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Big spike in new COVID-19 cases in New West

Outbreak continues at New West care home
A positive swab test for COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

New COVID-19 cases in New Westminster have skyrocketed in the last week, according to the latest data from the BC Centre for Disease Control.

BCCDC data show New Westminster had a total of 71 new coronavirus cases between Feb.14 and 20 – up sharply from the 46 cases from Feb. 7 to 13, and the 50 new coronavirus cases between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, but down from the 85 new coronavirus cases between Jan. 24 and 30. By contrast, Richmond had 80 new cases during the same period despite being a community of 215,000 people compared to about 70,000 in New West.

The weekly numbers come as the worst COVID-19 outbreak in New Westminster continues growing.

The long-term care unit at Royal City Manor has had a coronavirus outbreak since Jan. 3, and it has reached at least 133 cases, according to the last update on Feb. 18 by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Out of those 133 cases, 102 involve residents – 27 of those residents have died. The outbreak comes just as long-term care residents received the COVID-19 vaccine. The BCCDC is expected to update these numbers later this week.

Health officials identified two people who died from COVID-19-related causes overnight Tuesday, after one such death was recorded the day before. While that raises the province's death toll from the virus to 1,338, the three deaths in two days is the lowest two-day total since November 5 and 6, when there were two COVID-19-related deaths identified. 

This good news is partly because 98% of seniors in care homes have been vaccinated, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry told media yesterday. She called the success of the vaccine in older people "miraculous."

Nonetheless, B.C.'s roll-out of vaccines continues to be slow, with only 6,521 doses being administered in the past 24 hours. There were 2,809 additional people who got a vaccine dose in the past 24 hours, and 3,712 doses went to people as a second dose. 

In total, 230,875 doses have been given to 168267 people, with 62,608 people getting second doses. Starting in March, if around four million eligible British Columbians remain unvaccinated, the province would have to vaccinate about 19,000 people per day in order for all of them to be vaccinated by the end of September. 

"Just as our health-care system has risen to the challenge of protecting and caring for people who have become ill with this virus, so too are countless others working hard to get people immunized as quickly and safely as possible," Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement. 

"Vaccinating our entire population is a monumental task that must account for the diversity of our geography and our population. We must consider how to safely deliver vaccine to rural and remote communities, how to connect with seniors and elders everywhere, and how to ensure the process to get immunized is as simple as possible. We are pushing hard right now, and we must continue to balance speed with the need for careful thought and planning."

There were 456 newly identified infections in the past day, down by 103 from yesterday. A total of 78,278 people in B.C. have contracted the virus since officials detected the first case on January 28, 2020.

The vast majority of the 4,668 people actively battling infections have been told to self-isolate, although 237 are in hospital, with 64 of those inflicted seriously enough to be in intensive care units. 

More than 92.2% of those infected in B.C., or 72,219 individuals, are considered to have recovered because they have tested negative for the virus twice. Another 7,924 people are being closely watched by health officials for symptoms because they have had known exposure to at least one identified case.

  • With files from Glen Korstrom, Glacier Media