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Northern Health reports three more COVID-19 deaths, following seven from long weekend

There were also 67 new cases confirmed in Northern Health Wednesday
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Northern Health has seen an additional three COVID-19 related deaths in the past 24 hours.

Over Thanksgiving long weekend, the region also saw seven COVID-19 related deaths. The total COVID-19 death toll in the Northern Health Authority is now 187.

There were also 67 new COVID-19 cases in Northern Health confirmed in the past day with the province now reporting 689 active cases in the region.

Province-wide, B.C. is reporting 605 new cases of COVID-19 and 5,172 active cases. Of the active cases, 374 people are in hospital and 153 are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

In Northern Health there are 87 individuals hospitalized and 19 of them are in critical care.

Three of the fourth deaths reported today occurred in Northern Health with the additional death occurring in Island Health.

There are also 19 healthcare facility outbreaks throughout the province including at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. (UHNBC) in Prince George and Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton.

The province says that from Oct. 5-11, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 68% of cases and from Sept. 28-Oct. 11, they accounted for 73.4% of hospitalizations.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, 88.9% or 4,120,063 of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 82.7% or 3,835,508 have received their second dose.

In addition, 89.4% or 3,864,764 of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 83.4% or 3,609,210 received their second dose.

Workers at B.C.’s assisted living and long-term care facilities are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or else face being suspended from work without pay. Nearly 49,000 people are employed at 546 long-term and assisted-living homes in B.C. and 93% of them have been fully vaccinated.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said vaccine uptake went to 96% from 90% for first doses after the mandate was announced, but that still meant the province had to provide additional support at some facilities like in the north. 

An increasing number of workers throughout the province face such mandates as provincial public servants need to get both jabs by Nov. 22 and healthcare workers across the province — not just those working in long-term care and assisted living — have also been mandated to be fully vaccinated by the end of the month.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order requiring children five and older to wear masks in public spaces, expanding a mandate for those aged 12 and up as B.C. prepares to vaccinate younger kids pending Health Canada approval. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that about 340,000 children 11 and under would be eligible to get vaccinated when the policy is announced as early as next month. 

Henry said priority would be given to those in the northern region, where COVID-19 transmission rates are highest due to lower vaccine uptake. 

“The quick spread of COVID-19 in the north is causing serious illness, including among younger residents, as hospitals are "pushed to the limit," she said.

"I will caution as well we know that influenza spreads really easily among younger children, especially infants and young babies. But it can also cause severe illness in school-aged children and can spread really rapidly. So, these are things that we need to start thinking about right now as we move into the fall."

Henry said public health officials are working with the Northern Health authority to determine if more regional measures are needed to prevent transmission, including booster doses as a way to manage outbreaks.

Dix noted as of Oct. 12, 55 critically ill people have been transferred from parts of the north to intensive care units elsewhere in the province and that 43 of them were infected with COVID-19 and only one of them was fully vaccinated.

- with files from the Canadian Press