,” Shandro said Tuesday.

“What the exact period of time (between doses) is going to be is still to be decided. We’ll be announcing it soon, but we will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended.”

When Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech began distributing their vaccines late last year, it was recommended the first and second shots be completed within six weeks to be fully effective.

About 235,000 Albertans have so far received at least one shot. About 88,000 have been given the recommended two doses.

– Canadian Press

2:15 p.m. – OPINION: Why mandatory hotel quarantine is almost certainly doing nothing to curb COVID-19

New Zealand has absolutely kicked butt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How? Through the use of “Mandatory Isolation and Quarantine.” Basically, absolutely everyone entering New Zealand has to spend two weeks in a government-supervised hotel. It doesn’t matter if you’re Peter Jackson, Russell Crowe or some other New Zealand celebrity who isn’t coming to mind right now … if you leave the country you don’t get back in unless you’re ready to spend a fortnight eating crisps and watching Flight of the Conchords.

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Then there is Canada. A country that tried to copy New Zealand’s mandatory quarantine policy, but did it with such staggering ineptitude that it’s virtually guaranteed to have zero effect on limiting the spread of COVID-19 into the country.

READ MORE from Tristin Hopper, National Post

2 p.m. – Support for B.C. health officials dips, and signs of COVID-19 fatigue heat up in survey

Support in B.C. for our health leaders is sliding, residents are showing fatigue over COVID-19 restrictions around socializing and travel, and some fear the pandemic will never end, recent survey results show.

The Leger survey, conducted for Postmedia News, presents a sombre set of findings, certainly as compared with the results of an upcoming research review that suggest folks were faring pretty well last year in several mental-health categories. That latter study, under review by The Lancet, a medical journal, showed some facets of mental health and well-being were seeing real resilience, said Lara Aknin, an associate professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University and one of the study’s authors.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s public health officer, Adrian Dix; the provincial health minister; Theresa Tam, Canada’s public health officer; and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have seen steadily declining levels of support since December, according to the Leger results. Henry slid from 79 per cent support in December to 71 in February, Dix from 72-to-62, Tam from 65-to-58 and Trudeau from 61-to-50.

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The pollster suggested the broad and consistent slide pointed to pandemic fatigue, a concept supported by other findings as well. For example, 77 per cent of respondents said they were tired of not seeing friends and family outside of their household, 58 per cent were tired of travel restrictions, and 49 per cent were tired of restrictions around drinking and dining out. More than half were tired of wearing a mask in public.

Those who didn’t support the leaders of both levels of government were also more likely to say they were tired of the restrictions.

– Matt Robinson, Postmedia

12:30 p.m. – Ontario waits for national guidance as B.C. pushes ahead with delayed second dose

Ontario is waiting for a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization before delaying second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while British Columbia is pushing ahead with its plan to extend the interval to four months.

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides “miraculous” 90 per cent protection from the virus.

Henry said she was expecting a statement from the national advisory committee that would align with the province’s decision, while Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday she wanted to wait for such a recommendation.

Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the national committee, said in an email the group expected to issue a statement on extending the dose interval on Wednesday, but she did not confirm it would align with B.C.’s plan.

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Alberto Martin, a University of Toronto immunology professor, says a published clinical trial showed the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provided 60 per cent protection, but B.C. may have access to new or unpublished data.

He says there is “obviously some concern” about B.C.’s plan because he is not aware of any clinical trial that examined a four-month gap between doses, but difficult times — when the vaccine supply is so limited — require drastic measures.

— Canadian Press

11:15 a.m. – Metro Vancouver real estate surges in February, despite pandemic

The Greater Vancouver housing market appears remarkably pandemic-proof, with sales and prices surging in February, surpassing the month’s 10-year average.

According to the latest data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, it’s a seller’s market for all types of residential properties as increased competition amid scarcer listings drive prices up.

Despite a COVID-19 recession, sales in February were almost 43 per cent above the 10-year average, while the number of homes listed for sale is 21 per cent below the 10-year average for the month

“The supply of listings for sale isn’t keeping up with the demand we’re seeing,” said board chair Colette Gerber in a statement.

“Competition amongst home buyers is causing multiple offer situations and upward pressure on prices.”

The townhouse market is particularly heated, with demand outstripping supply at a 61.8 per cent sales-to-active listings ratio for February 2021.

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11 a.m. — COVID-19 cases start to climb again as variants spread, in step with dire forecasts

Canada’s chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month of decline.

The “moderate increase” at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless strict public-health measures remain in place to combat more contagious strains of the virus.

