No new COVID-19 cases, two hospitalized in northern B.C.

Dr. Bonnie Henry reported Saturday no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region, but there are two patients currently hospitalized.

There are now 884 cases and 17 deaths in B.C. There are now 81 patients in hospital, 52 of whom are in intensive, and including two who are in acute care in northern B.C. Another 396 people in the province have recovered, including five in the north.

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Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged the virus crisis has been a particular challenge for northern B.C. and other remote communities across the province, where there are outstanding concerns regarding fly-in resource workers in the northeast, Canadians travelling to their summer homes in the northwest, and access to appropriate testing.

“We are not always able to keep everything out, there’s essential services that need to happen,” said Dr. Henry.

Henry said the province is working on strategies for more rapid testing in the north and for the transportation of patients.

“So if we identify people there’s an effective place them if they need hospital care, and that may mean removing them from the community and taking them to a place to where they can receive the care they need,” Dr. Henry said.

The University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George has been designated the region's primary site for COVID-19 patients suffering from the respiratory disease, but the province says all other hospitals will be used if and as needed.

However, Northern Health's capacity to treat patients will peter out more quickly than elsewhere in B.C. if the novel coronavirus pandemic reaches the levels seen in the harder-hit regions of the world, according to a modeling exercise the provincial government made public on Friday.

If the pandemic was limited to the relatively-modest numbers seen in South Korea, northern B.C. would have 12 patients in need of intensive care and 23 of them would need ventilators, according to the model's estimates.

But under that scenario, University Hospital of Northern British Columbia would be short two intensive-care beds although it would have six ventilators to spare. Indeed, the province would have an excess of just four ICU beds while it would have 295 more ventilators than needed.

Once the modeling has progressed to the worst-case scenario, based on northern Italy's experience, 47 patients would need intensive care and 38 of them would need ventilation, leaving UHNBC short 37 beds and 22 ventilators.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Saturday there is an emergency operations centre operating since January integrating the Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority into provincial planning to ensure appropriate resources are in place.

“The north is a key priority,” Dix said.

“Even though we’ve identified 12 cases in Northern health today, two in acute care, we know the importance of doing that in every part of British Columbia and every single health authority, and the Northern Health authority is fully integrated into that strategy.”

“It’s very important for people to have confidence everywhere in the province that we’re going to be providing the supports and care that they need.”

In the Alberta Peace, three new cases were reported Friday in the Peace River area, bringing the total to 30 in Alberta's northern health zone. There are three cases in the Grande Prairie region.

There are four cases reported in Fort McMurray, five cases in the High Prairie region, and three cases in the Slave Lake area.

Numbers recorded in B.C. include 444 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 291 in Fraser Health, 60 in Island Health, and 77 in Interior Health.

This is a developing story. 

— with a report from Mark Nielsen in Prince George

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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