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Health-care workers at COVID-19 testing sites intimidated and threatened, officials say

Intimidating workers and impeding services at testing facilities is illegal, and threats and aggressive behaviour will be reported to police, say provincial officials
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Island Health chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick says there have been a couple of incidents on the Island where staff at COVID-19 testing sites have had to contact the RCMP for assistance. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Health care workers at COVID-19 testing centres have been intimidated, threatened and verbally harassed by people seeking testing, including at Island facilities, officials say.

Intimidating workers and impeding services at testing facilities is illegal, and threats and aggressive behaviour will be reported to police, says a joint statement by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, and Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“There have been a couple of incidents on the Island where our staff have contacted RCMP for assistance,” said chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick at the mass vaccination clinic in Esquimalt’s Archie Browning Sports Centre. Stanwick said the issues have been “much more significant” on the mainland, where RCMP have been called repeatedly.

The province reported 3,223 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, including 417 in Island Health. Of 31,817 total active cases in the province, 324 individuals are in hospital and 90 are in intensive care, up from 317 and 83 Wednesday.

Three new deaths were reported Thursday, for a total of 2,430.

Just over 88 per cent of eligible people five and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 83 per cent have received a second dose. More than 22 per cent of people 12 and older have received a third dose.

The province has declared an outbreak at Clover Point Care, a long-term care home in Victoria owned and operated by Trillium Communities, where one staff member and five residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

Additional cases have been reported in homes with existing outbreaks. Three new staff cases in Victoria’s Glenwarren Lodge bring the total to 10 staff and five residents who have tested positive.

Two more cases in staff at Selkirk Seniors Village in Victoria bring the total there to eight staff and one resident. In Nanaimo’s Eden Gardens, an additional staff member and two residents have tested positive, making a total of four staff and three residents with the virus.

Twenty-seven City of Victoria employees are now on unpaid leave, as a vaccine mandate came into effect Wednesday.

Those employees have three months to provide proof they’ve had two COVID-19 immunizations, after which they could face termination, said the city’s head of engagement, Bill Eisenhauer.

More than 97 per cent of the city’s roughly 1,000 employees are double-vaccinated.

Eisenhauer said reduction in employees isn’t expected to have an immediate effect on service.

The rule does not apply to elected officials, but the mayor and councillors have confirmed they are all at least double-vaccinated.

Victoria is one of several municipalities in the region, including Saanich, Esquimalt and Central Saanich, that brought in vaccine mandates for staff last fall.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com