COVID-19 Update for September 28: Here’s what you need to know

All adults in Ontario can now make an appointment starting Monday to receive an Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccine.

The county made the bivalent vaccine available to the most vulnerable populations earlier this month, but said appointments to receive the new injection would be open to all residents 18 or older from Sept. 26. Health Secretary Sylvia Jones says getting a booster dose is particularly important with the onset of the fall and winter seasons for respiratory disease.— The Canadian Press

HIV spike among drug users in BC linked to COVID-19 lockdown, study says

A new study says reduced access to HIV services during early COVID-19 lockdowns in British Columbia has been linked to a “sharp increase” in HIV transmission among some drug users.

The study by researchers at the University of British Columbia says that while reduced social interaction during the March-May 2020 lockdown worked to reduce HIV transmission, it may not “outweigh” the increase caused by reduced access to services.

The study, published in Lancet Regional Health, found that fewer people started HIV antiretroviral therapy or took viral load tests under lockdown, while visits to overdose prevention services and safe consumption places also decreased.

The total number of new HIV diagnoses in BC continues a decades-long decline.

But dr. Jeffrey Joy, lead author of the report published on Friday, said he found a “surprising” spike in transmission among some drug users during the lockdown.

— The Canadian Press

Struggle to end the virus pandemic takes place on the sidelines of the UN

In four days of fiery speeches on war, climate change and the threat of nuclear weapons, one issue felt like an afterthought at this year’s UN General Assembly: the coronavirus pandemic.

Masks were often pulled under the chin — or not worn at all — and any mention of COVID-19 by world leaders usually came at the end of a long list of grievances.

But on the sidelines of the annual meeting, the pandemic was still a major part of the conversation.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, UNICEF Director Catherine Russell and others to discuss equitable access to COVID vaccines, tests and treatments.

— The Associated Press

22 dead, 305 in hospital: weekly data from BCCDC

In British Columbia, 22 more people who recently tested positive for COVID-19 died during the week of Sept. 11-17, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the BC Center for Disease Control.

The number of people in hospital with COVID dropped slightly to 305 on Thursday, 22 of whom are in intensive care.

Including updated death data from recent weeks, a total of 4,253 people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

A further 637 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed this week, but limited testing is underestimating the prevalence of the virus in the population.

For an introduction to interpreting data in the weekly BCCDC reports, Click here.

— Joseph Ruttle

What are BC’s current public health measures?

MASKS: Masks are not required in indoor public settings, although individual businesses and event organizers may choose to require them.

MEETINGS AND EVENTS: There are currently no restrictions on gatherings and events such as in-person gatherings, weddings, funerals, worship services, exercise and fitness activities and swimming pools. There are also no restrictions or capacity limits for restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs; and no restrictions on sports activities.

CARE HOMES: There are no capacity restrictions for long-term care and retirement home visitors, but visitors must show proof of vaccination before visiting.

Exemptions are available for children under the age of 12, children with a medical exemption, and visitors accompanying end-of-life visits. Visitors to retirement homes should also take a rapid antigen test before visiting the facility or being tested on arrival. Testing exceptions are available for those who are present for compassionate visits or end-of-life care.

How do I get vaccinated in BC?

Anyone living in BC who is eligible for a vaccine can get one by following these steps:

• Register online at to make an appointment in your community.
• Or, if you prefer, you can register and then visit a health facility’s walk-in clinic.
• The system will alert you when it is time to go for your second dose.
• The same system also alerts you when it’s time for your booster dose.

Where can I get a COVID-19 test?

TEST CENTERS: BC’s COVID-19 Test Collection Centers currently only test people with symptoms who are hospitalized, pregnant, considered high-risk, or living/working with high-risk people. You can find a testing center using the BC Center for Disease Control testing center map.

If you have mild symptoms, you do not need to get tested and you should stay home until the fever is gone. Those without symptoms do not need a test.

QUICK ANTIGEN TESTS HOME: Eligible British Columbians over the age of 18 with a personal health number can visit a pharmacy to take home a free test kit containing five COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

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