Vast majority of new COVID-19 cases coming from Lower Mainland

3% of new cases in Interior

Of the 833 new COVID-19 cases identified in B.C. over the past week, just 27 came from the Interior.

That amounts to just three per cent of the province's new cases, while almost 91 per cent came from the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions.

New data released Thursday shows that most new infections in B.C. have come from local cases and clusters. There were 44 more new cases identified in the province compared to the week prior.

Despite the disparity in new case numbers across regions, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has consistently resisted calls to apply new measures and regulations on a regional basis, saying the virus is impacting people in all corners of B.C.

The age of COVID-positive British Columbians continues to fall, and the Interior has the youngest median age of those infected with the disease.

The median age of the 489 COVID-19 total cases in the Interior Health region is 37, slightly less than the province's median age of 38. The Northern Health region has the highest median age at 43.

The median age of cases has dropped substantially since the beginning of the pandemic, from 55 to 38. Despite this, case counts have risen across almost all age groups in B.C. over the past week, save for the those under 19 and those over the age of 80.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen in recent weeks, with the number of current hospitalizations similar to what was seen back in early May. Of the 57 hospitalizations province-wide, one person is currently hospitalized in the Interior.


Positive COVID case at Surrey secondary school

Another school exposure

An individual who attended a Surrey secondary school last week has tested positive for COVID-19.

In a tweet, deputy superintendent of Surrey schools Jordan Tinney states that an individual who is a confirmed COVID-19 case attended Princess Margaret Secondary School on Sept 11. 

In a letter to the community, Tinney writes, "Public health staff have initiated contact tracing to identify any individuals that need to self-isolate or self-monitor for symptoms."

Families who do not receive a phone call or letter from public health staff are expected to attend school and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 as per the school's policy.

On Monday, the Surrey superintendent took to Twitter to notify parents/guardians of a “low risk” instance of exposure at Johnson Heights Secondary School after an individual tested positive for novel coronavirus. 

Tinney explained in a comment on a Twitter thread why he didn't characterize the latest notification as "low risk."

"Yes, in the tweaking of the language it was simply decided to go with exposure. I asked ... what is 'low' and it related to the level of protocols and distancing etc. in place. So simplify things. It's an exposure, same contact tracing protocols/info apply," writes Tinney.

"We are living and learning with the language and protocols, and this just seems cleaner."

If your child’s school has been notified of an exposure, no action is required unless you are contacted by Public Health or are otherwise directed by school officials. Public Health will contact you directly in case of any school exposure involving your child.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sept. 18

COVID-19: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Sept. 18, 2020:

There are 141,565 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 66,653 confirmed (including 5,792 deaths, 58,218 resolved)

_ Ontario: 46,077 confirmed (including 2,825 deaths, 40,600 resolved)

_ Alberta: 16,274 confirmed (including 254 deaths, 14,537 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 7,663 confirmed (including 220 deaths, 5,719 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,757 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,624 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,500 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,191 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,020 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 271 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 266 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 194 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 189 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 57 confirmed (including 56 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 141,565 (0 presumptive, 141,565 confirmed including 9,201 deaths, 123,453 resolved)


Greater Vernon Museum & Archives will be accepting small school tours

Museum welcoming schools

Local students will still be able to get a taste of local history this school year.

The Greater Vernon Museum & Archives is allowing small school groups to come visit the museum on an appointment-based model. The museum has completed a number of new exhibits during their COVID closure, and they're excited to share them with the public.

"We're really hoping that homeschooled families and schools will be interested in coming in, but probably in smaller groups," says Steve Fleck, executive director at the GVMA. "We'll also be hosting heritage tours and other experiences around the community."

While the smaller groups will restrict the amount of people able to enjoy the museum, staff are looking on the bright side.

"With smaller groups, we're going to try and make each visit more personalized," says Fleck. "That can be difficult with our previous drop-in model, but now we have the chance to really interact with out guests."

One of the museum's new exhibits will focus on pandemics and their impacts on the Okanagan. The new exhibit is set to open to members on Oct. 6, and to the general public on Oct. 8.

"It will have some information about diphtheria, typhoid, influenza and a variety of others," says Gwyneth Evans, Community Engagement Coordinator for the GMVA. "We'll have the facts but also some stories from people who lived through them."

