B.C. reports 1 new death from coronavirus, 76 new cases in province

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. reports 74 new cases of COVID-19 bringing its total to 424'
Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. reports 74 new cases of COVID-19 bringing its total to 424
British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Saturday that 74 new positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported, which brings the provincial total to 424. (NOTE: The daily total was later updated to 76 new cases.) – Mar 21, 2020

NOTE: While officials at the press conference said there were 74 new cases Saturday, the official statements from the government say there were 76 new cases. This story has been updated to reflect that information.

B.C. health officials have announced 76 new cases of coronavirus, along with a new death from COVID-19 connected to the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver.

On Saturday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also called for the closure of all personal service businesses, including massage parlours, salons and tattoo parlours.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: New order in B.C. mandates shut down of all personal service establishments'
Coronavirus outbreak: New order in B.C. mandates shut down of all personal service establishments

Ten people have now died of COVID-19 in B.C., nine of whom were residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre. Of the new cases announced Saturday, one is also connected to that facility.

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Five new cases have been admitted to hospital, for a total of 27. Of those, 12 people are in intensive care. Six cases have recovered.

The province’s total number of cases now sits at 424.

Henry said 230 of the cases are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 126 in Fraser Health, 37 on Vancouver Island, 27 in Interior Health and four in Northern Health.

“I think this tells us, again, that we have risk around the province, and how important it is for us to pay attention to what’s happening in our community and take those [social distancing] measures that we have been talking about all along,” Henry said.

“This is not just confined to hospitals, to our heath-care sector. It’s also in our communities, and the actions we are taking today make a difference in how we can transfer this disease to others.”

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Click to play video: 'Strict new orders for B.C. restaurants as COVID-19 cases jump by another 77'
Strict new orders for B.C. restaurants as COVID-19 cases jump by another 77

Henry said the ordered closure of personal service businesses was meant as an additional measure to encourage social distancing, explaining personal contact cannot be avoided in these establishments.

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“I know most of these businesses have closed, but it’s come to my attention that there is still confusion out there about whether or not they should be open,” she said.

“We want to make it very clear that the expectation is that these will be closed.”

Testing backlog being worked through

Henry explained the spike in the number of cases this week is due to a backlog in testing that is being worked through, and is expected to be cleared by early next week at the latest.

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“[The peak in numbers] is not a reflection of when people got sick; it’s a reflection of when the test got reported,” she explained.

“Even if the test is not back, people are being isolated, people are being put into self-isolation or hospital.”

Roughly 17,000 tests have been completed so far, Henry said, with thousands more being processed per day as more laboratories are brought in to help.

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The testing focus is currently on people in hospital and long-term care homes. People who have travelled outside the province are being told to self-isolate for 14 days, and do not need to be tested even if they develop symptoms.

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“If and when we flatten this curve, we will be changing our testing strategy again,” she said. “As we try and decrease the community transmission with all those measures . . . then we need to start widely testing again to make sure we aren’t getting more introductions.

“That is down the road, hopefully in a matter of weeks we’ll get to that point.”

No provincial lockdown yet

Henry also resisted calls to close provincial borders to non-essential travel, which have been echoed by medical professionals and health-care staff along with the general public.

“The term ‘lockdown’ is a nice one to hear, but I believe the measures we are doing” — including limiting public gatherings, closing restaurants and bars to in-store dining, and telling people to stay home as much as possible — “equate to what they are asking,” she said.

She added it’s important that essential services can still be accessed, which a lockdown could make difficult.

Shutting down travel between provinces, as the Northwest Territories implemented on Saturday, would also be problematic, as Henry said the provinces are “too dependent” on each other.

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Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are particular concerns over young people continuing to congregate in public, believing they are immune to a disease that has proven to be deadly for older populations.

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The officials said government is discussing sending emergency text messages through the province’s alert system, as well as messaging on social media to reach as many young people as possible.

“People are not immune, and not only that, but then you bring it home to your family . . . the elders and seniors,” she said.

“This is what we’re talking about: in terms of making sure that we’re not gathering on the beach to watch the sunset, that we’re not playing basketball, that we’re not gathering together on the playgrounds and having playdates. We need to do that now. . . . we need to do that online, not in person.”


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