B.C. reports 10 new COVID-19 cases, no new cases in care homes

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 contact tracing efforts in B.C.'
COVID-19 contact tracing efforts in B.C.
COVID-19 contact tracing efforts in B.C. – May 23, 2020

British Columbia has recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19, along with two new deaths.

It brings the province’s case total to 2,517, about 82 per cent of which have recovered, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

B.C.’s death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 157.

As of Saturday, there were 39 people in hospital with COVID-19 and eight people in intensive care.

Henry said the province plans to significantly ramp up its contact tracing ability over the summer, particularly as the fall approaches — bringing with it the next flu season and a possible second wave of COVID-19.

She said B.C. has not needed federal help on contact tracing, but that she wants to see more assistance from Ottawa when it comes to screening international travellers — particularly when the U.S. border eventually reopens.

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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus around the world: May 23, 2020'
Coronavirus around the world: May 23, 2020

Progress in long-term care

Both deaths reported Saturday were in long-term care in the Fraser Health region.

However, Henry said that there were no new outbreaks linked to residential or acute care, and no new cases involving residents.

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Henry said keeping those new infections down relies, in part, on how well B.C. does at beating back the virus province-wide, noting that outbreaks can easily start when a health-care worker is inadvertently infected in the community.

“We have to be sure that we all do our part to keep the community transmission low so that we reduce the risk of it being introduced into any of our long term care homes,” she said.

“I’m just happy that most of them are coming under control now, but we’re not out of the woods with that yet.”

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New outbreaks

Henry said a second case linked to an outbreak at a federal prison has been identified. The Correctional Service of Canada says one inmate at the Mountain Institution tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

Henry said Saturday that a staff member has now also tested positive. It was not immediately clear which facility the employee works at.

Fraser Health is actively investigating a new community outbreak involving five workers at Nature’s Touch, an Abbotsford frozen fruit packing facility, that was reported on Friday, she added.

“This one was caught relatively early,” said Henry. “They’ll be continuing the investigation over the coming days.”

Five employees at the plant have tested positive for coronavirus, and the facility has closed voluntarily.

Henry said she has been generally pleased with the way the public has responded to Phase 2 of the province’s plan to reopen the economy, but that officials won’t truly know how well we are doing for another week or so.

“It has been a week where people have taken it slowly,” she said.

“But we need to remember, and these outbreaks remind us, gatherings of any kind increase the risk of transmission.”

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Travel within B.C. could soon be encouraged

Provincial officials have been urging British Columbians to avoid all non-essential travel for weeks, but that could soon change.

“If things continue to go well and we take it carefully and we’re mindful of the potential for outbreaks, and we get to that point in the summer then yes, I will be encouraging people to vacation at home in B.C., to experience what we have here and to support our local communities and businesses,” said Henry.

With international and inter-provincial travel largely on hold, Henry said B.C.’s tourism-reliant businesses will need locals’ support.

However, she said when she does begin recommending travel, it will come with a major caveat.

“We have many communities, small communities, particularly our first nations communities that have understandably a larger degree of risk and loss that could happen if this virus was introduced into those communities,” said Henry.

“So I would leave it to them to decide if it is safe to travel to those communities.”

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