Photo: BC gov. Flickr
Dr. Bonnie Henry
ORIGINAL: 4:35 p.m.
While the Ministry of Health reported six new cases of COVID-19 in the Interior earlier Wednesday afternoon, Interior Health says the region actually saw seven new cases in the past 24 hours.
This brings the total active cases in the Interior to 23, and the total positive tests since the beginning of the pandemic to 486.
While the Interior had no COVID hospitalizations for several weeks, a single patient was hospitalized with the virus this week.
ORIGINAL: 3:30 p.m.
Another 122 cases of COVID-19 were identified in British Columbia over the past 24 hours, six of which came from the Interior Health region.
The new cases bring the total number of positive tests in the province to 7,498, and active cases once again hit a new high of 1,614. An additional 2,966 British Columbians are self-isolating, after coming into contact with a COVID-positive person.
Hospitalizations in B.C. dropped by three since Tuesday, down to 60, while 23 people are being treated in ICU.
To date, 485 residents of the Interior Health region have tested positive for the virus.
No new COVID-related deaths were announced Wednesday, and the total deaths to this date remains at 219.
Additionally, no new outbreaks of the virus has occurred in the past 24 hours either, but outbreaks remain at 11 long-term seniors care facilities and three acute care facilities.
Photo: Castanet News
UPDATE 4:16 p.m.
RCMP tell Castanet they have located the man who was reported missing on September 15, 2020 after his truck was found abandoned at the Upper Arrow Lake Ferry at Galena Bay on Tuesday.
“The Nakusp RCMP is pleased to confirm that the 54-year-old man reported missing has been located, and he is safe and sound. Thanks to the media and public for your assistance,” says Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey.
ORIGINAL 8:46 p.m.
RCMP are searching for the owner of a vehicle which was abandoned in the lineup to the Upper Arrow Lake Ferry at Galena Bay on Tuesday.
The incident was reported to Nakusp RCMP at 9:40 p.m. after ferry terminal staff reported a white 2018 GMC Sierra pickup truck had been abandoned in the ferry terminal line up.
The owner of the truck has been determined to be 54-year-old Rodney Hawkins from Nelson, B.C.
Police are appealing to any ferry users who may have seen something involving the vehicle or its occupant to come forward with their information. The GMC quad-cab pickup truck, which had a black Yakima bike pad over the rear tailgate, was the fourth vehicle in the lineup, in the left-hand lane and investigators believe that the vehicle entered the ferry lineup at approximately 6 p.m.
RCMP is now searching for the vehicle’s registered owner, Rodney Hawkins, who is considered a missing person at this time. There is nothing to indicate foul play, however police and Rodney’s family are very concerned for his health and well-being.
Description of Rodney Hawkins:
- Caucasian male;
- 54 years;
- 5 ft 10 in (178 cm);
- 160 lbs (71 kg);
- brown hair;
- brown eyes;
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Rodney Hawkins, or who has any dash camera footage that may be of interest to investigators is urged to contact their local police.
The Canadian Press – Sep 16, 2020 / 3:18 pm | Story: 310791
Photo: BC Gov Flickr
Minister Michelle Mungall welcomes Zavier to the legislative chamber
A fourth cabinet minister in British Columbia says she won’t run in the next election.
Michelle Mungall, the minister of jobs, economic development and competitiveness, says she wants to spend more time with her family, including her two-year-old son.
Mungall was first elected as the member for Nelson-Creston in 2009.
She joins Forests Minister Doug Donaldson; Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction; and Scott Fraser, Indigenous relations and reconciliation minister, in deciding not to seek re-election.
The decisions come amid talk of a possible provincial election.
Premier John Horgan said recently that the circumstances have changed since the NDP struck an agreement with the Green caucus three years ago to form a minority government, fuelling speculation that he might call an election ahead of the fixed date next fall.
Earlier this week, Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the government should focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and overdose deaths instead of mulling an early election call.
Chris Campbell / Burnaby Now – Sep 16, 2020 / 2:53 pm | Story: 310785
Burnaby RCMP responded when this lighter – which looks like a real grenade – was reported.
