Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. for April 6, 2022.
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
Here are the latest figures given on April 6:
• Total number of confirmed cases: 357,974
• New cases: 216
• Total deaths: 3,002 (no deaths being reported until Thursday)
• Hospitalized cases: 329
• Intensive care: 37
• Total vaccinations: 4,530,329 received first dose (90.9% of eligible pop. 5+); 4,359,332 second doses (87.4%); 2,574,997 third doses (59.5% of those 12+)
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 11
B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS
LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.
WHO monitoring new Omicron subvariant that is a mix of BA 1 and BA 2
The World Health Organization had confirmed it is tracking a new subvariant of the Omicron variant — calling it XE.
According to the WHO’s latest weekly epidemiological update, the XE subvariant was first detected in the U.K. on Jan. 19 and based on early data it has a community growth rate of 10 per cent compared to the stealth BA 2 subvariant.
This means it could be 1.1 times more transmissible than the already highly transmissible BA 2.
The original Omicron BA 1 variant appeared en masse at the start of this year (taking over from Delta) and took over globally before being superseded by the BA 2 subvariant that now accounts for more than held the cases in B.C.
The XE subvariant is a cross between the BA 1 and BA 2.
“WHO continues to closely monitor and assess the public health risk associated with recombinant variants and will provide updates as further evidence becomes available,” the organization said.
In good news, after an increase in cases observed globally during the first half of March, the number of new COVID-19 cases has since decreased.
The number of new weekly deaths has also decreased sharply (down 43 per cent) compared to the previous week.
Fewer than 360 first doses of vaccine administered yesterday
The amount of vaccine being administered across B.C. continues to dwindle. On Tuesday, there were 357 first doses given to people, while 1,670 people received their third booster dose.
B.C. has one of the highest vaccination uptakes in the world, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry — with 90.9 per cent of all people aged five and over having had at least one shot.
The number of doses of vaccine administered is expected to rise next week as the province rolls out its fourth doses for seniors and people living in care.
The B.C. Ministry of Health has administered 11.5 million doses of the vaccine and has 690,000 doses on hand.
COVID-19 cases in hospital remains fairly steady, with a drop of five cases to 329 on Tuesday. There are 37 people in intensive case due to the disease.
There are 11 active outbreaks in health-care facilities.
B.C. has signed off on a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines for all those age 70 and older this spring, the latest province to expand booster eligibility.
The entire country could see a broader and massive second booster rollout come fall, or sooner, even as it struggles to muster interest in first boosters — and the dash to boost again has some wondering how many rounds will be enough.
“If we’d been out of the worst of the pandemic now and we’d gone into a spring lull, we wouldn’t be doing fourth doses,” said University of Toronto immunologist Tania Watts.
Now, with signals of a BA. 2 wave, the Omicron subvariant, when everyone seems to know someone who has COVID, the immediate need is to protect the most vulnerable, the elderly and immunocompromised, she said.
Read the full story here.
— Sharon Kirkey
After the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 decreased as the pandemic’s fifth wave subsided, doctors say a slight rise in pediatric admissions is once again being noticed in Montreal.
Though the majority of cases in children remain mild, both the Montreal Children’s Hospital and Ste-Justine Hospital have seen an uptick in admissions in recent weeks.
It’s a situation doctors expect could continue through the sixth wave, as Quebec has removed most public health measures — including masks in schools — and a more transmissible Omicron sub-variant has taken hold.
“We’re seeing a real surge in new cases in the last two weeks,” said Dr. Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Ste-Justine Hospital.
“And when I question them on where they would have caught it from, it’s usually siblings in school or other contacts. So I would definitely say we’re in a new peak right now.”
Read the full story here.
— Montreal Gazette
Current COVID vaccines not ‘well-matched’ against BA. 2: FDA
Current COVID-19 vaccines are not well-matched against the BA. 2 sub-variant of Omicron, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday, as its panel of outside experts meets to discuss changes to future booster doses.
The FDA, however, said booster shots protect against serious outcomes of COVID-19, compared with the two preliminary doses.
U.S. health officials in late March authorized a second booster dose of Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines for people aged 50 and older, citing data showing waning immunity and risks posed by Omicron variants of the virus.
“This discussion today is a much larger discussion — it’s a discussion for what do we do about the entire population, and what do we do when we think the virus has evolved further,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
A fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine lowered rates of COVID-19 among the elderly but the protection against infection appeared short-lived, a large study from Israel found on Tuesday.
Cases dropping in Americas, but risk remains as restrictions end
COVID-19 infections and deaths have dropped across most countries and territories in the Americas over the past few weeks, but the risk of further surges cannot be ignored as restrictions are relaxed and 240 million people remain unvaccinated, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
“Many countries and territories in the Americas have scaled back public health measures, and some have done so prematurely,” PAHO director Carissa Etienne said, noting that case counts have risen recently in places that rely on tourism, especially in parts of North America and the Caribbean where vaccination coverage is low.
