COVID-19 update for Dec. 17: Here's the latest on coronavirus in BC – Vancouver Sun

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C.
Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Dec. 17, 2021.
We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.
Check back here for more updates throughout the day. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.
As of the latest figures given on Dec. 17:
• Total number of confirmed cases: 225,785 (4,313 active)
• New cases since Dec. 16: 789
• Total deaths: 2,399 (3 deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 191
• Intensive care: 74
• Total vaccinations: 4,332,204 received first dose; 4,113,484 second doses; 688,167 third doses,
• Recovered from acute infection: 218,960
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 1
IN-DEPTH:   Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus in 2021 | in 2020
COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus
COVID-19: B.C.’s vaccine passport is here and this is how it works
COVID-19: Here’s how to get your vaccination shot in B.C.
COVID-19: Look up your neighbourhood in our interactive map of case and vaccination rates in B.C.
COVID-19: Afraid of needles? Here’s how to overcome your fear and get vaccinated
COVID-19: Five things to know about the P1 variant spreading in B.C.
COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver
B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool
B.C.’s new COVID-19 restrictions meant to curb the spread of the Omicron variant has led to the cancellation of New Year’s Eve parties, including skate parties at the PNE and the Bryan Adams concert at Rogers Arena.
“It’s super disappointing,” said Lucy Croysdill of Rolla Skate Club, who had already booked DJs and performers for two New Year’s Eve skate shindigs, one for adults and the other all-ages, but will now have to issue refunds to the almost sold out events.
“We all really needed something like this right now. This New Year’s Eve party could (have been) the start of us all coming out of COVID.”
Adams tweeted that his concert has been cancelled due to the new restrictions limiting capacity of venues holding 1,000 people or more to 50 per cent. Tickets will be refunded.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s public health officer, said Friday that British Columbians can still dine out at restaurants on New Year’s Eve but people have to remain seated and masked. Restaurants, pubs and bars are not facing new restrictions on operating hours or liquor restrictions, although patrons will now be required to stay seated at their tables and not mix and mingle with people seated at different tables.
Henry has ordered that beginning Monday, until the end of January, indoor family gatherings, including those at rental or holiday properties, are limited to one household, plus 10 guests, and everyone must be vaccinated.
She also ordered all sports tournaments and related travel suspended for all ages.
B.C. Hockey lists dozens of tournaments from now until the end of January, some of which have already started.
“That’s incredibly disappointing,” said Melissa Lee, vice-president of the Surrey Female Hockey Association, days before the Monday start of Superheart 2021 for girls under the age seven nine. Superheart is the premier female tournament in the Lower Mainland and has hosted teams from all over Canada and the U.S. in its 22 years of existence.
— Susan Lazaruk
The threat of the Omicron variant has prompted B.C. health officials to announce new restrictions on private gatherings, capacity limits at large venues as well as the cancellation of sports tournaments and organized New Year’s Eve parties.
In making the announcement on Friday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she expects B.C. will see the same increasing trajectory of infections from Omicron that are being seen around the world.
“Omicron is more transmissible which means it can spread even with a smaller amount of virus. If we see rapid increases in cases, we will see more people needing hospital care,” Henry said. “Currently we are seeing milder illness because of high vaccination rates and the transmission is among younger people.”
The province reported 302 cases of the Omicron variant of concern on Friday, up from 135 on Thursday.
A statement from the Health Ministry said the overall number of COVID-19 cases in the province is 789, and there have been three more deaths.
The new restrictions come into effect at midnight Sunday and will remain in place until Jan. 31.
Venues holding 1,000 people or more will be limited to 50 per cent capacity, however proof of vaccination will be required for all organized events, no matter the size. All sports tournaments and travel related to them are cancelled, along with all organized New Year’s events.
Personal gatherings will be restricted to household members, plus 10 guests or one other household, as long as everyone 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
Henry said the restrictions are aimed at helping people to safely enjoy the holiday season.
— Lisa Cordasco 
B.C. recorded another day of rising COVID-19 cases, with 789 new infections reported Friday.