Burnaby RCMP officers had to respond in a cautious manner this week with the report of a grenade.
Officers were called out to the report that the grenade had been left behind in a Burnaby hotel room, according to an RCMP tweet on Tuesday.
“It turned out to be a lighter,” say police. “We treat all weapons as real until we can prove they are not.”
Replica weapons have become a scourge for Burnaby police in recent weeks.
Two men, including one with a replica handgun tucked in his waistband, were arrested by Burnaby RCMP in late August.
Drug section officers spotted the men engaged in “behaviour associated with drug trafficking” in the area of Imperial Street and Kingsway, according to Burnaby RCMP.
The officers stopped the men’s car, and a search revealed the replica weapon, as well as multiple cell phones and $2,500 in cash.
Earlier this summer, reports of a man with a handgun tucked into his pants brought police to a Burnaby mall parkade.
A member of the public contacted Burnaby RCMP and reported seeing a man with a gun in a Metropolis at Metrotown parkade, according to a police news release.
Multiple units responded, and a witness directed police to where the suspect had last been seen.
Officers located him in a nearby stairwell and told him he was under arrest.
The man was uncooperative at first and appeared to be under the influence of drugs, according to police.
He reached towards his weapon twice, police said, but officers were able to de-escalate the situation and take the man into custody.
The handgun turned out to be a pellet gun that looked a lot like a real firearm, according to police.
“In these instances, we treat a firearm as real until it is proven not to be,” spokesperson Cpl. Mike Kalanj said in the release.
Photo: Google Maps
A large camping party last weekend in the Kootenays has Interior Health concerned.
The health authority sent out a notice Wednesday about a group of about 150 people who took part in a camping event at the Bombi Summit between Castlegar and Salmo on Sept. 12 and 13.
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic when we learn that people have participated in large gatherings, IH urges participants to self-monitor for COVID symptoms and get testing should they develop,” the notice states.
Interior Health says there has been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 related to the event so far, but “the possibility of COVID-19 exposure is increased significantly when large groups gather. We urge everyone to keep their bubbles small and reduce their number of close contacts.”
The health authority says people should not be attending or planning gatherings of more than 50 people.
Testing is recommended for anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Loss of sense of taste or smell
Other milder symptoms may include: runny nose, fatigue, body aches (muscles and joints aching), diarrhea, headache, sore throat, vomiting and red eyes.
Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter – Sep 16, 2020 / 11:45 am | Story: 310752
Photo: Colin Dacre
For years, a large piece of winding driftwood has been stationed on Chesterman Beach. It has become an iconic meeting place for residents, who can tell you exactly where it stands. Carved into it are the words “we are all one.” It has withstood countless wicked winter storms, but has been forever marked by a beach fire gone rogue this summer.
A black circle is now etched into the wood’s surface and its destruction serves as a daily reminder of the costs of Tofino’s tourism economy.
As the province of B.C. transitioned into Phase 3 of its restart plan at the beginning of July, Tourism Tofino launched a recovery advertising campaign.
With the loss of international tourism, which makes up 25 per cent of Tofino’s summer visitation, the organization was unsure what travel would look like in the wake of the pandemic.
The campaign only lasted 10 days, as it became evident that there would be no shortage of bookings. Although resort bookings dropped just over 20 per cent in the month of July, occupancy levels for August are expected to be similar to 2019, said Nancy Cameron, executive director of Tourism Tofino.
What many thought was going to be a soft opening, turned into a summer unlike anything they had seen before. A continuous convoy of tourists flooded in from all over the country, leaving ashes from illegal fires, along with empty beer cans, cigarette butts and toilet paper strewn in the surrounding forests.
“People don’t have that respect for this part of the world,” said Terry Dorward, Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks project coordinator. “It’s going to take some educating. People who come into Tla-o-qui-aht territories need a constant reminder that they need to be respectful and leave it how it was.”
