Four new COVID-19 deaths in B.C., but number of new cases hits three-week low

WATCH: B.C. health officials hold April 7 COVID-19 daily response.

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of four more British Columbians, putting the province’s total at 43.

But the number of new confirmed cases dropped again on Tuesday, to its lowest in the last three weeks.

“Let’s keep our firewall strong,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“This is our time to care and protect each other and our communities and our families across B.C.”

B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations as of April 7. Note: No data provided for Sunday, Mar. 22, Sunday, Mar. 29 and Sunday Apr. 5. Source: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

Henry announced just 25 new lab-confirmed cases of the virus in her daily update, compared to 26 new cases on Monday and 37 on Sunday.

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Fewer COVID-19 patients are in hospital, she added: 138 people, down two from Monday, with 66 patients in intensive care, down two.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. had more than 4,500 empty hospital beds ready in case of a surge of new serious infections.

Dr. Henry also addressed a clinical trial of the contentious drug hydroxychloroquine at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, saying it’s too early to tell if it’s working.

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The drug is being heavily promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a treatment for the virus.

“It’s going to be a matter of months before we have a definitive answer,” she said.

“I know there is some preliminary analyses that will be run in the next few weeks, but the outbreak is ongoing unfortunately at Lynn Valley.

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Long weekend lockdown

B.C. has now confirmed 1,291 cases of the virus, 805 of whom have fully recovered.

With good weather forecast for the upcoming long weekend, Dix pleaded with British Columbians to skip non-essential travel or trips to their cottages.

That request is doubly important, he added, with early evidence that B.C. could be getting a handle on the outbreak.

“It demands I think what’s best of us, what’s best of B.C., our strength, our generosity, our courage and our empathy and our kindness,” said Dix.

“Good practice and good learning and good luck flow from these qualities, so let’s bend the curve, not bend the rules this weekend.”

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He also repeated his call for religious groups to avoid gatherings on the long weekend and opt for virtual ways of connecting instead.

Easing restrictions

While strict social distancing measures are expected to remain in place for months, Henry said, some could be eased in the weeks to come.

“We’re in for a bit of a ride on this. It’s not going to be able to go back to 100 per cent where we were in January or at Christmastime, where we are able to celebrate and come together until we have enough people in the community who are immune to this,” she said.

“But we will have a period of time where this, hopefully, will be able to wane.”

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Once the first wave of the pandemic has passed, she said she expects people to be able to return to some of their normal activities.

But both health officials and the public will need to be extra vigilant for any possibility of spreading the illness in the community, particularly in the fall, she said, adding that putting restrictions back in place could be necessary.

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