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Three deaths, but just two new cases of COVID-19, as B.C. starts to reopen

B.C. health officials announce three deaths, and two new cases of COVID-19, as province begins to reopen
Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, May 19, B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announces three deaths and two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province. Tuesday also marks the first day of Phase 2 of the plan to restart B.C.'s economy.

Health officials announced three new deaths and just two new cases of COVID-19 in B.C. on Tuesday as the second phase of the province’s reopening plan begins.

The number of new cases is the lowest since March 6.

Tuesday marks the first time the number of COVID-19 deaths was greater than the number of new cases.

B.C. COVID numbers look good, but concerns remain over long-term care homes
B.C. COVID numbers look good, but concerns remain over long-term care homes

The three deaths, which are all connected to long-term care facilities, bring B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll to 146.

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Forty-five patients are in hospital, a decrease of two since Monday, while the number of people in intensive care remains unchanged at 12.

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are no new community outbreaks in the province.

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Henry said Monday that residents need to remember to practise social distancing and good hand hygiene as businesses start to operate under a “new normal.”

Restaurants, cafes, pubs, retail and office spaces, personal services, libraries, museums and childcare facilities, along with parks, beaches and recreational facilities, are all allowed to reopen.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Which B.C. services can start to reopen on Tuesday, May 19?

“I want to reassure you that we would not be easing these restrictions if we did not feel we could do so safely,” Henry said.

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“We can flatten our curve and safely and reopen our province, but we must take it slowly.”

B.C. begins slow reopening under enhanced protocols
B.C. begins slow reopening under enhanced protocols

Business owners who choose to reopen must have a plan in place, and visibly posted, that follows public health guidelines.

The public can report non-compliant businesses to their local public health authority, which can perform inspections, Henry added.

The first step is to educate businesses that fail to adhere to guidelines, rather than issuing fines or ordering closures, she said, although health officials can order a closure if they feel there is a risk to the public.

“We need to make sure that everyone is being thoughtful about it and that they’re enacting the plans that they’ve made and that they’re working,” Henry said. “That’s the approach we’ll be taking.”

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— With files from Amy Judd and The Canadian Press