The museum also has a new space that is available for the community to use as a meeting spot, with a capacity of up to 15 people. To inquire about the space or to make an appointment to visit the museum, you can check out their website.

Here is how Silver Star Resort will operate for the 2020/2021 ski season

SilverStar set to open

After much planning by staff, Silver Star Mountain Resort has announced its opening day for this ski season, along with updated information surrounding the rest of the hill's operations.

The mountain will open on Friday, Dec. 4, weather permitting, and Nordic trails will open on Saturday, Nov. 28 with limited access to facilities. This is a later start date than usual, but the resort says this will provide high-quality experiences along with maintaining separation from others.

Silver Star expects to only be open to season pass holders on opening day, and for a period of time after that to allow assessments of occupancy limits. Information regarding day ticket holders will be announced later.

"We are doing everything we can to ensure the longevity of the season," says Silver Star general manager Ken Derpak. "We continue to monitor COVID-19 and, given its dynamic nature, we have prepared thorough and adaptable operations plans that put safety first."

Parking will be moving to an online appointment-based system, which allows the resort to manage numbers and avoid congregations of people. Physical distancing will be in effect in lift areas, and attendants will not require users to ride a lift with someone they don't know.

Face coverings will be mandatory indoors and when distancing is not possible, which includes riding the shuttle, waiting in line for the lift, loading and unloading from lifts and in shops. The only exception to take it off is when you are eating or drinking, although Silver Star recommends bringing your own food to the hill.

"Physical distancing in lift queues occurs organically due to the length of skis and snowboards," says Derpak. "Guests will notice additional spacing measures, including extended maze designs, more lateral spacing and increased signage, to further ensure a consistent flow of appropriately spaced traffic."

In terms of seasonal passes, the quantity of POW passes and MY1 passes will be limited. After the passes are sold out, there will be a limited MY1 pass available to buy.

"This pass will give the same perks and benefits as the Unlimited MY1 pass, but will have some blackout days through the season," says Derpak. "As we share these details with you today, we realize questions may arise over the coming weeks and we will provide further details as they are finalized."

All passholders will be covered by the SilverStar Passholder Promise, which allows full refunds before Dec. 1 and can be paid off through flexible payment plans.

"At our core, we are skiers and riders and there’s nothing we want more than to be on snow with friends and family," says Derpak. "Let’s continue to take care of each other so that we can reunite on the mountain soon."

For more information, you can visit the Silver Star website.

B.C. had 165 new COVID-19 cases ,1 death, in past 24 hours

165 new cases, 1 death

UPDATE: 4:55 p.m.

Four Interior Health residents tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total active cases in the region to 23.

Of the 57 COVID-related hospitalizations across the province, one person is hospitalized in the Interior Health region. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 489 Interior Health residents have contracted the virus. 

ORIGINAL: 3:20 p.m.

Once again, British Columbia broke its record for single-day new COVID-19 cases, after 165 new cases of the virus was identified in the province in the past 24 hours. Four of these cases came from the Interior Health region. 

The new cases bring the total positive tests in B.C. to 7,663. A new high of 1,705 active cases was hit Thursday, and 57 of these people are being treated in hospital. Twenty-two of these hospitalizations are being treated in the ICU. 

Another 2,949 people are self-isolating under public health monitoring, after coming into contact with COVID-positive people. Wednesday, B.C. tested more than 7,000 people for the virus, the highest single-day testing number to date. 

On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said another resident of a long-term care home in the Vancouver Coastal Health region has died from the virus. There have now been 220 British Columbians who have died from the virus. 

Dr. Henry also announced two new outbreaks in B.C.'s healthcare system - at the Delta Hospital and the rehab unit at the Peace Arch Hospital. 

And while no outbreaks have been declared at any B.C. schools yet, Dr. Henry said there have been students and staff who've tested positive for COVID-19. She added they have not identified any "high-risk exposures" from these cases, and anyone who may have had contact with these people have been contacted. She did not disclose where these positive cases have come from.

She also announced a new "made-in-B.C." COVID-19 test that will be available for school-aged children, that uses a "mouth-rinse gargle," rather than the standard nasal swab.

Creekside Theatre offers live shows to limited audiences fall 2020

Live shows at Creekside

Sarita Patel

UPDATE 1:00 p.m.

The Creekside Theatre had to turn away audiences from two sold-out shows on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, after an eight-month hiatus live shows are back for the community to enjoy thanks to positive feedback from their summer program.