“The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends,” Tam said Tuesday.

No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions.

Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada showed a steepening rise in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren’t tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons.

But Tam says more ground is being gained on “the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon” every day.

“Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track,” she said.

— Canadian Press

10:45 a.m. – Canadian economy suffers biggest contraction since the Great Depression

The Canadian economy posted its worst showing on record in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country, shutting down businesses and putting millions out of work.

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Statistics Canada says real gross domestic product shrank 5.4 per cent in 2020, the steepest annual decline since comparable data was first recorded in 1961.

“It’s official. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the Canadian economy to suffer its steepest contraction since the Great Depression,” said TD senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam.

The drop for the year was due to the shutdown of large swaths of the economy in March and April during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that crushed the economy.

Since then, economic activity has slowly and steadily grown.

Statistics Canada says the economy grew at an annualized rate of 9.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, down from an annualized growth rate of 40.6 per cent in the third quarter.

That was higher than expected, with the average economist estimate at 7.5 per cent, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

However, despite the better-than-expected result for the quarter as a whole, December eked out a 0.1 per cent increase, which followed a 0.8 per cent

Statistics Canada noted that total economic activity in December was about three per cent below the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

— The Canadian Press

10 a.m. – Contagious Brazil COVID-19 variant evades immunity, scientists warn

A highly transmissible COVID-19 variant that emerged in Brazil and has now been found in at least 20 countries can re-infect people who previously recovered from the disease, scientists said on Tuesday.

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In a study of the mutant virus’s emergence and its spread in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus, the scientists said the variant – known as P.1 – has a “unique constellation of mutations” and had very rapidly become the dominant variant circulating there.

Out of 100 people in Manaus who had previously recovered from infection with the coronavirus, “somewhere between 25 and 61 of them are susceptible to re-infection with P.1,” said Nuno Faria, a virus expert at Imperial College London, who co-led the research which has not yet been peer reviewed.

The scientists estimated that P.1 was 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible than the initial form of the virus.

Speaking to a media briefing about the findings, Nuno said it was too early to say whether the variant’s ability to evade immunity from previous infections meant that vaccines also would offer reduced protection against it.

“There’s no concluding evidence really to suggest at this point that the current vaccines won’t work against P.1,” Faria said. “I think (the vaccines) will at least protect us against disease, and possibly also against infection.”

Scientists around the world are on guard against new mutated forms of the coronavirus that could spread more easily, or be harder to fend off with existing vaccines.

— Reuters

5 a.m. – Churches continue legal fight with B.C. government

A lawyer for a group of British Columbia churches that are challenging the province’s COVID-19 rules is scheduled to resume his arguments today that the restrictions violate his clients’ charter rights.

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Paul Jaffe told the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders allow secular gatherings like in-class education, while discriminating against the churches and their congregants’ right to freedom of religion.

He told the court his clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open.

Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that’s also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the orders.

Henry and the province have said they are confident the health orders are in accordance with the law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case is scheduled for three days in court this week.

-The Canadian Press

5 a.m. – Variants on the rise in B.C.

There were 42 new COVID-19 variant cases reported over the past three days, as the number of variant school exposures grow.

On Monday, the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the 42 cases brought that total detected in B.C. up to 158 of the variants. The variants are more contagious than regular COVID-19 and cases are accelerating in the province.

Henry indicated that as Monday there were 10 people actively sick with covid variants. The  discrepancy with the new figures suggests that, because the secondary testing for the variant takes extra time, some of the people whose results were positive have already recovered.

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Most, or 137 of the cases, have been the B117 variant identified in the U.K with 21 cases of the B1351 variant identified in South Africa.

On Monday afternoon Fraser Health reported a COVID-19 variant case at Cindrich Elementary School in Surrey.

This is the 11th variant exposure at a B.C. school, with 10 of those exposures in Surrey. There has been variant transmission in one of those schools, Surrey Traditional.

12 a.m. – 1,478 new cases and eight deaths reported over the past three days

There were eight deaths and 1,478 new cases of COVID-19 reported over the weekend.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there were 4,464 active cases of the disease in B.C., of which 236 were being treated in hospital including 65 in intensive care. All of these numbers are steady despite a rising seven-day daily average case count.

There are six new health-care outbreaks (four in hospitals) and six that have ended. There are 14 active outbreaks in health-care facilities.

The new outbreaks are at Glacier View Lodge in Courtenay, Chilliwack General Hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody and Surrey Memorial Hospital.


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

– With files from The Canadian Press

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