The region continues to record more than 620,000 new cases every week, she said at a press conference.
Glasses wearers may have lower COVID-19 risk
People who regularly wear glasses have a moderately lower risk of contracting COVID-19 while contact lenses offered no added protection, according to a large study that highlights the importance of the eye as a route of coronavirus infection.
More than 19,000 participants in the Virus Watch study in England and Wales responded to a questionnaire on the use of glasses and contact lenses. Starting as early as June 2020, participants had been reporting weekly on their COVID-19 status, and more than 11,000 provided monthly blood samples to show whether or not they had been infected with the coronavirus. After taking other risk factors into account, the researchers found a 15 per cent lower risk of infection for those who reported wearing glasses always for general use compared to those who never wore glasses.
The protective effect was reduced in those who said their glasses interfered with mask wearing, and there was no protective effect seen for contact lens wearers, according to a report posted on Monday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
“Protective eye wear should be considered as part of broader strategies to prevent community transmission of infection and may be valuable to consider in the event of future pandemics and in high exposure occupations including health care,” the researchers said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report detailing what it says is the most likely path forward from this point on in the pandemic, as well several other potential scenarios. There’s a chance the virus will become less severe and a chance it will get much worse — but the most probably outcome is somewhere in the middle.
The updated plan is less pessimistic than some of the previously published work about the future of the pandemic, but it warns readers to guard against false narratives that COVID-19 is a mild disease that can be ignored. More than 6 million lives have been lost to COVID-19. In the first week of February alone, more than 75,000 people were reported to have died from COVID-19: a shocking number that we know is an underestimate.
Read the full story here.
Vaccine-related blood clots tied to gene, antibody variants
New research may help shed light on a rare but serious blood-clotting problem associated with the COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Five unrelated people with this clotting complication, known as vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia, all had unusually-structured antibodies against a protein called PF4 that is involved in blood clotting, the researchers found. Furthermore, all five had a specific version of a gene responsible for producing these antibodies, they reported on Monday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
“The combination of a variant in a gene and the evolution of this antibody towards targeting in a highly deleterious manner the PF4 protein … leads to this disastrous complication,” the researchers said. The prevalence of this gene varies and is highest in people of European descent, according to the report.
The finding “paves the way for a potential genetic screening tool to identify patients carrying this gene variant who are at risk of this severe complication” after receipt of these vaccines, said Tom Gordon and Jing Jing Wang of Flinders University of South Australia, two of the study’s authors. “Additionally, this provides a unique opportunity for targeted, specific therapy development aimed at neutralizing this highly damaging but very specific antibody.”
The number of traditional wooden coffins are in short supply in Hong Kong as authorities scramble to add mortuary space in the financial hub’s battle on COVID-19, which is swamping funeral parlours.
“I have never seen so many bodies piled up together,” said funeral director Lok Chung, 37, who has been working round the clock, with about 40 funerals organized in March, up from roughly 15 in an average month.
“I have never seen family members so upset, so disappointed, so helpless,” said Chung, wearing a sober grey suit with a black polo T-shirt.
Since the fifth wave of coronavirus hit this year, Hong Kong has reported more than a million infections and more than 8,000 deaths.
Scenes of bodies stacked in emergency rooms next to patients have shocked many as places in mortuaries have filled up.
Canadian landlords expecting workers to return to offices vacated during the pandemic were delivered a blow as an Omicron variant surge at the beginning of the year prompted more companies to give up leases.
The national office-vacancy rate rose to a record 16.3 per cent in the first quarter, according to a report Wednesday by commercial real estate brokerage CBRE. The trend was reflected in Toronto, Canada’s largest city and financial capital, where vacancies ticked up to 14.8 per cent.
The beginning of the year saw much of Canada hit by COVID-19’s highly infectious Omicron variant, prompting a fresh round of lockdowns and restrictions in many parts of the country. With the renewed delay in returning to offices, many companies had been working remotely for the better part of the past two years. That appears to have emboldened more tenants to vacate their spaces entirely.
Read the full story here.
— Bloomberg News
Japan to lift COVID entry ban for 106 countries, including Canada
Japan plans to ease COVID 19-related border restrictions by lifting its entry ban for foreign nationals from 106 countries, including Canada, the United States, Britain and France on Friday, the government said.
Tokyo has been gradually relaxing pandemic-induced curbs but the loosened border regime does not mean a full reopening to tourists.
The foreign ministry said in an update on Wednesday that foreigners from the 106 countries would not be subject to denial of permission to enter Japan from Friday, but foreigners with tourist purposes were still not allowed into the country.
Japan closed its borders to most foreign travellers from the early days of the pandemic in 2020 and only recently accepted a trickle of students and business people into the country. Many other developed countries have reopened to tourists.
Rogers Arena, Abbotsford Centre won’t ask for proof of vaccination
You no longer need to show a B.C. vaccine card to watch a Vancouver Canucks in person.
