B.C.’s top doctor says more than 55 health-care workers have now been infected with the novel coronavirus, as the province confirmed 42 new cases and one new death on Wednesday.
There are now a total of 659 cases confirmed in B.C. and 14 deaths.
The latest fatality is the 11th to be linked to North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she only had data on infected health-care workers who are connected to outbreak clusters at seniors’ facilities, and to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.
A number of other health workers have been infected via community transmission, she said, including dentists who attended a major dental conference in Vancouver where an outbreak occurred.
A health worker at a ninth seniors’ home, the Broadway Pentecostal Lodge in Vancouver, had tested positive for the virus, Henry said.
No new cases were reported at the eight B.C. seniors’ homes with known outbreaks, except for Vancouver’s Haro Park Centre, where the number of infections climbed to 28 residents and 27 staff.
B.C. has implemented strict regulations on seniors’ facilities, limiting access to essential visits only.
Staff at facilities with an outbreak are restricted from working at another facility — a move Henry said she is working to expand to the entire senior-care sector.
Dwindling protective equipment
At the news conference, Henry said officials have learned that the “burn rate,” or consumption rate, for personal protective equipment for health workers is “much higher than would be expected.”
More equipment is on order, she said, as the province look at others ways to procure the gear.
She acknowledged that supply was tight, in the meantime.
“We are putting in place measures now to try and control that and be more efficient and effective in how we are using PPE,” she told reporters.
Those measures could include “cohorting” infected patients together, she said, so that a health worker wouldn’t need to change equipment after each contact, or re-using equipment that had been safely cleaned.
Flattening the curve
B.C. now has 64 COVID-19 patients in hospital, with 26 of them in intensive care.
“It’s heartening to me … that we’re not seeing dramatic increases and doubling in a day, or two days, or three days of hospitalized cases,” Henry said. “It is gradually increasing, though.”
She said she remains hopeful the “draconian” public health orders issued to slow the rate of infection will continue to take pressure off hospitals.
Those measures include a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, the closure of bars, restaurants and personal service businesses, and the requirement that people keep two metres (6 feet) apart in public.
However, she said it will still be up to 10 days before we fully see the effect of those measures, as people who were infected before the orders were in place become ill.
“It’s a bit of a dance right now,” Henry said.
So far, 183 people have completely recovered.
Around the province, the Vancouver Coastal Health region has confirmed 339 cases, Fraser Health has 218, Island Health has 47, and Northern Health has nine.
Earlier Wednesday, the federal government announced new details around its COVID-19 financial aid package, including tax deferrals for business and a new $2,000 monthly benefit for people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
The Trudeau government also announced it would use the Quarantine Act to enforce the mandatory 14-day isolation period of travellers returning to Canada, with potentially stiff penalties.