When the District of Tofino (DOT) was budgeting back in March – at the beginning of the pandemic – they made the decision to cut back on by-law enforcement officers. That, coupled with one officer resigning at the beginning of the summer, meant that by-law enforcement was operating at half its regular effort, said Tofino Mayor, Josie Osborne.
Unable to keep up, public sites like Cox Bay Beach became overrun, with parking spilling out onto the narrow highway leading into town.
“It’s a matter of time before there are more accidents,” said Osborne. “I think a lot of people are familiar with the kind of congestion and safety issues that Cathedral Grove has experienced and that’s what we’re seeing this summer along the highway. It’s really important for us to work with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on that. They have put in a little bit of new signage, but it doesn’t go far enough and I think we all realize that.”
The ministry, which is responsible for the highway leading through Tofino, said that it is working with the DOT to identify areas of concern and has installed parking signs on the road near Cox Bay Beach entrances.
A spokesperson said that they are “aware” of the challenges, but didn’t offer any further comment about solutions.
While there are unaddressed safety concerns with the increase of visitors, there are also deep cultural and ecological consequences, said Julian Hockin-Grant, Tribal Parks Allies Coordinator.
“I think there’s a very fair argument to be made saying the First Nations, more than anybody, bears the cost of tourism,” he said.
The traffic on the beaches makes it difficult for First Nations to participate in cultural activities without a crowd gathering to take photos.
“That has a psychological cost,” said Hockin-Grant. “And there are, of course, ecological costs to people walking all over the beach and trampling habitat for sand flies, which feed herring.”
With more boats in the water, the herring are scared away, and with more sewage in the water, the eelgrass has become an inhospitable place for herring to mate or lay eggs, he said.
“It is overwhelming,” said Saya Masso, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation tribal administrator. “I think everyone is surprised at the amount of tourism.”
In effort to try and mitigate some of its impacts, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation established the Tribal Park Allies program. The program aims at partnering with local businesses to ask that their clients contribute one per cent of their sales.
The funding will go towards the “ecological protection and restoration of the Tribal Parks ancestral gardens and the resurgence of Tla-o-qui-aht culture and governance,” according to the Tribal Park Allies website.
“[Tourists] are coming here to see healthy watersheds and rivers and salmon runs and forests,” said Masso. “We think a penny on the dollar from a client is fair and that they would be more than willing to pay that [to] see continued stewardship and better regional services.”
With only 37 business operators signed up as Tribal Park Allies, Hockin-Grant is asking that more businesses become an ally.
The Surf Grove Campground is one of Tofino’s newest business to operate off of Cox Bay Beach, and has not joined the Tribal Park Allies. While Shane Richards, managing partner of Surf Grove Campground, acknowledges that the beach is public property, he said “we care for it as our own.”
“Guests are reminded that fires are not permitted on Cox Bay at the time of booking, at check-in and anytime they buy firewood,” said Richards. “We have added signs facing the beach and the campsite reminding people of this. We have an ambassador [and] guest services team member walking the property and interacting with our guests throughout the day to remind them to clean up after themselves. We have on-site staff tour the property and beach at 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. daily.”
Choosing to operate as a tourism destination was a conscious decision the community of Tofino made three decades ago, as residents did not want to function as a resource extraction economy, said Osborne.
“I think now we’re coming to terms with what that means to be dependent on a eco-tourism economy and it is time to make some big, hard shifts,” she said. “[The Tribal Parks Allies] is a more regenerative model, using the profits of tourism to invest back into communities and into the environment.”
As the summer comes to a close, the tourists are trickling back home. While residents can go back to enjoying Tofino’s beaches without all of the crowds, scarred logs and discarded trash now lines the coast – left behind for them to clean up.
“We need to operate with our eyes open and make change for the better,” said Masso. “We want to implement a system that manages for abundance, not for sustainability.”
The Canadian Press – Sep 16, 2020 / 11:32 am | Story: 310750
Photo: The Canadian Press
Officials walk past the wreckage where a train carrying potash derailed near Hope, B.C,, on Monday, September 14, 2020. CN Rail says at least 20 rail cars carrying potash derailed today near Hope, B.C.The company says no injuries, fires or dangerous goods are involved. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CN Rail says work is now underway to recover the 60 freight cars that derailed off a bridge Monday about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver.