“Everybody’s tried the Facebook Live videos and online concerts … but really people crave connection and they crave in-person,” explains Ryan Donn, cultural development coordinator for The District of Lake Country. 

“It’s an experience that’s just for them, it’s seeing their neighbours - maybe not giving them a hug but connecting with your community.”

The seating arrangements will see people seated in groups of two or four, which will allow a total of 50 in the theatres.

“They come to the show and walk right to their seat, they won’t arrive half-an-hour before, they probably will arrive five-ten minutes before.” 

He notes there will be empty spaces between occupied seats. There will be two 70-minute shows an evening with a thorough cleaning between shows. 

They were going to have more than 12 shows but because of the Canada Day outbreak in Kelowna, they decided to put a pause on ramping it up too quickly. 

“We’re just going to see how people respond, we’re going to go through a few shows. Everything about this is soft, slow, steady - it’s not barreling down and do it every night,” adds Donn.

“The vibe is not to do as many shows as possible, it’s to do a few.”

They also upgraded their lighting system with new LED motion lights increasing their quality of production. 

They have a mix of local and national artists at the theatre, for full list performers, click here.

ORIGINAL 4:00 a.m.

The Creekside Theatre will host over a dozen evenings of live entertainment from October to February after being closed since March. 

The District of Lake Country says it is reducing the spread of COVID-19 while recognizing the importance of culture and entertainment, by changing the programming to offer live shows to limited audiences for fall 2020.

“After hosting the intimate sidewalk concert series this summer in place of the large Live! in Lake Country concerts in the parks, the District received a lot of positive feedback and expressions of appreciation for offering live entertainment in settings that considered the personal safety of audiences,” said Ryan Donn, cultural development coordinator.

Group acts in front of large audiences have been cancelled due to the pandemic but arrangements have been made to offer two shows per night, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.

Each show at the Creekside Theatre will be 70 minutes long with no intermission and staff will clean/sanitize between audiences.

There will only be 50 tickets per show available for contact-free purchase sold online or by phone with receipts emailed to theatre patrons. 

“The seating layout will adhere to physical distancing protocols with tickets sold only in pairs or groups of four. In a limited seating environment ticket prices have been kept as low as possible while also offering fair compensation to artists,” said Donn.

“Headlining the season is Barney Bentall and Jill Barber. We’re excited to offer a number of popular comedy shows in addition to well-known country, folk, Motown and blues performers.”

The Lake Country Film Committee will be offering a feature film each month as well, starting with Hugo in September, The Circus in October, The Peanut Butter Falcon in November and Call of the Wild in December.

Enderby's MV Beattie Elementary makes cuts as more students choose distance learning

Classes cut, teacher laid off

UPDATE: 12:46 p.m.

School District 83 has responded to the class reductions at MV Beattie Elementary School, stating this was an expected complication as enrollment during the pandemic era is uncertain.

"We start considering student enrollment and classroom organization charts as soon as students are in our buildings, then begin to communicate with principals if we see numbers that are concerning," says Peter Jory, Superintendent for SD83. "This year, we have had additional volatility in our enrollment, and we were forecasting surpluses in the range of 12-18 teachers, given our district budgets and typical Ministry enrollment procedures."

Each May and June, school principals set up classes for the following year to best of their ability. There is a settling process each September, even when not complicated by COVID-19, when schools figure out how many students they actually have.

Now that the settling process is over, the assessment was to drop a division and staff reduction.

"In the case of M.V. Beattie, enrollment has dropped significantly below projections so there are now more than 30 spaces, even when we count students whose parents who have indicated their interest in returning sometime during the school year," says Jory. "If we do not count those students, which would be our normal practice, the number of available seats approaches 50."

Other schools in the district facing teacher reductions this year are Shuswap Middle School and Highland Park Elementary.

ORIGINAL: 11:06 a.m.

There's no silver lining to cuts coming to Enderby's MV Beattie Elementary School next week.

Principal Gene Doray notified parents in a letter that the school is being reduced to 13 divisions.

The letter also stated that a teacher was let go as a result of these changes.

"A number of schools were also waiting to find out their fates today, and it appears that three schools have lost divisions due to a decline in enrolment," says Doray. "Although we recently enrolled a few new students, we have been losing students to home school, distance learning as well as to families relocating elsewhere."

