Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for Sept. 23-25, 2022.
We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly every day this week, with developments added as they happen, so be sure to check back often.
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Here are the latest weekly B.C. figures given on Sept. 22 for the week of Sept. 11-17:
• Hospitalized cases: 305
• Intensive care: 22
• New cases: 637 over seven days ending Sept. 17
• Total number of confirmed cases: 384,266
• Total deaths over seven days ending Sept. 17: 22 (total 4,253)
Read the full report here | Next update: Sept. 29
Headlines at a glance
• Research shows HIV spike among B.C. drug users associated with COVID-19 lockdown
• The global fight against the pandemic was relegated to the sidelines at a UN gathering
• Another 22 deaths were tallied in the latest weekly report from the B.C. CDC Thursday, with 305 in hospital
• Late Friday, Trudeau would only say COVID border measure news will be announced when government is ready
• UBC prof co-leads study that suggests long-COVID is an autoimmune disease
• Canada to drop COVID vaccine requirement to enter country: Source
• Canada pledged millions for anti-COVID Merck drug. Doctors say we don’t know if it works
• Biden’s claim that ‘pandemic is over’ complicates his COVID strategy
• Hong Kong to cut mandatory hotel quarantine rules
• Federal tribunal reverses EI denial for worker fired for not taking COVID vaccine
• The director-general of the World Health Organization said the end of the pandemic ‘is in sight’
A new study says reduced access to HIV services during early COVID-19 lockdowns in British Columbia was associated with a “sharp increase” in HIV transmission among some drug users.
The study by University of British Columbia researchers says that while reduced social interaction during the March-May 2020 lockdown worked to reduce HIV transmission, that may not have “outweighed” the increase caused by reduced access to services.
The study, published in Lancet Regional Health, found that fewer people started HIV antiretroviral therapy or undertook viral load testing under lockdown, while visits to overdose prevention services and safe consumption sites also decreased.
The overall number of new HIV diagnoses in B.C. continues a decades-long decline.
—The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended the week Friday, offering no more clarity on whether vaccine mandates at the border, the ArriveCAN app and other travel measures will remain in place.
There is a ticking clock on the government, with the current measures set to expire next week. There have been multiple leaks to media organizations, suggesting changes could be coming soon, but there has been no official confirmation from the government.
Trudeau met with his cabinet on Thursday after returning from the Queen’s funeral and the UN General assembly in New York. He heads to Japan on Saturday for the funeral of the country’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Asked directly on Friday when he would reveal his government’s next steps, Trudeau said only that the news would be announced when the government was ready.
— Ryan Tumilty, National Post
In four days of fiery speeches over war, climate change and the threat of nuclear weapons, one issue felt like an afterthought during this year’s U.N. General Assembly: the coronavirus pandemic.
Masks were often pulled below chins — or not worn at all — and any mention of COVID-19 by world leaders typically came at the tail-end of a long list of grievances.
But on the sidelines of the annual meeting, the pandemic was still very much part of the conversation.
On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gathered with World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell and others to discuss equitable access to COVID vaccines, tests and treatments.
— The Associated Press
22 deaths, 305 in hospital: Weekly data from BCCDC
British Columbia saw 22 more people who recently tested positive for COVID-19 die over the week of Sept. 11-17 in preliminary data released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on Thursday.
The number of people in hospital with COVID dipped slightly to 305 as of Thursday, with 22 of those in intensive care.
Including updated mortality data from several recent weeks, a total of 4,253 people have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Another 637 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed this week, but limited testing means this understates the prevalence of the virus in the population.
For a primer on how to interpret data in the BCCDC weekly reports, click here.
— Joseph Ruttle
Researchers, including a professor of medicine at UBC, have discovered long COVID patients can show signs of autoimmune disease a year after catching COVID-19.
Eighty per cent of COVID-19 patients still had antibodies present six months after catching the disease, targeting their own healthy cells and tissues. After a year, 41 per cent still had the autoimmune disease, according to blood samples.
“The point of this paper, or the interesting thing about this paper, is that in the COVID survivors we studied the number of these autoantibodies is higher than those in people who were not so affected,” Dr. Chris Carlsten said.
Read the full story here.
Canada’s federal government will likely drop its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for people entering Canada at the end of the month, a government source said on Tuesday.
The source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “likely” to drop the vaccination requirement on Sept 30. The Globe and Mail newspaper reported the news earlier on Tuesday.
Canada will also drop random coronavirus testing on the same day, and make it optional to use its ArriveCAN app, where travellers have been required to upload their proof of vaccination, the source said.
Canadian airports faced chaos over the summer, with numerous cancellations and delays that some blamed on the country’s strict COVID-19 restrictions.
Canada’s Health Ministry had no immediate comment.
As Canada ordered huge quantities of a new anti-COVID drug last December and struck a deal to have it made in Ontario, plenty of evidence was out there on a key point — whether molnupiravir actually worked.
Along with a highly publicized study by manufacturer Merck, companies in India had more quietly carried out 12 separate trials of the pill on a much larger group of patients — almost 14,000 people who received either the drug or a placebo.
But a year after most of those Indian studies were completed, just a tiny portion of the results have been divulged publicly and none published in a peer-reviewed journal, says a new British paper on the Indian research.
The limited information released on four trials paints at best a mixed picture of the anti-viral, suggests the report by British academics. The rest is just unknown.
Read the full story here.
