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New Tri-City COVID-19 cases remain elevated despite decline

After the Tri-Cities led a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, large swaths of the Lower Mainland appear to be following suit.
Weekly data shows new COVID-19 cases in the Tri-Cities dipped 17% between Feb. 21 and 27, though they remain at near peak levels.

New COVID-19 cases in the Tri-Cities dropped 17% last week but remain elevated as the province copes with a resurgence of cases in recent days. 

New weekly cases dipped to 225 between Feb. 21 and 27, a 17% decline from the previous reporting period when 276 cases were isolated. That’s equivalent to between 10 and 15 cases per 100,000 people a day, a range on par with Delta, Langley and large swaths of East and downtown Vancouver. 

The local resurgence of cases in recent weeks has precipitated a number of clusters and outbreaks in the region. 

At Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody, an entire medical unit has been shut down after 10 patients tested positive for the coronavirus, and at an ongoing outbreak at a Port Coquitlam long-term care home, six people have tested positive for the coronavirus.

COVID-19 exposures have also been acknowledged at a handful of Tri-City grocery stores, a junior hockey club and a gymnastics school, among others. 

Meanwhile, hospitalizations across B.C. crept up to a seven-week high Thursday. Of the 248 now in hospital across the province, 63 are in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Fraser Health is also 50% higher than it was in early January. And while variants of concern still make up less than 1% of all new cases in the province, their numbers continue to rise. 

On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 46 new variant cases had been identified across the province, raising the total to 246, of which a majority (178) have been found in Fraser Health. 

Two people in B.C. have died of a variant in recent days and contact tracers are still having trouble tracking the source of transmission in roughly 25% of cases, said Henry.

Closer to home, a Port Coquitlam high school has suspended in-person classes for three weeks after a COVID-19 variant of concern was identified at the school and “a significant number of students and staff have been directed to isolate,” according to the principal.

Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary School, a Catholic private school in Port Coquitlam, is one of now 23 schools across the province that have been hit with a variant of concern — including Maple Creek middle school in Coquitlam — though few have resorted to a full suspension of in-person classes. 

A total of 21 schools across the Tri-Cities have been flagged by Fraser Health for an active COVID-19 exposure, a number that has surged and abated in recent weeks as local caseloads fluctuate. 

Henry once again warned that exposure to COVID-19 in schools is a direct reflection of the neighbourhoods where they’re found.

“The most important thing is reducing transmission in the community,” she said.