COVID-19 update for June 13: Here’s what you need to know

Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.

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Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for the week of June 9-15, 2022.

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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.

You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Here are the latest B.C. figures given on June 9 for May 29-June 4:

• Hospitalized cases: 325
• Intensive care: 28
• New cases: 895 over seven days
• Total number of confirmed cases: 372,611
• Total deaths over seven days: 43 (total 3,614)

Read the full report here | Next update: June 16 at 1 p.m. (or later)

Headlines at a glance

• A ‘tsunami’ of long COVID cases is about to hit, and some say the health-care system isn’t ready.
• Beijing warns of ‘explosive’ COVID outbreak, Shanghai conducts mass testing.
• U.S. to drop COVID testing for incoming international air travellers.
• Weekly B.C. data show 43 more deaths, while hospitalizations and cases drop.
• Ontario’s COVID adviser wanted a masking extension.
A couple of studies show diabetes may increase long COVID risk, while having the virus while pregnant is linked to baby brain development issues.
• Mounties in Surrey are probing allegations of fraud linked to COVID-19 paid sick leave program.
• Mixed messages as mask mandates end in Ontario leave confusion.
• A seventh COVID wave is possible this fall, Tam tells MPs: ‘The pandemic is not over.’

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A ‘tsunami’ of long COVID cases is about to hit, and some say the health-care system isn’t ready

Advocates, scientists, patients and others are warning of a coming tsunami of people with disabilities as a result of long COVID. And there are growing fears that the health system is not prepared.

“It is predicted that long-term COVID will lead to a substantive and sustained impact on our health system,” Senator Stan Kutcher told a long COVID awareness conference this week. “And let’s remember this is a system that can be currently characterized as running on empty.”

Kutcher, a psychiatrist specializing in adolescent mental health who serves as an independent senator, has focused on issues such as vaccine disinformation since being appointed to the Senate. He is calling for changes — including a focus on health system readiness and better disability support — to help people suffering from long COVID.

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— Ottawa Citizen 

Beijing warns of ‘explosive’ COVID outbreak, Shanghai conducts mass testing

China’s capital Beijing is experiencing an “explosive” COVID-19 outbreak connected to a bar, a government spokesman said on Saturday, as the commercial hub, Shanghai, conducted mass testing to contain a jump in cases tied to a hair salon.

The warning followed a new tightening of COVID curbs in Beijing since Thursday, with at least two districts closing some entertainment venues after a flare-up in a neighborhood full of nightlife, shopping and embassies.

While China’s infection rate is low by global standards, it maintains a zero-COVID policy, citing the need to protect the elderly and the medical system, even as other countries try to live with the virus.

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So far, the country of 1.4 billion has seen just 5,226 deaths from COVID-19.

— Reuters

U.S. to drop COVID testing for incoming international air travellers

The Biden administration will drop pre-departure COVID-19 international air testing requirements effective Sunday at 12:01 a.m. after heavy lobbying from airlines and the travel industry, a senior administration official told Reuters.

The Biden administration will announce on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will no longer require pre-departure COVID-19 testing for travellers coming to the United States after it determined based on the science and data that this requirement is no longer necessary. CDC will do a reassessment of this decision in 90 days, the official said.

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Since December, the CDC has required travellers to test negative within one day before flights to the United States but does not require testing for land border crossings.

The official said, “If there is a need to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement — including due to a new, concerning variant — CDC will not hesitate to act.”

— Reuters

B.C. weekly report: 43 more deaths, hospitalizations and cases drop

The daily death toll from COVID-19 in British Columbia has remained stubbornly consistent even as the number of new cases and hospitalizations are dropping as we head toward summer.

Weekly data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control released Thursday show 43 more lives were lost from May 29 to June 4. That’s markedly similar to the previous two weeks, when 44 deaths were reported for both May 22-28 and May 15-21.

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In other words, B.C. continues to average just over six deaths a day through the past three weeks, down slightly from a month ago when 59 deaths were reported for the week.

The numbers of people in hospital and in intensive care are down from last week. The BCCDC says 325 were in hospital as of Thursday, down nearly 100 from a week earlier. ICUs had 28 admissions, down from 41 in both of the previous two weeks.

The week saw 895 reported new cases, though that number undercounts the true prevalence of cases in the province due to limited PCR testing.

— Joseph Ruttle

Diabetes may increase long COVID risk: report

Diabetes may increase the risk of long COVID, new analyzes of seven previous studies suggest.

Researchers reviewed studies that tracked people for at least four weeks after COVID-19 recovery to see which individuals developed persistent symptoms associated with long COVID such as brain fog, skin conditions, depression, and shortness of breath. In three of the studies, people with diabetes were up to four times more likely to develop long COVID compared to people without diabetes, according to a presentation on Sunday at the annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

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The researchers said diabetes appears to be “a potent risk factor” for long COVID but their findings are preliminary because the studies used different methods, definitions of long COVID, and follow-up times, and some looked at hospitalized patients while others focused on people with milder cases of COVID-19.

“More high-quality studies across multiple populations and settings are needed to determine if diabetes is indeed a risk factor” for long COVID, the researchers said. “In the meantime, careful monitoring of people with diabetes… may be advised” after COVID-19.


COVID-19 in pregnancy linked with babies’ learning skills

Babies born to mothers who had COVID-19 while pregnant may be at higher than average risk for problems with brain development involved in learning, focusing, remembering, and developing social skills, researchers have found.

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They studied 7,772 infants delivered in Massachusetts between March and September 2020, tracking the babies until age 12 months.