A statement from the company says the damaged cars from the Canadian Pacific train are being removed from the site and repair work is underway on the bridge near Hope, B.C.
The CP freight train was hauling potash, a non-hazardous, potassium-rich type of salt, when the cars left the bridge, dumping some of the material into a nearby creek.
No one was hurt and CN says the spill is contained and water monitoring is continuing, while remediation work begins with the potash being dredged from the creek.
The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the derailment.
The CP train was on the CN line because the two companies share tracks through the narrow Fraser Canyon between Hope and Lytton.
Photo: Twitter/BC Wildfire Service
The BC Wildfire Service was successful during a small-scale ignition operation at the Doctor Creek wildfire on Wednesday.
The Doctor Creek wildfire, outside Canal Flats, is now classified as being held at 8,090 hectares in size. The small-scale ignition operations were mainly conducted through aerial operations due to smokey conditions from fires in the U.S.
Video shows a plastic sphere dispenser which is used to deploy ignition spheres into the unburnt section of the wildfire. This is done to remove remaining unburnt fuel between the wildfire perimeter and control lines.
A chemical reaction occurs when the golf-ball-sized spheres are deployed which causes them to ignite shortly after they hit the forest floor.
The video was taken from the angle of the PSD operator and shows the plastic spheres, the PSD and the fire slowly burning down to the control line. It was filmed after the PSD was used. pic.twitter.com/xf9fkvrYI4
— BC Wildfire Service (@BCGovFireInfo) September 16, 2020
Megan Lalonde/Vancouver is Awesome – Sep 16, 2020 / 11:03 am | Story: 310747
Two people suspected of feeding black bears in an upscale Whistler neighbourhood are facing charges following a lengthy investigation.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service confirmed charges of intentionally feeding dangerous wildlife and attracting dangerous wildlife.
The investigation was launched in July 2018 after an anonymous complaint to the service’s RAPP line, claiming that residents of Whistler’s Kadenwood neighbourhood were deliberately feeding bears.
“The suspects allegedly purchased large quantities of apples, carrots, pears, eggs and almonds to leave out for the animals,” officials explained in the post.
In 2018, the COS said it had also received “several other reports and information” of bears approaching people and creating property damage in Kadenwood. It also reportedly had information suggesting that bear feeding had been occurring in the area “over a number of years, contributing to the domestication-like behaviour of several bears.”
A sow and two cubs that were suspected to have been fed in Kadenwood were euthanized by the Crown agency in September of that year after displaying “very troubling” behaviour on the scene, conservation officers said at the time.
The charges were reportedly approved by the BC Prosecution Service in June of this year, while a warrant was issued for both individuals.
According to the COS, one of the individuals returned to Canada on Aug. 16 and was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency at Vancouver International Airport.
A court appearance is scheduled to take place Nov. 18 in North Vancouver.
Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver is Awesome – Sep 16, 2020 / 10:51 am | Story: 310740
Photo: Jamie Maclaren
Scene in Strathcona Park
An independent restaurant in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is closing its Hastings Street location due to what management is calling “deplorable conditions” in the area.
Balila, a Middle Eastern restaurant, opened up on West Hastings in early 2018. But, the business has announced it is closing at the end of the month, not only because of the ongoing pandemic but also because “the conditions of the area are getting worse by the day.”
Residents and business owners in the area have been increasingly vocal the last few months about the tent city that arose in Strathcona Park following dismantling of one at Oppenheimer Park, as well as the volume of crime in the neighbourhood.
The most recent homeless count conducted in March showed there were 2,095 people in Vancouver who were either living in some form of shelter, or on the street, including those residing in recreational vehicles and cars, of which there are many at the edge of Strathcona Park.
Coun. Pete Fry, who lives in Strathcona and was recently threatened on a sidewalk by a man saying he would stab him, outlined some of those concerns last month in addressing park board commissioners.
