B.C. has recorded three new deaths due to COVID-19, including the first related fatality in the Interior.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday the victim was a man in his 60s who had been recovering at home, but who went to hospital when his condition got worse.
Henry said public health officials had reviewed the protocols around how they monitor people battling COVID-19 symptoms at home, ever since the at-home death of Warlito Valdez, a 47-year-old Richmond care aid earlier this month.
Doctors now know that there is a critical period around the fifth to seventh day of symptoms where patients can either begin to recover or “go downhill” quickly,” Henry said.
“We’re having more contact with people. We’re making sure if they are having any experience of shortness of breath or chest pain or other things that might come with having an infection — we have a low threshold for bringing them into hospital, at least for observation, where they can be closer to critical care if needed.”
Seventy-five people in B.C. have now died of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, while 44 new cases were confirmed.
About 61 per cent of the province’s 1,561 confirmed COVID-19 patients have fully recovered. Of the remaining cases, 131 patients are in hospital, with 59 of them in intensive care.
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There are more than 4,600 empty hospital beds in B.C., in preparation for a potential rapid surge in patients.
Both Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix sought to assure the public on Wednesday that it is safe to go to the hospital during the pandemic for urgent care or scheduled procedures.
“It is safe to call 911,” said Henry. “If you need that urgent medical care, do not hesitate to call for help.”
‘New normal’ not going anywhere
While Henry said B.C. is making progress against the virus, she also once again tried to dispel any illusions that the “new normal” of COVID-19 precautions would change soon.
“We are not at the end of our beginning yet. We’re maybe partway through it.”
Major changes in restrictions won’t be possible, she said, until the province can determine who has immunity and can guarantee enough people are immune either by a vaccine or developing antibodies.
Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced changes to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to allow people whose employment insurance has recently expired, seasonal workers and some part-time workers to apply.
On Tuesday, B.C. surpassed 1,500 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus.