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B.C. announces 4 new COVID-19 deaths, but fewer people in hospital

WATCH: B.C. officials provide Friday, April 3 update on COVID-19 response. Full press conference.

British Columbia announced four more deaths related to COVID-19 Friday, but says the number of people in hospital with the virus has dropped for the first time in weeks.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there were 146 people in hospital Friday, three fewer than Thursday, and 64 people in intensive care, down four from Thursday.

Dr. Henry said the latest numbers offer “a glimmer of hope.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: BC Ferries to slash service levels by half, lay off up to 1,400 workers

“We are not seeing dramatic increases in the number of people who are positive, the number of people who are needing hospital care and ICU care every day,” she said.

Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. sees four more deaths, but fewer people in hospital
Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. sees four more deaths, but fewer people in hospital

“If this continues we have the capacity … to care for people appropriately. But there are many, many things we are not in control of.”

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B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations as of April 3. Note: No data provided for Sunday, Mar. 22 and Sunday, Mar. 29.
B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations as of April 3. Note: No data provided for Sunday, Mar. 22 and Sunday, Mar. 29. Data: B.C. CDC

“It has to tell us that we have to double down on our actives, and we cannot allow new circumstances to get in our way,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix of the decrease in hospitalizations.

Distancing enforcement

On Friday, Dix called on the federal government to step up its screening and efforts at airports and ground border crossings to enforce its Quarantine Act order requiring returning travellers to isolate for 14 days.

“We need to actively follow up with cases,” he said. “The B.C. health system needs access to full information from the government of Canada and we need stronger action.”

READ MORE: Know a B.C. health-care hero? Share your stories and photos

British Columbians returning from abroad and going straight into quarantine will need help with groceries and other necessities, he said.

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“So that when people come from airports, they don’t go to Save On, they don’t go to Safeway, they don’t go to Costco. They go home and they stay home, and that’s going to require a lot of action and support of those individuals.”

Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. sees four more deaths, but fewer people in hospital
Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. sees four more deaths, but fewer people in hospital

The RCMP is charged with enforcing the Quarantine Act, but Henry said the force was still working on protocols.

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She also resisted calls for stricter public-health orders targeting people who congregate in parks or other public places, saying the main risk remains close-quarters, indoor transmission.

“I don’t want to spend a lot of people policing people outside,” she said.

“What we want to do is make sure everyone knows why we are doing this and understands the risk, and I believe for the most part, people do.”

Environmental and medical health officers, along with other provincial inspectors, were empowered to issue fines to people breaking existing orders, Henry said.

Warnings have been made and some orders reinforced, she added, but no one has been fined for defying an order so far.

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Trump troubles

Dix also touched on U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand that 3M cease exporting respirators to Canada, calling it “disappointing.”

“Our friends in the united states are undoubtedly dealing with an extraordinary situation right now,” said Dix, but said it was a problem that they have “significant control itself over the supply chain.”

Dix said Canada has key raw materials the U.S. also needs, but that he did not want to go “tit-for-tat” with the Americans and that the two countries need to work together.

“This is our fight together,” he said. “We need to convince our American friends in the first instance that this action is wrong, it’s wrong for them and wrong for us, and lets try and move forward together.”

Henry said B.C. had 53 additional lab-confirmed cases, for a total of 1,174 — 673 of whom have recovered fully.

A total of 35 British Columbians have died from COVID-19.

Henry said there was a new outbreak in a long-term care facility, bringing the total number of affected seniors homes to 22.