New local health orders announced for B.C.'s Fraser Valley

New COVID-19 protocols

UPDATE 2:24 p.m.

British Columbia's provincial health officer has announced regional restrictions in an area that has seen a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among children as adult infections take off.

Dr. Bonnie Henry's order covers the eastern Fraser Valley in Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Agassiz-Harrison.

She says private gatherings will be limited to five additional people or one additional household and to 10 people outdoors, unless everyone is vaccinated.

Organized events like weddings or conferences will be limited to 10 people, or 50 people outside, unless everyone is fully vaccinated, which can be verified on the province's vaccine passport.

Henry says hospital capacity in the area is being tested as surgeries are cancelled.

She says the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among children in British Columbia reflects lower vaccination rates in some communities.

Premier John Horgan said earlier Tuesday that the "pandemic of the unvaccinated" is putting pressure on the health-care system.

"If you have a friend who’s not vaccinated, encourage them to do so. If you have a family member who’s waiting for more data, tell them to look at those who are pleading with their family members to get vaccinated from ICU beds, not just here in British Columbia, but indeed around the world.”

It comes as school trustees in Vancouver voted unanimously in favour of requiring masks to be worn by students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

Mask mandates set by the provincial health officer exempt youngsters in primary grades from wearing masks in class, although intermediate and secondary school students, staff and visitors must be masked in classrooms and indoor areas.

The Vancouver School Board is the first in the province to mandate masks for the younger students.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.

The number of children testing positive for COVID-19 in B.C. is on the rise.

There has been a dramatic increase in children being tested in the last 3 weeks as they returned to school, going from about 100 a day to more than 500 a day.

In most parts of the province, the test positivity rate has not risen, though.

Many of the kids are coming down with other respiratory infections, like colds, something we didn’t see during the first and second waves of the pandemic in 2020.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says the COVID-19 infection rate in the young is reflecting what’s happening in the community. Areas with low vaccination rates have higher numbers of children being infected.

“Part of what we do to protect our own community is making sure we make the best decisions for all of us, particularly children who are not yet eligible for immunization,” said Dr. Henry.

A rapid rise in COVID-19 in the Fraser-East area of the Lower Mainland has prompted new restrictions for that region. They include limits on indoor social gatherings to 5 people and outdoor gatherings to 10 people, unless everyone is vaccinated.

-with files from Canadian Press

UPDATE 12:45 p.m.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be offered to seniors in long-term and continuing care beginning next week.

She says monitoring suggests the effectiveness of shots is lower for this age group and the protection may start to wane for them after six months.

The province will also be starting influenza vaccinations for the same group in the next week or two.

ORIGINAL 12:23 p.m.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are giving a live update on the spread of COVID-19 in British Columbia.

The health officials are scheduled to speak early Tuesday afternoon.

The update comes on the heels of 2,239 COVID-19 cases recorded over the weekend in the province.

B.C. also launched mandatory proof of vaccination for those wanting to access some non-essential businesses like restaurants, movie theatres and fitness centres. Those wishing to access these non-essential services in B.C. will now require the official B.C. Vaccine Card with a QR code.

The Vancouver School Board has also chosen to go above and beyond current provincial health regulations by implementing its own mandatory mask requirement for students from kindergarten through to Grade 3.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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