—Tom Blackwell, The National Post
Biden’s claim that ‘pandemic is over’ complicates his COVID strategy
President Joe Biden’s surprise declaration that the coronavirus pandemic is “over” has thrown a wrench into the White House’s efforts to secure additional funding to fight the virus and persuade Americans to get a new booster shot, while fuelling more Republican criticism about why the administration continues.
Biden’s comments, which aired Sunday on “60 Minutes,” reflect growing public sentiment that the threat of the virus has receded even as hundreds of Americans continue to die of COVID each day. Forty-six percent of Americans have returned to their pre-pandemic lives, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll released last week, the highest share of respondents to answer that way since the pollsters began asking the question in January 2021.
“We still have a problem with covid,” Biden said. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it . . . but the pandemic is over.”
Biden’s remarks caught some senior officials off guard as the White House mounts a fall vaccination campaign, lobbies Congress for billions of dollars to purchase more coronavirus vaccines and treatments, and weighs whether to extend its ongoing public health emergency when it expires next month. The president’s comments also triggered a sell-off on Wall Street, as vaccine manufacturers Moderna, Novavax, BioNTech and Pfizer collectively lost more than $9 billion in value on Monday.
— Washington Post
Hong Kong to cut hotel quarantine as China shows support
Hong Kong wants to relax COVID rules like mandatory hotel quarantine that have made travel difficult for nearly three years, Chief Executive John Lee said Tuesday, as mainland officials signalled their approval.
The number of infections in the Asian financial hub has fallen to about 6,000 a day, creating room to reconsider the measures that have crimped the city’s competitiveness, Lee told reporters at a weekly briefing. Hotel quarantine will be replaced with seven days of home health monitoring, the South China Morning Post reported, though it said the change won’t be announced until all the details have been determined.
The plans appear to have been blessed by leaders in mainland China, despite their adherence to a zero tolerance approach to the virus. China supports Hong Kong’s efforts to have close, extensive contact with the rest of the world and sees no problem with adjusting its rules, Huang Liuquan, deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said at a separate briefing in Beijing.
Members of a federal tribunal ruled in favour of a Toronto-area delivery driver denied Employment Insurance (EI) benefits after losing his job for refusing his employer’s COVID-19 vaccine policy.
Last summer, Timothy Conlon was dismissed from his job after turning down a request by his employer to get the COVID shot — a decision Conlon said was due to concerns over his existing blood pressure and reports of blood clots in some patients, read a press release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) who represented Conlon and others who found themselves in similar situations.
Upon losing his job, Conlon applied for EI but was denied, as the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) ruled he was dismissed due to misconduct.
“The Claimant disagrees because he was dismissed from his job two days after he was told about the policy,” wrote tribunal member Solange Losier in her decision released Friday.
Read the full story here.
—Bryan Passifiume, National Post
Public Health Ontario says COVID-19 cases and deaths are down in the most recent week of data available, but outbreaks in nursing homes are on the rise.
The agency says there were 6,968 cases of COVID-19 recorded during the week of Sept. 4 to 10, compared to 8,175 the previous week.
There were 54 deaths in the latest week of data, and 70 deaths the week before.
The agency says there were 47 long-term care homes in outbreak compared to 30 the week prior.
Public Health Ontario says there was a notable increase in hospitalizations for infants under one year old, from 17 children that week compared to eight the week prior.
—The Canadian Press
The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, his most optimistic outlook yet on the years-long health crisis which has killed over six million people.
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual press conference.
That was the most upbeat assessment from the UN agency since it declared an international emergency in January 2020 and started describing COVID-19 as a pandemic three months later.
The virus, which emerged in China in late 2019, has killed nearly 6.5 million people and infected 606 million, roiling global economies and overwhelming healthcare systems.
Read the full story here.
What are B.C.’s current public health measures?
MASKS: Masks are not required in public indoor settings though individual businesses and event organizers can choose to require them.Masks are also encouraged but not required on board public transit and B.C. Ferries, though they are still required in federally regulated travel space.
GATHERINGS AND EVENTS: There are currently no restrictions on gatherings and events such as personal gatherings, weddings, funerals, worship services, exercise and fitness activities, and swimming pools.There are also no restrictions or capacity limits on restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs; and no restrictions on sport activities.
CARE HOMES: There are no capacity restrictions on visitors to long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities, however, visitors must show proof of vaccination before visiting.
Exemptions are available for children under the age of 12, those with a medical exemption, and visitors attending for compassionate visits related to end-of-life. Visitors to seniors’ homes are also required to take a rapid antigen test before visiting the facility or be tested on arrival. Exemptions to testing are available for those attending for compassionate visits or end-of-life care.
How do I get vaccinated in B.C.?
Everyone who is living in B.C. and eligible for a vaccine can receive one by following these steps:
• Get registered online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated to book an appointment in your community.
• Or, if you prefer, you can get registered and then visit a drop-in clinic in your health authority.
• The system will alert you when it is time to go for your second dose.
• The same system will also alert you when it is time for your booster dose.
Where can I get a COVID-19 test?
TESTING CENTRES: B.C.’s COVID-19 test collection centres are currently only testing those with symptoms who are hospitalized, pregnant, considered high risk or live/work with those who are high risk. You can find a testing centre using the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s testing centre map.
If you have mild symptoms, you do not need a test and should stay home until your fever is gone. Those without symptoms do not need a test.
TAKE-HOME RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS: Eligible British Columbians over the age of 18 with a personal health number can visit a pharmacy to receive a free take-home test kit containing five COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.
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