British Columbia’s top doctor toughened her tone on social distancing and self-isolation Thursday, as the province announced 40 new cases of the novel coronavirus and one new death.
B.C. has now recorded 271 cases and eight deaths in total.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry responded Thursday to reports of people congregating in large groups by saying British Columbians must take social and physical distancing more seriously.
“This is not optional,” she said, noting that B.C. has the legal authority to enforce the measures if needed.
“Everybody needs to take these actions now. This is what’s going to protect us for the next few weeks, it’s going to protect ourselves, it’s going to protect our families, it’s going to protect our communities.
“The importance cannot be minimized.”
The province has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered bars and clubs, as well as restaurants and other businesses that can’t keep guests two metres apart, to close.
Henry sought Thursday to emphasize the importance of those measures while addressing some of the confusion on social distancing itself.
She said it’s fine to go get groceries or go outside for a walk, but otherwise, you’re asked to “lay low,” stay home and avoid groups as much as possible.
“Don’t have a play date,” she said. “Don’t go out for coffee with your friend … This is not the time for those kinds of social interaction.”
She said people should instead think of innovative ways to stay connected, such as virtual coffee dates.
Not all businesses are obeying her order to close, she said, but most operators were being responsible, and public health inspectors were warning those that aren’t.
Henry also responded to frustration among people who want to be tested but haven’t been able.
“The only people we are not testing at the moment are people who have returned from travel and have very mild symptoms.”
Those people can isolate at home, she said, and thus slow the virus from spreading.
She said that strategy allows B.C. to focus its testing — now in the thousands of tests per day — on health-care workers, people with severe symptoms, and outbreak clusters.
The new death is linked to a cluster of cases at North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre, and Henry again warned that the number of new cases would continue to climb.
“We are still on the upswing, and that is why it is so, so important we take those social distancing, those physical-distancing measures, right now.”
Around B.C, there are now 152 COVID-19 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 81 in the Fraser Health region, 22 in the Island Health region, 12 in the Interior Health region and four in the Northern Health region.
The number of people hospitalized in B.C. with the disease climbed to 17, nine of whom are in intensive care.
READ MORE: Live updates — Coronavirus in Canada
Five people have fully recovered from COVID-19, and Henry said a number of others are now asymptomatic and waiting on tests to officially clear them.
Outbreaks have been recorded in three seniors residences so far: the Lynn Valley Care Centre, Hollyburn House in West Vancouver and the Haro Park Centre in Vancouver.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a news conference to announce that the Canada-U.S. border would be closed to all but essential traffic at noon on Friday.
Both the province and the City of Vancouver have declared states of emergency to give government officials broader powers to respond to the pandemic as more cases are transmitted within the community, as opposed to from travel.
Also on Thursday, the COVID-19 death toll in Italy surpassed 3,400, overtaking the number of people killed in China.View link »