British Columbia has identified seven new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the provincial total to 39. Two of the new cases are believed to be incidents of community transmission.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says two of the other new cases are health-care workers associated with the Lynn Valley Care Centre, a North Vancouver long-term care facility that has seen a cluster of cases. Both remain in isolation at home.
The first person from the facility to be diagnosed with the disease, also a heath-care worker, has now been admitted to hospital and remains in stable condition, Henry said.
Three of B.C.’s new cases are travel-related, Henry said. One is a man in his 40s who travelled to Germany, another is a man in his 90s who was on the Grand Princess cruise ship, and one is a woman in her 60s who travelled to Egypt. All are in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region.
Two other new cases are in the Fraser Health region. One is a man in his 90s, and officials have not yet determined how he contracted the virus. The other is a man is 40s, and Henry said officials believed he contracted the virus in the community.
“It is these community cases that give us some degree of concern and grief, but being able to detect them is really important,” she said.
“As soon as we detect them, we can start that detailed investigation to find out where they might have come in contact and it helps us uncover where other chains of transmission are in our community.”
Henry said while there is significant concern that there have now been three cases of community transmission in British Columbia, she said it also shows that the province’s surveillance testing was working.
“It also tells us that there’s something out there that we’re missing and we need to investigate.”
Officials also get in touch with every single person who had come into close contact with a patient who is showing symptoms.
“If we do not have the ability to contact people — for example, if somebody was in a public place and they did not know all the people there — we would make that public. But we have not been in that situation,” she said.
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Henry reiterated that people should stay home if they are feeling sick, and that if they have symptoms that require medical attention, to call their health-care provider before going in so that they can prepare.
Lynn Valley Care Centre outbreak
The province announced Canada’s first fatality from the virus, a man in his 80s living at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, on Monday.
Eight people associated with the facility have now tested positive, and Henry said testing is ongoing for people with symptoms.
Health officials are still working to determine how the disease entered the care home.
Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged Tuesday that there had been challenges over the weekend keeping the facility properly staffed.
“Today, there were full complements of staff both in the morning and the afternoon shift,” he said.
“And those issues have been dealt with, to the credit of the Lynn Valley Care Centre and Vancouver Coastal Health, which has been working hard to improve the situation there.”
Dix said the health authority had also activated more communications staff to ensure that family members of residents are getting regular updates about what is going on in the facility.
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Travel warnings expand
With the explosive growth of new coronavirus cases in Italy, travellers from that country are now being asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering Canada — a measure already in place for people coming from China or Iran.
Henry repeated her advice that people avoid cruise ships entirely, and her opinion that the cruise seasons should be postponed.
She said people heading to Washington State, where spread of the virus has also been significant, should stay home if they are feeling ill or are vulnerable due to age or underlying health issues.
She said others should feel free to visit the state, but take precautions such as frequent hand washing and social distancing measures such as avoiding crowds.
“In the U.S., they talk about staying arm’s-length from people.”
Of B.C.’s 39 confirmed cases, four have recovered fully from the virus.
Several other early cases are now asymptomatic and officials are waiting to clear them.
Henry said Tuesday that an 80-year-old woman who was in intensive care at Vancouver General Hospital has now been discharged and is in isolation at home.
Another patient who was in hospital who had recently returned from the Grand Princess cruise ship has also been discharged.
Dix said the province’s pandemic response infrastructure is also coming online.
All provincial health authorities now have an active emergency operations centre allocating resources, he said, and a deputy minister’s committee that was convened to coordinate the response met Tuesday.
He said the 811 public health phone service is also adding staff to deal with a tripling of calls.