Hospitalizations also increased, with 191 people in hospital, including 74 in intensive care.
Out of 4,313 active cases in the province, more than half are in the populous Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions.
Vancouver Coastal Health reported 286 new cases, while Fraser Health confirmed 186 new infections. Interior Health had 131 new cases; Island Health, 147; and Northern Health, 39.
The number of cases involving the Omicron variant more than doubled in a day: 302 cases were identified in B.C. Friday, up from 132 on Thursday.
The Omicron cases are in: Vancouver Coastal Health (93), Fraser Health (58), Island Health (145), Interior Health (5) and Northern Health (1).
Three additional deaths have also occurred, bringing the number of fatalities from the pandemic to 2,399.
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams’ New Year’s Eve gig at Rogers Arena has been cancelled due to new restrictions around large events in B.C.
Adams tweeted the news soon after Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced capacity limits at venues over 1,000 people and cancellation of organized New Year’s Eve events.
He said ticket holders will be refunded.
Due to the continuing onset of the Omicron virus, the Provincial Government has limited attendance of all events & cancelled New Year’s Eve events, which means that the New Year’s Eve concert starring Bryan Adams is cancelled. All tickets will be refunded at point of purchase.
The concert, billed as the city’s “biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in decades,” was announced in the fall by Adams and organizer Live Nation Canada following B.C.’s lifting of COVID-19 capacity limits.
B.C. announced a slew of new restrictions Friday aimed at curbing the number of new infections amid a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases fuelled by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
The new rules are set to take effect starting midnight Dec. 19 until Jan. 31 and include:
On Thursday, B.C. reported 753 new cases of COVID-19, a dramatic jump from earlier in the week when daily new infections were in the 500-range.
The province is on a similar trajectory as Ontario and Quebec to see Omicron overtake Delta as the predominant variant, said officials.
To date, B.C. has confirmed 135 cases of the Omicron variant of concern. The majority are in Island Health (71), Fraser Health (38) and Vancouver Coastal Health (20).
Most of the cases are related to informal social gatherings and are in younger people in their 20’s and 30’s. The vast majority has been immunized and no one with the Omicron variant has been hospitalized.
Read more: 5 things to know about B.C.’s new restrictions ahead of the holiday season
Stream the briefing here or watch below:
More to come…
The provincial government is set to move to 50 per cent limits for venues that can host more that 1,000 people, a source has confirmed to Postmedia.
That would include Rogers Arena, where the Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Warriors play, and the Abbotsford Centre, where the Abbotsford Canucks play, as well as the Langley Events Centre, home of the Vancouver Giants.
With the Omicron variant set to wash over the province and greatly increase COVID-19 infection rates and possibly hammer hospital services, the province’s health authorities are hosting a 1 p.m. press conference Friday afternoon to explain a series of health measure that will be in force for the next several weeks in an effort to blunt the rate of infection.
According to Sportsnet 650’s Randip Janda, the capacity restrictions will be in force beginning Monday and will remain in place until the end of January.
—Patrick Johnston
Vancouver Coastal Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak on 4 West at Lions Gate Hospital after five patients have tested positive for the virus.
The health authority says outbreak precautions have been implemented and 4 West is closed to new admissions and transfers at this time.
Visits to 4 West have been suspended until outbreak measures are lifted, with an exception for essential care or compassionate end-of-life visits.
VCH says it has implemented strict infection prevention and control protocols to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.
The province should be prepared to abandon its plan to have eligible British Columbians wait six to eight months for a booster, says the head of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.
The highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly around the world and “by January, it’s all going to be Omicron,” said Dr. Brian Conway.
The spread of the variant has pushed some provinces, including Ontario and Saskatchewan, to offer anyone over 18 a booster shot three months after their second vaccination.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said this week the province would stick to its plan to roll out the booster to those 65-plus and others in “key priority groups,” like Indigenous peoples, first and then offer invitations to those in the age-based order they were vaccinated, starting with those in their 60s in the new year.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s public health officer, confirmed that plan on Thursday in a CBC interview, saying that while a third dose of the vaccine offers a “stronger neutralizing antibody response,” she is also considering that waiting at least six months from the second dose offers people a “stronger, longer-lasting protection” against variants in the future.