Canucks Sports & Entertainment confirmed in a news release on Tuesday that fans and employees won’t have to show proof of vaccination in order to attend games and events at Rogers Arena and Abbotsford Centre.
The statement came hours after Dr. Bonnie Henry announced B.C. would end it’s vaccine-card mandate effective Friday, though she added that each business or service could choose to continue asking for them if that suits their clientele and their comfort level.
The next Vancouver Canucks home game is Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. The Abbotsford Canucks will host San Diego on Friday night.
Concentrated antibodies may help immunosuppressed patients
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are severely immunocompromised may benefit from treatment with a purified, highly-concentrated form of antibody-rich blood plasma from previously infected people known as hyperimmune globulin, according to a small trial.
Netherlands-based researchers measured the need for mechanical ventilation, high-flow nasal oxygen, readmission for COVID-19 after hospital discharge or lack of clinical improvement among 18 subjects four weeks after administration of either SARS-CoV-2 hyperimmune globulin or immune globulin that did not contain antibodies to the coronavirus.
These adverse outcomes occurred in 20 per cent of patients who received the hyperimmune globulin with COVID-19 antibodies, compared to 88 per cent of those who did not, according to a report posted on Tuesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review. The trial participants were organ transplant patients taking strong immunosuppressive drugs and others with diseases or medication regimens that impaired the function of immune cells called B cells.
In severely immunocompromised patients, SARS-CoV-2 hyperimmune globulin “may reduce the risk for severe COVID-19 and can be used when no monoclonal antibody therapies are available,” the researchers concluded.
B.C. health officials are gearing up for a spring booster program targeting the elderly and Care home operators are ecstatic that the province will offer a second COVID-19 booster dose to seniors over 70 and immunocompromised persons, but other changes to the way the pandemic will be managed and reported are raising concerns.
The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced Tuesday that seniors in care homes and assisted-living facilities, people over 70 years of age, and 100,000 immunocompromised individuals in B.C. will be eligible to receive a fourth shot starting this month.
“We know that the older we are, the sooner our antibodies wane,” Henry explained. “So an extra booster dose right now will provide that spring protection so we are able to get back to more activities in the community.”
Terry Lake, the CEO of the B.C. Caregivers Association, said the second booster dose campaign has come just in time.
— Lisa Cordasco
Hospitalizations rise again as two new outbreaks reported
The number of people in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19 has risen by 13 in the past 24 hours.
According to Tuesday’s COVID-19 update, there are now 334 people who have tested positive for the virus hospitalized in B.C. Of those, 25 are in the ICU, a drop of one from the previous day.
B.C. has delayed the reporting of new deaths from COVID-19 until Thursday.
The last update on deaths came on Friday, when four new deaths were reported. That brought the total since the start of the pandemic to 3,002.
Another 258 new cases were confirmed in the past day, though that number understates the prevalence of the virus due to limited PCR testing.
There are two new outbreaks at health-care facilities: Overlander in Interior Health and Cowichan District Hospital in Island Health.
Despite a small uptick in cases in hospitalizations in the past few days, the overall pandemic situation is much better now than it was a few months ago, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
So B.C. will no longer require vaccine cards to be shown at public venues starting April 8, though each business or service can choose to keep asking for them if that suits their clientele and their comfort level.
Also being removed this week is the vaccine mandate for those in post-secondary residence. Henry noted it is no longer needed because the levels of vaccination in that population are very high.
Health officials are also changing how they report data on COVID-19, moving from reports every weekday to once a week starting this Thursday. The rationale for the change is that weekly averages provide a more accurate reflection of key trends, such as the number in hospital and intensive care with the coronavirus.
The numbers for hospitalizations and deaths will also be linked to automated data, including deaths reported to vital statistics. That change will initially result in a higher death count because every case will be included, while those where COVID-19 was determined not to be the direct cause of death will be removed over time as that information becomes available.
Read the full story here.
— Joseph Ruttle
Alberta’s top doctor is in court this week defending the government’s “unprecedented” response to the COVID-19 pandemic — the first time Dr. Deena Hinshaw is testifying before a judge.
Hinshaw is testifying in the civil trial for a court case that began in December 2020 — not even a year into the COVID-19 pandemic — when two churches and three individuals filed a lawsuit against the provincial government, seeking an end to mask mandates and regulations around in-person gatherings.
“Albertans are currently experiencing the greatest collective violation of civil liberties this Province has ever known,” the plaintiffs’ original court filing claims.
One of the churches, Heights Baptist, in Medicine Hat, says the public-health orders prohibited them from singing, public baptism and physical touch (the other church involved is Northside Baptist Church in Calgary). One of the individuals, Torry Tanner, argues the public-health orders prohibited her from gathering with family for Christmas.
— National Post
DEATHS BY HEALTH AUTHORITY
WHAT’S HAPPENING ACROSS CANADA
LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information
Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.
—with files from The Canadian Press