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COVID-19: B.C. reports 582 new cases ahead of Christmas

New cases come as first Moderna vaccine doses arrive in Canada
Dr. Bonnie Henry
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry

The number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. expanded slightly Thursday compared with a day earlier as many British Columbians make their final preparations ahead of the holiday weekend.

The province revealed 582 new cases have emerged since the 518 cases reported Wednesday.
In a joint statement, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced 12 COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total number to 808 since the pandemic unfolded in March.

With the addition of the latest figures, B.C. has recorded a total of 48,609 cases of COVID-19, while 8,865 remain active and 341 individuals are currently hospitalized as a result.
Of those hospitalized, 78 are in intensive care.

Dix and Henry are urging British Columbians to celebrate with virtual events and take walks with those only in their households over the holiday weekend.

The new cases can be broken down based on the following health regions across the province:

· Vancouver Coastal: 107
· Fraser: 326
· Island: 10
· Interior: 81
· Northern: 68

Meanwhile, a total of 8,178 people have been vaccinated in B.C. since last week’s arrival of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccines.

"In addition to our health-care workers, immunization of residents in long-term care is now also underway. Given seniors and elders have been most severely impacted by this virus, this is welcome news for all of us,” Dix and Henry said in the joint statement.

Canadian regulators approved the use of the Moderna Inc. vaccine early Wednesday, paving the way for deliveries of up to 168,700 doses by the end of December.

The first deliveries arrived in Toronto Thursday with 100 delivery sites across the country set to be operating next week, up from the 14 that were operating last week.

Because the Moderna doses are easier to transport than the competing Pfizer vaccine, it’s seen as critical in ensuring remote regions in B.C. and Canada have access to vaccinations.

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which must be maintained at temperatures of -80C, the Moderna needs to be maintained at just -20C.

Henry noted Wednesday that the Moderna vaccine is more flexible than Pfizer’s in terms of the number of doses that can be broken down in the boxes they arrive in.

The Moderna vaccine will arrive in boxes of 1,200 doses each and can be broken down to 100 doses.

“So that means we can start to address some of the urgent needs that we have to protect people in some of our remote and isolated communities, particularly First Nations communities,” Henry said earlier this week.

“And also residents of long-term care homes where we know the virus is causing the most damage.”

Delivery of the Pfizer vaccine is currently the responsibility of the manufacturer due to the vaccine’s sensitivity, while FedEx Express Canada Corp. and Innomar Strategies Inc. are handling Moderna’s deliveries.

Pfizer initially required that the vaccine be administered at the sites where it is delivered but Henry revealed Wednesday the vaccine-maker has loosened those restrictions.

All provinces have agreed to shift the per capita proportion of Moderna vaccines to the territories to make distribution easier for northern regions, meaning fewer doses of the easier-to-transport vaccine are destined for B.C.

 “I know there are many, many groups of people who want to know where they fall right now,” Henry said Wednesday, referring to the order in which people will be inoculated.

“We will know more about that when we have a better idea how much vaccine is available … Right now we have a limited amount of vaccine and we’re focusing on those we can protect who are most at risk.”

She added that it is not likely until March and April that vaccines will be more available to the general population.