More people in B.C. testing positive for COVID-19, including infant

VANCOUVER — More people are testing positive for COVID-19 in British Columbia, including a baby in a neo-natal intensive care unit in a Vancouver hospital.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called an unplanned news conference Friday to update the public on the number of new cases and steps being taken while she urged residents enjoy the summer with care.

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"We can socialize, and we need to socialize, we need to play safe and stay safe. Don't let COVID steal our summer."

The advice came following a report that 35 cases are now connected to COVID-19 exposures in the Kelowna area that Health Minister Adrian Dix had said were connected to private parties around Canada Day.

Henry said the parties in Kelowna were mostly done with the right intent, where the numbers were kept small, but it was different people every night, which made tracing a challenge.

Vancouver Coastal Health authorities are looking at how COVID-19 spread in the neo-natal intensive care unit at St. Paul's Hospital, where the baby tested positive for the virus, she said.

Henry said fewer than 10 people were exposed, and the baby was not showing signs of illness.

Health-care workers were also exposed, but she said she didn't know how many were involved.

Experts know that some infants can have more severe illness but even they recover quickly, Henry said.

She said the infants who were exposed at St. Paul's are isolating with their families.

Dr. Joan Robinson, a pediatric infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Alberta, said there is limited data on infants who test positive for COVID-19 because few babies in intensive care units have been infected.

"So, so far I would say we should be very optimistic that babies will be fine but there certainly have not been enough cases for us to know that for certain."

Providence Health, which operates the hospital, said in a statement Friday new protocols are in place requiring parents visiting their babies in the unit to wear a mask and sign a visitor log.

Henry said the hospital policy did not require families to wear masks around their baby.

The challenge in this situation was that the babies were in a common room where the bassinets were at least two metres apart but there were no barriers between them, she said.

"That meant that there was potential for people who were in the (unit) to be exposed," she said.

"So, that's why we're watching very carefully and the (neo-natal intensive care unit) has been closed. But I do believe it is a very low risk scenario for others."

There's also been an alert issued for potential exposure to COVID-19 the Sandman hotel on Davie Street in Vancouver between July 7 and July 16, she said.

Another case has been discovered in a worker from Alberta at the Site C dam project, although Henry says that person was isolated before having contact with other workers.

B.C. reported 28 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday for a total of 3,198.

There have been no new deaths and just over 2,800 people have fully recovered from their illness.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2020.

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