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COVID-19 outbreaks affect 16 patients at Royal Columbian, Burnaby hospitals

A total of 16 patients and four staff have tested positive in the outbreaks, which follow the removal of mask mandates in B.C. health care.
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Burnaby Hospital has an active COVID-19 outbreak. It was declared April 18, while another COVID-19 outbreak has been active at Royal Columbian Hospital since April 9. Photo Jennifer Gauthier/files

COVID-19 outbreaks have been declared at both Burnaby and Royal Columbian hospitals.

The Fraser Health current outbreaks site lists a COVID-19 outbreak at Royal Columbian that started April 9 and another at Burnaby Hospital that began April 18.

In both cases, Fraser Health declared the outbreaks after "evidence of transmission in a medicine unit," according to an email from Fraser Health in response to questions from the New West Record/Burnaby NOW newsroom.

At Burnaby Hospital, four staff and 10 patients in the affected unit have tested positive.

At Royal Columbian, six patients in the unit have tested positive.

Both units remain open only to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 60 days, Fraser Health said.

"Upon declaring the outbreaks, Fraser Health immediately implemented precautions at the sites, including enhanced cleaning to protect the health of all staff, medical staff and patients," the email said. 

The emergency departments at both hospitals remain open. Fraser Health has notified all patients in the affected units, and families of those patients who are unable to share the information have been informed.

The outbreaks come in the aftermath of a decision by the Ministry of Health to lift mask mandates in health-care facilities. On April 6, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced an end to universal masking requirements in health-care settings.

“Universal mask-wearing by all staff and visitors in health-care facilities is no longer mandatory,” said an April 6 statement from Henry and Dix.

“These changes signify a step forward in returning to pre-pandemic operations in long-term care, assisted living and health-care facilities while continuing to maintain a safe environment for all. However, there will still be some situations where masks will be required in health-care settings or situations where they have always been required to protect high-risk patients against respiratory transmitted infections and protect workers against high-risk exposure to infectious diseases.”

When is a COVID outbreak declared at a hospital?

Determination and declaration of an outbreak is made by the medical health officer or their official designate, according to the Fraser Health website.

“An outbreak may be declared when at least one staff or patient/resident diagnosed is with COVID-19; AND an investigation indicates transmission most likely occurred in the facility, from another patient/resident, visitor or staff, rather than prior to admission (for patients/residents) or from the community (for staff),” Fraser Health’s site notes.

Further information about COVID-19 outbreaks in health-care facilities is available at the Fraser Health outbreaks page.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, jmaclellan@newwestrecord.ca