Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, announced Thursday that WorkSafeBC inspectors have been given new duties in fighting the spread of COVID-19 transmissions in the workplace environment.
Dr. Henry said starting Monday, when the public health investigation determines that transmission has occurred at the workplace, an order may be issued closing the workplace for 10 days or longer to stop the transmission.
Dr. Henry said in the case of complex workplaces (e.g., large construction sites), the closure may be restricted to those parts of the workplace where transmission has occurred.
"Workplaces continue to be sustained areas of transmission, clusters and outbreaks,” Dr. Henry said.
“These have strained public health resources to manage, so a new provincial health officer Expedited Workplace Closure order is being put in place to allow WorkSafeBC inspectors to support the work of public health and to support businesses when a COVID-19 outbreak occurs at the worksite.”
Dr. Henry said public health will also assess whether there is an overriding public interest to keep the workplace open.
She said this would apply to such locations as police stations, fire halls, health-care facilities, schools, shelters, the ferry system, public transportation and distribution hubs of necessary goods such as food and medicine, pharmacies and grocery stores.
"When a closure is ordered, WorkSafeBC will serve the closure notice and will then support the workplace to review and enhance safety plans, as needed,” Dr. Henry said.
“A list of workplaces that have been closed and the date of their reopening will be posted on the health authority websites. In all cases additional outbreak control measures, including contact tracing and immunization will continue under public health direction.”
The changes come after reported a whopping 1,293 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, for a total of 108,278 cases in British Columbia.
Dr. Henry said there are 9,184 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 15,203 people under public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 97,462 people who tested positive have recovered.
She said of the active cases, 336 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 101 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation.
"Since we last reported, we have had 448 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 645 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 69 in the Island Health region, 80 in the Interior Health region, 51 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada,” Dr. Henry said.
"There have been two new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,493 deaths in British Columbia.”
Dr. Henry said that 985,001 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 87,564 of which are second doses.
She said people 65 and older, Indigenous peoples 18 and over, and individuals who have received their 'clinically extremely vulnerable' letter may register now.
"The Get Vaccinated online vaccine registration and booking system for B.C.'s age-based immunization program is open for everyone to register and then later book their vaccine appointment, when eligible,” Dr. Henry said.
"There are currently 3,776 confirmed COVID-19 cases that are variants of concern in our province. This data will be updated once whole genome sequencing has been completed. Of the total cases, 104 are active and the remaining people have recovered. This includes 2,842 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant, 51 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant and 883 cases of the P.1 (Brazil) variant.”
Dr. Henry said the laboratory teams continue to actively screen for a wide range of viruses to understand what is circulating in our communities and what is most common.
“As we learn more, we continue to adapt and refine our screening approach.”
Dr. Henry is again asking the public to share their perspectives and their experiences in a provincewide 'Your story, our future' survey.
"Today, we are asking you to once again, share your feedback on how COVID-19 has affected you, and what tools and supports you need as we look ahead to our pandemic recovery. The new survey is available at: www.bccdc.ca/covid19survey
"We encourage everyone to once again participate.
"As the new survey will likely show us, we have all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, equally important, we can all influence how quickly we get to the brighter days that are ahead. Let's all do our part today."