During that time, 14.4 per cent of the babies born to the 222 women with a positive coronavirus test during pregnancy were diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, compared to 8.7 per cent of babies whose mothers avoided the virus while pregnant.

After accounting for other neurodevelopmental risk factors, including preterm delivery, SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy was linked with an 86 per cent higher risk of a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis in offspring, the researchers reported on Thursday in JAMA Network Open.

The risk was more than doubled when the infection occurred in the third trimester.

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— Reuters

Ontario COVID adviser wanted masking extension, Moore says time to shift to guidance

The scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 advisory group and the Ontario Hospital Association say provincial mask mandates for hospitals should have been extended beyond their weekend expiry date, but the province’s top doctor says it’s time to replace the rules with guidance.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, announced this week that mask mandates on public transit and in most health settings will lift as scheduled on Saturday.

The emergency orders were always supposed to be time-limited and repealed once the major threat of the virus decreased, Moore said Thursday, and with indicators such as hospitalizations and test positivity rates declining, that time is now.

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“We’re finally, two and a half years later, at a point where we can remove these emergency directives that have been put in play,” Moore said in an interview.

“They’re very heavy-handed in that they include fines and actually the possibility of going to jail for not adhering to them.”

Moore said he was not aware of any fines being levied for mask non-compliance in hospitals.

— The Canadian Press

Man admits selling unregistered pesticide to fight COVID-19

A New Jersey man admitted Thursday he illegally sold unregistered pesticides as a COVID-19 defense to government and municipal entities including the U.S. Marshals Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Paul Andrecola pleaded guilty in federal court in Camden to one count each of wire fraud, selling an unregistered pesticide and presenting false claims.

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According to a criminal complaint, the 63-year-old Burlington County man made and sold pesticides that weren’t registered with the EPA as required, and weren’t on the EPA’s list of products deemed to be effective disinfectants against COVID-19.

Andrecola and others put another company’s EPA registration numbers on his products to hide the fact that they weren’t registered, according to the complaint.

Federal authorities alleged Andrecola made 150 sales of the unregistered pesticides between March 2020 and May 2021 and made more than $2.7 million. Among the additional entities that bought the products were a Delaware police department, a Virginia fire department and a medical clinic in Georgia.

— The Associated Press

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Mixed messages as Ontario mask mandates end leave some confused

A message from Ottawa’s top doctor encouraging continued mask use has left some confused following Ontario’s announcement that the province’s mandatory masking requirements for transit and certain health settings would end this Saturday.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical health officer, wrote Wednesday that people should remain cautious on public transit.

“Writing as the Medical Officer of Health, I am no longer of the opinion that widespread mask use in the community is required,” the memo read. “Nonetheless, because the current COVID-19 surge is not resolved and future surges are anticipated … Ottawa Public Health strongly recommends that mask use continue on public transit and in transit stations.”

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As of Saturday, passengers on OC Transpo bus and train routes will no longer need to wear face coverings.

Read the full story here.

— Ottawa Citizen

RCMP probing allegations of fraud linked to COVID-19 paid sick leave program

Surrey RCMP is investigating a security breach at WorkSafeBC after the discovery of alleged fraudulent activity related to the government’s COVID-19 paid sick leave program for businesses.

The fraudulent activity was flagged late last year, but WorkSafeBC and the government didn’t inform the public.

The detachment’s financial crime unit is investigating alleged fraud involving the COVID paid sick leave employer reimbursement program, Surrey RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Vanessa Munn told Postmedia News on Wednesday. Police were made aware of the allegations in December 2021.

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Munn said no charges have been laid and the investigation is still in the evidence gathering phase, so no additional details could be provided.

“We are limited in the information we can provide as no charges have been laid,” Munn said.

Read the full story here.

— Katie DeRosa

Seventh COVID wave possible this fall, Tam tells MPs: ‘The pandemic is not over’

Canada’s chief public officer stressed to MPs Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, warning that a seventh wave this fall is a real threat.

“The pandemic is not over,” Dr. Theresa Tam told MPs, at the Commons health committee. “We think that it is very likely that we will get some more viral activity in the future, and we can’t predict exactly how big the next wave is, but I think we need to prepare.”

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Tam testified to MPs as part of the review of health spending this year. She said she is concerned that some of the subvariants of the COVID-19 Omicron variant could be a problem, but she is also concerned that other, new variants could emerge.

— Ryan Tumilty

Experts urge Germany’s govt to prepare for fall COVID wave

Authorities in Germany should prepare for several possible pandemic scenarios this fall that would likely strain the country’s health system and critical infrastructure, an expert panel said Wednesday.

The government-appointed panel said the country continues to have immunity gaps in the population, and it recommended promoting vaccines against the coronavirus and making them more easily available.

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The panel advised authorities to ensure that testing facilities can be scaled up quickly in the fall and also said COVID-19 patients also should get earlier access to antiviral drugs.

The experts urged the German government to provide a clear legal foundation for any public health restrictions it might decide to put in place, especially if a dangerous new variant emerges.

— The Associated Press

More than two dozen inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Matsqui Institution

A total of 28 inmates at Abbotsford’s Matsqui Institution have tested positive for COVID-19.

All inmates arriving at Matsqui are offered vaccination, and employees are required to perform rapid tests and attest to a negative result before work.

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The current number of positive cases among inmates were confirmed via rapid or PCR tests, and the total number of cases may change as contact tracing and testing continues.

“This is an evolving situation and we continue to apply and reinforce infection prevention and control measures to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19, and adapt based on public health advice,” read a statement issued by the Correctional Service of Canada.

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 spaces such as trains, airports and airplanes, and in health care settings.

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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.

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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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