The changes will require moving students between classes to even them out, adjusting cohorts, and reviewing the student support schedule.

"Is there a silver lining? Not really," says Doray. "Having said that, I am reminded of the 'can-do' attitude of our staff – and that helps me feel that eventually this too shall pass."

Upon learning of the news, some parents aren't entirely thrilled with the direction the school is taking.

"I feel like, at this point of a pandemic, removing a classroom, laying off a teacher and shuffling kids into different classrooms and cohorts in their second week at school isn’t right," says one concerned parent, who wished to remain anonymous.

"It contradicts the safety assurance from our B.C. health minister and Dr. Bonnie Henry, that our schools would be safe and extra funding in place to avoid measures such as this."

The changes are expected to come into effect on Sept. 22.

Castanet has reached out to School District 83 for comment.

VIDEO: Kamloops kids share how it feels to be back at school

Back-to-school thoughts

Castanet took it to the playground to ask kids how it feels to be back to school during a pandemic (with mom and dad's permission, of course).

It has been two weeks since children have gone back to school.  We've asked parents how they feel about sending their kids back to school. Now it's time for the kids to weigh in.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sept. 17

COVID-19: latest numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Sept. 17, 2020:

There are 140,539 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 66,356 confirmed (including 5,791 deaths, 58,012 resolved)

_ Ontario: 45,676 confirmed (including 2,825 deaths, 40,424 resolved)

_ Alberta: 16,128 confirmed (including 254 deaths, 14,379 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 7,498 confirmed (including 219 deaths, 5,646 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,751 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,620 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,489 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 1,190 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,086 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,020 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 271 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 266 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 194 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 189 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 57 confirmed (including 56 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 140,539 (0 presumptive, 140,539 confirmed including 9,199 deaths, 122,835 resolved)

Two patients test positive for COVID in unit at Delta Hospital

Outbreak at Delta Hospital

Fraser Health has declared an outbreak at Delta Hospital after evidence of transmission in a medicine unit.

According to a news release issued by Fraser Health Wednesday afternoon, two patients at Delta Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak is limited to one unit, which is temporarily closed to admissions.

Upon declaring the outbreak, Fraser Health immediately implemented precautions, including enhanced cleaning, as well as contact tracing to protect the health of all staff, medical staff, and patients.

Fraser Health says the emergency department at Delta Hospital remains open and there has been no impact to any other areas of Delta Hospital.

Fraser Health has notified all patients on the affected unit about the outbreak, and in addition, have informed the families of patients who are unable to share this information.

Delta Hospital is working with essential visitors to the affected unit on a case-by-case basis.

Richmond medical health officer says COVID transmissions reported even when people wear masks

Masks may not be enough

Richmond is considering mandatory masks in city-run facilities – but one public health doctor warns there have been transmissions of COVID-19 between people wearing masks.

Dr. Meena Dawar, Richmond's medical health officer, told the Richmond Community COVID-19 Task Force on Tuesday that evidence is coming out in support of wearing masks, but there are other prevention measures that are even more beneficial, like physical distancing and keeping interactions low. 

“The evidence is building in support of masks,” Dawar said, but they are usually recommended when other measures can’t be taken, for example, at certain workplaces.

“The concern that we continue to have with masks is that (in) a number of cases that have been reported to us, people have been wearing masks,” she added. “Masks don’t stop transmission, particularly non-medical masks.”

She added masks offer some protection, but how much is still unclear.

Council is expecting a report back on mandatory masks in city facilities in the next few weeks. Coun. Bill McNulty brought the motion forward in early September and it was endorsed by all of council.

Masks required in only some circumstances at school

With schools back in session, some parents have been calling for mandatory masks. They are only required in certain high-traffic areas, but Richmond school district superintendent Scott Robinson said he has heard anecdotally they are being worn widely throughout the district’s schools.

Many students arriving at Brighouse elementary last Friday were wearing masks and some were even wearing face shields.

Edna Tai said her son Robin, who started Grade 5 at Brighouse elementary last week, will wear a mask all day.

“I think it’s safer to wear a mask,” she explained. While she’s worried about her son being in school during the pandemic, she said he’s had a “good start” and she was reassured by information from his teacher and principal sent out prior to school starting.

More Coronavirus articles

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Johns Hopkins Coronavirus COVID-19 Map
COVID-19 Okanagan Community Resources

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