“There have been trip-line booby traps, bear bangers shot at park users, threats with weapons, swarmings, verbal accosting and physical assaults directly as a result of the encampment,” Fry said.
Balila’s operators say they “fear for our customers’ health and safety as well as [that] of our team members and partners,” at the Hastings location, saying the problems are “evident to the naked eye.”
Those problems, explain the owners, are driving customers away and hurting Balila’s bottom line: “Our sales levels have not been sustainable within the Hastings area. Our decision, to the most, is based on an area that brings strong concerns to both the mental and physical health of our Balila family, our partners, and most certainly our customers.”
Sarah Grochowski/Vancouver is Awesome – Sep 16, 2020 / 10:40 am | Story: 310739
University of British Columbia students were busted by police Saturday for an outdoor party on campus.
In a 30-second video posted to Twitter Sept. 12 – captioned “front-row seat to the RCMP breaking up a party of 50 people” – students were seen fleeing the scene.
The witness, a graduate student, detailed that the party appeared in an area between the Ritsumeikan residence and Totem Park.
Since mid-March, when the pandemic was declared, gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned by provincial health officials.
Following suit, UBC also banned sizeable on-campus gatherings.
In its code of conduct this year, the university “states you cannot have parties,” confirmed. UBC director of university affairs Matthew Ramsey.
“If you violate that you could face eviction.”
As a result of Saturday’s incident, Ramsey said on-campus security is ramping up patrols around residences.
“Guards will inform any students found to be congregating and not following health guidelines to do so,” he added, making mention of the more than 200 times the university has communicated with its students about current health and safety guidelines.
Students living on campus are also required to take an in-person class which explores the new rules, Ramsey explained.
Ultimately, the director said the police response Saturday was “an example of things working as they should.”
“Someone from the community called and RCMP dispersed the group,” he assured.
front row seats to the RCMP breaking up a party of ~50 people… don’t these kids know we’re trying to *abolish* the police? pic.twitter.com/8UmG61Yf3h
— good trouble (@krislikesbooks) September 13, 2020
The Canadian Press – Sep 16, 2020 / 10:10 am | Story: 310735
Photo: The Canadian Press
Needles are seen on the ground in Oppenheimer park in Vancouver’s downtown eastside on March 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Registered and psychiatric nurses in British Columbia will be able to prescribe safer drugs for people at risk of overdose under a new public health order.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order comes as B.C. experiences a record number of monthly overdose deaths with border closings during the COVID-19 pandemic being blamed for putting more toxic drugs on the streets.
Henry said Wednesday that new nursing standards will be introduced, along with training, education and access to expert consultation.
More than 5,000 people have fatally overdosed in B.C. since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016, but fatalities were declining before COVID-19.
Only doctors and nurse practitioners have been able to prescribe drugs, including substitute medications for illicit-drug users as an alternative to potentially deadly substances on the street.
Henry said expanding the number of health professionals who can prescribe could lead to connections that help those with entrenched addictions seek help.
“When people are using drugs it’s not the shunning and the shaming that’s going to help them,” she said.
“Right now, the toxicity of the drugs that are on the street is so high that we’re losing our colleagues, our friends, our family members before they’ve even had a chance to connect with people.”
The latest data from the BC Coroners Service from July shows there were 175 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths.
In March, British Columbia temporarily expanded access to a safer supply of prescription drugs due to concerns about a high number of overdose deaths among isolated drug users during COVID-19.
The ministries of Health and Mental Health and Addictions will expand that access by working with Henry’s office to increase the types of medications that can be prescribed and dispensed by doctors, pharmacists and nurses.
Henry has advocated for access to a safer supply of drugs and has called on the federal government to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has also called for access to safer prescription drugs.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently agreed a safer supply is key during the dual public emergencies of a pandemic and the overdose crisis, but he has maintained his stance against decriminalization.
Guy Felicella, peer clinical adviser with the Overdose Emergency Response Centre and the BC Centre on Substance Use, said Henry’s order is a positive step toward building a system of care that includes harm reduction treatment and recovery.
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