British Columbia has announced nine new cases of novel coronavirus in the province, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 73.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the majority of the cases announced Saturday are related to the outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where four residents and 12 staff members have now tested positive for COVID-19.
“This is not a surprise,” Henry said, noting more cases may arise at the care home in the coming days. She said others at the care home are beginning to show symptoms, and those people are being tested.
“When we first recognized the outbreak, it had just been starting, so we know people are in that incubation period.”
Henry said another new case is in the Interior Health area, marking the region’s second case. She said that case is still presumptive, but added it is expected to be confirmed.
She said that case is related to travel to “a number of places within Europe,” most recently Portugal.
Another one of the new cases is in the Fraser Health region.
The second Vancouver-area care home under an outbreak protocol, Hollyburn House in West Vancouver, continues to have just one resident and one staff member testing positive. Henry said earlier reports of a second Hollyburn House staff member testing positive was actually a staffer associated with the Lynn Valley Care Centre.
Cases at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver are also remaining steady at three administrative staff members, who were confirmed to have tested positive Friday.
Henry said two earlier cases reported to be residing in the Vancouver Coastal Health region are actually from Northern Health, and have since driven themselves back home there after being diagnosed in the Lower Mainland.
The announcement means all five health regions in B.C. are now home to at least one COVID-19 case, who are all in isolation.
Not everyone needs testing
Henry took time Saturday to stress that most people in B.C. will not need to be tested for COVID-19, even if they have travelled from abroad.
She said testing will instead focus on existing clusters, people in hospitals, health-care staff, and long-term care homes, along with anyone who exhibits serious symptoms.
“We want to ensure that those who get sick, gets the testing they need,” she said.
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“Even if you have mild symptoms, or if you have no symptoms and you have returned from travel, you don’t need testing. We want to make sure that people with no symptoms understand they don’t need to be tested for COVID-19.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix said locations for testing centres will be announced in “the coming day and days” in all health authorities in the province.
The minister asked people to not crowd those testing centres or area hospitals if they fear they’ve contracted the virus, saying people can self-isolate at home if they have mild illnesses.
Travellers from abroad should also self-isolate for 14 days regardless of whether they are showing or developing symptoms when they arrive in B.C.
“We’ve done an extraordinary amount of testing … but we need to make sure the testing is focused on the greatest need,” he said.
‘Be measured’ in supply shopping
Officials also underlined the importance of staying “measured” while purchasing groceries and other supplies, noting the rise of so-called “panic buying” in parts of B.C. and elsewhere in Canada.
“I want people to be calm,” Henry said. She added that she understands the impulse to stock up on goods in the face of uncertainty, but stressed that it’s not necessary.
“We’ve been reassured by our retailers that our supply chains are strong, they are restocking the shelves. It’s really a function of demand, and we don’t have an issue of not having enough supply.”
Dix called for “moderation” and shared assurances from the Retail Council of Canada that there are no supply shortages for essentials.
“We are asking people to show moderation here to one another, and generosity to one another and to the people working in the stores and working in the industry, so that we work together better as a community and as a society,” he said.
“We have to try as best as possible to revert to normal practice with respect to buying supplies and grocery stores.”
With events being cancelled across the province, Henry encouraged people to “take the time now to spend with your families” and go outside together in small groups, rather than hunkering down indoors or continuing with large gatherings.
“We will get through this,” she said. “It’s going to be a challenging time for all of us, but now’s the time for working together. It’s a time for compassion, it’s a time for supporting each other.”
Henry announced Friday she is seeking to formally ban gatherings of more than 250 people as part of the province’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
She said issuing an official order banning mass gatherings will allow organizers to recoup costs through insurance.