COVID testing in Burns Lake. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)

A year-end COVID update

Towards the end of 2020, B.C. had reported over 2,206 new COVID-19 cases and 74 deaths.

Northern Health (NH) had a total of 1,890 cases with 1,341 recovered, 46 hospitalized, 16 in critical care and 26 total deaths at the time of going to press.

By region, the five days worth of cases at the end of the year starting on Christmas Eve, were broken down to 1,375 in Fraser Health, 378 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 238 in Interior Health and 44 in Island Health.

There were 7,580 active cases of COVID-19 following the Christmas weekend in B.C. and there were 373 people in hospital, of whom 80 were in critical care or ICU. There had been a total of 50,815 confirmed cases in B.C. since the pandemic began, of whom 41,175 have recovered. There were 9,414 people under active public health monitoring, excluding Northern Health due to data compilation issues.

READ MORE: B.C. COVID-19 vaccinations reach nearly 12,000 people

Northern Health had declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the LNG Canada Project Site in Kitimat, BC, where JGC Fluor (JFJV) is the prime contractor, on Nov.19, 2020. By Christmas however, the medical health officers declared an end to the outbreak.

“There have been no new cases reported since December 2, 2020, in association with the outbreak that was first declared November 19. In total, 56 employees tested positive for COVID-19; all have recovered, and cases and close contacts have completed their required self-isolation periods,” said the news release.

In Northern Health, another COVID-outbreak was declared by the health authority at Coastal GasLink’s two accommodations 7 Mile Lodge and Little Rock Lake Lodge. By the end of 2020, there were 53 laboratory-confirmed cases associated with the outbreak at 7 Mile Lodge in the Burns Lake Local Health Area (LHA), and Little Rock Lake Lodge in Nechako LHA.

According to the news release from Northern Health, while the majority of those cases were in self-isolation in their home communities, a small number were self-isolating at either Lodge.

When asked about the living conditions and isolation mandates at the two camps, a CGL representative said in an email to Black Press Media, “Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our workforce, their families and communities. Essential resources, including medical, will remain on-site to support those in isolation and their recovery.” The representative also said that to get answers to any additional questions around the outbreak, Northern Health should be contacted instead.”

During a provincial health update on Dec.29, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that the case of the U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus is currently quarantining, and those they live with have been tested. They were identified via whole genome sequencing.

“We know that this variant does not seem to cause more severe illness,” Henry said, nor is it expected to affect test or vaccine efficacy.

READ MORE: Coastal Gas Link outbreak sees six new COVID positive cases

She said that while it does not change current public health advice, additional measures could be required if the U.K. variant pushes B.C.’s daily cases back up to the highs seen earlier this fall.

Burns Lake Mayor, Dolores Funk also shared her concerns about the increasing cases in and around Burns Lake.

”My concern for Burns Lake is that people take this seriously and follow the PHOs. Many people are and I am very grateful to those. Those who are not should know that right now, their risk of contacting and spreading COVID is very high. Our health system is overwhelmed and the Village NH needs everyone to do their part and stay home whenever possible,” she said.

“The Village is unable to implement any measures outside of those instated by the province. Early on, the province took away our power to declare a state of emergency which would allow us to implement further measures. We will continue to work alongside NH and the RCMP to ensure compliance with the PHOs,” she added.

Health Canada and the province still has the mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers. “The Government of Canada continues to advise against non-essential travel and reminds all travellers returning to Canada that contravening the mandatory 14-day quarantine can lead to severe penalties,” according to an update from Health Canada on their social media sites.

– with files from Katya Slepian

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