COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC) COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Surrey ‘ground zero’ for COVID-19, but has seen less than half of B.C. deaths: Dix

Surrey Board of Trade calls for mask mandate in B.C. amid rising cases

Surrey is “ground zero” for COVID-19 in B.C.

That’s what Health Minister Adrian Dix told a virtual business crowd this week during a Surrey Board of Trade-hosted digital townhall Tuesday with Dix and Victoria Lee, Fraser Health President and CEO.

Dix said that of the province’s more than 6,000 active cases on Tuesday, roughly 75 per cent were in the Fraser Health region “with the largest share of those in Surrey.”

According to new region-by-region statistics released by the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Surrey health region is responsible for at least 27.7 per cent of the province’s total COVID-19 cases while being home to only 11 per cent of the B.C.’s population.

The most recent map, created Nov. 10, shows that 3,993 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Surrey from January to October, dwarfing surrounding municipalities. Surrey has more than four times the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford (880). Surrey also has more cases than Vancouver (3,444), when all Vancouver health regions are combined.

READ MORE: MAP: Surrey’s home to more than 27% of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

However, Dix said the disproportionate infection rate in Surrey doesn’t hold true when considering B.C.’s COVID-19-related deaths.

“It should be said that if you look at overall people who passed away from COVID-19, Fraser Health is not leading the province,” he said Tuesday. “Under half of the people who passed away from COVID-19 live in the Fraser Health region which indicates two things: I think, the excellent performance of the authority, but also the fact that in general Fraser Health is younger than other other health authorities… and in Surrey.”

With rising rates of infection in B.C’s largest school district and beyond, Dix was asked what the threshold would be to close schools again.

The health minister said “there is no number” and that it’s his government’s “strong intention to keep schools open” as “there’s not a lot of transmission in schools.”

Instead, he said, community transmission must be reduced.

Lee echoed that schools aren’t seeing high levels of transmission.

She told the business crowd that much of the infections are starting with private gatherings, which then results in “spillover” into schools, worksites and vulnerable settings like health care.

Lee said there are a few reasons Surrey’s infection rate is so high, including the city’s density being a setting that allows for faster spread of the virus; Surrey being home to a large number of essential workers that have a high level of exposure to the virus; as well as a high number of private gatherings in Surrey.

During the townhall, Dix and Lee also fielded questions on why B.C. has opted not to enact a mandatory mask order.

It’s something the SBOT called for just hours before hosting the Tuesday townhall, with the business group’s CEO Anita Huberman saying “we cannot afford to go into another economic lockdown.”

“We are past a critical time to get serious and need immediate and dramatic action,” she stressed in the release.

Lee said B.C.’s top doctor Dr. Bonnie Henry has been “very clear that her clear expectation that in public places that people wear masks.”

“She’s not calling it mandatory but that is her expectation across the board and there are many reasons why she’s not opting for mandatory masking,” said Lee, noting there is reasoning behind not creating a mandate such as impacts on vulnerable populations, those with medical reasons, as well as enforcement.

“From my perspective there are ways we can achieve the outcomes we’re looking for which is to have people masked if we don’t have other control measures available,” Lee added.

Dix echoed that.

“I’ve heard (Dr. Bonnie Henry) say it dozens of times, I’ve said it dozens of times. Wear a mask,” he said. “Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. Masks are mandated in many places in B.C. because COVID-19 safety plans are mandated and obligatory for all businesses.”

READ MORE: Surrey gym linked to 42 COVID-19 cases

Several outbreaks have been declared in Surrey in the past week.

This past weekend an outbreak was declared at a gym in Surrey, with at least 42 cases of the virus being linked to Platinum Athletic Club (7653 King George Blvd.). Anyone attended the fitness centre from October 21 to November 7 is being told to self-isolate for 14 days.

According to a social media post made by the gym, the virus was likely spread by a person who attended the fitness centre while waiting for their COVID-19 test results.

Also last weekend, Fraser Health declared at outbreak at Cambridge Elementary school after seven positive COVID-19 cases there. A Nov. 14 news release stated it would close for two weeks.

In North Delta, an outbreak was declared at Jarvis Traditional Elementary after six positive cases of the virus there. That school was also closed two weeks.

Meantime, outbreaks at senior care homes continue in Surrey.

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at PICS Assisted Living in Surrey.

A staff member and a resident at the Newton facility have tested positive for the virus, according to a news release from the health authority on Sunday afternoon (Nov. 15).

Meantime, a senior died at the White Rock Seniors Village this week, as an outbreak there grew to nearly 40 people infected as of Tuesday morning.

READ MORE: COVID-19 claims senior, as outbreak numbers at White Rock care home near 40

One other Retirement Concept facility on the Semiahmoo Peninsula has an active outbreak. At Peace Portal Seniors Village (15441 16 Ave.), one resident and one staff member have tested positive for COVID-19. The resident is showing no symptoms and the staff member is self-isolating at home, a Nov. 16 update states.

Last week, Lee called on celebrants of Diwali, Karwa Chauth and other festivals to celebrate only at home with members of their immediate households as COVID-19 cases continue to rapidly rise in this region. This year Diwali fell on Saturday, Nov. 14.

The B.C. government is expected to provide an update on regional restrictions on Thursday afternoon. Visit surreynowleader.com for the latest news.

-With files from Tracy Holmes, Tyler Olsen, Aaron Hinks, Tom Zillich, Tom Zytaruk



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Amy on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. researchers are asking for the public’s help in monitoring the bat population. (Cathy Koot photo)
Semiahmoo Peninsula residents asked to monitor bat activity

Researchers keeping eye on spread of white-nose syndrome

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

RCMP are looking for “an unknown man who wrapped his arms around” a female youth in Clayton Feb. 26. (Black Press file photo)
Youth assaulted by unknown man in Cloverdale

Mounties looking for ‘tall and thin’ Caucasian man in his 40’s with short dark brown hair

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for missing Chilliwack woman sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother Shaelene Bell

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

Most Read