—Susan Lazaruk
Some travellers heading out of Canada on Thursday said they’re worried about surging COVID-19 cases, but are forging ahead with their plans despite the federal government warning against non-essential international travel.
Sanjay Mahar said he is heading to India from Toronto to see his family for the first time in years, having booked the trip a few months ago when case counts were low and vaccination rates high.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to avoid international travel as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has caused cases to spike in recent days.
“It was upsetting to hear the prime minister say that, but I understand the concern,” he said at Toronto Pearson Airport.
“I thought a lot about it last night, called the airline, but couldn’t get through so it wasn’t clear if I could get any money back.”
But after talking it over with his wife in Mississauga, Ont., and his parents, he decided to go.
“My dad’s health is poor and I do really want to see him,” he said, his voice trailing off.
“What if I didn’t go and I never saw him again? It’s a risk, but I decided to take it.”
Jennifer Johnson waited in line to have her temperature checked before heading to security.
She was off to see her daughter in Boston so they could be together for the holidays.
Read more HERE.
—The Canadian Press
Put up or shut up.
That’s the message from WestJet, who decried the federal government’s new COVID-19 travel advisories as neither based in science or recognizant of the aviation industry’s record of maintaining a safe and efficient flying experience for passengers.
“Air travel is the most tested and protected consumer activity in Canada, every person travelling internationally is tested on average twice throughout their travel journey,” wrote WestJet President and CEO Harry Taylor in a company statement .
“As the only fully-vaccinated air travel sector in the world, WestJet is calling on the government to publicly share the travel-related COVID-19 data that has been used to re-impose the advisory and advice targeted towards fully-vaccinated Canadians and the travel and tourism industry.”
On Wednesday, the federal government re-introduced advisories against non-essential travel as fears over the Omicron variant reach a fever pitch.
The statement accused the federal government of being out of step with the rest of the world in its COVID-19 aviation policy, as well as disregarding guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) on blanket travel bans.
Barret Armann, President of Unifor Local 7378 representing Sunwing Airlines pilots, said the advisories come just as the industry is regaining its footing.
“Travel restrictions are not based on any type of science,” he told the Sun.
—Bryan Passifiume
There were 753 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province Thursday, according to the latest update from health officials.
The majority of new cases are in people in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, with 240 and 232 new cases respectively. Island Health reported 137 new cases, Interior Health had 99 and Northern Health had 45.
There are currently 3,878 active cases in the province, including 1,091 in Fraser Health, 999 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 905 in Island Health, 644 in Interior Health and 238 in Northern Health. There is one active case in someone who lives outside of Canada.
Of the active cases, 184 people are in hospital, including 70 in intensive care.
Meanwhile, cases of the new Omicron variant continue to rise in B.C. Health officials confirmed Thursday there have been 135 cases of the variant identified in the province — 71 in Island Health, 38 in Fraser Health, 20 in Vancouver Coastal Health, five in Interior Health and one in Northern Health.
COVID-19 cases in B.C. are rising again and the new Omicron variant is taking off in much of Canada and the world.
On Wednesday, just 10 days before Christmas, the federal government announced a “Level 3” advisory against all non-essential international travel.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said those who travel abroad risk being stranded, as Canada and other countries may change rules on short notice.
“You may have difficulty returning to Canada, or may have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period,” said the federal government’s website.
Currently, returning travellers are subject to being randomly selected for testing and quarantine upon arrival. Ottawa will be expanding this, though exact details aren’t available yet.
Some insurance companies may not pay medical claims if the Government of Canada has issued a travel advisory for your destination, according to the federal government’s website.
Read more  HERE.
—Joanne Lee-Young
Find out how your neighbourhood is doing in the battle against COVID-19 with the latest number of new cases, positivity rates, and vaccination rates:

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.
B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool
Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page
B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update
World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
–with files from The Canadian Press
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