British Columbia has confirmed nine new cases of COVID-19, along with two additional deaths — both in long-term care in the Fraser Health region.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province has now recorded 2,558 cases in total, 84 per cent of whom have recovered.
There are 241 active cases remaining in B.C. Thirty-three of them are in hospital, and six of those are in intensive care.
A new outbreak has been identified at a long-term care facility in the Fraser Health region, bringing the total number of residential or acute care facilities dealing with the virus to 16.
However, the outbreak is over at the Mission Institution, a federal prison in the Fraser Valley.
“As you know, that is one of the largest outbreaks we have had in the province, and it took an incredible effort,” said Henry.
One inmate died among the 120 inmates and staff who contracted the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Henry said Thursday that she has updated a public health order so that farmer’s markets can now sell non-food products. The new order will also allow outdoor dining at such markets, subject to physical distancing.
Long-term care concerns
Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged Thursday that there had been little movement from last week in ensuring staff at long-term care homes are not working at multiple sites.
Dix said 497 of the 533 care homes that had employees working at multiple facilities have now submitted a single-site work plan — essentially flat from last Thursday.
“There is movement in all 36 remaining sites,” said Dix.
Of B.C.’s 164 COVID-19 deaths, 93 have been in residential care settings.
With visitor access restricted, health-care workers have been identified as one of the key factors behind outbreaks.
Twenty-two deaths have been recorded at Langley Lodge, a facility grappling with its second outbreak of the pandemic, and now the deadliest long-term home outbreak in B.C.
The most recent outbreak at the home began with a staff member.
“The people there are working hard, they’re fundamentally committed to the people they serve, I want to reach out to them today and say that shows how difficult it is, how necessary these measures are,” said Dix, adding that he had spoken with administrators at the facility.
Henry said health workers are still “learning as we go” when it comes to detecting and controlling outbreaks in long-term care, noting that seniors can quickly take a turn for the worse with the disease, after showing very few early symptoms.
Health officials are still urging British Columbians to avoid all non-essential travel, but Henry hinted Thursday that recommendation could soon change.
“As things are opening up we may begin to see cases increase,” said Henry. “If we can do that in a slow and measured way, then by the middle of June we should absolutely be able to move out a little bit more.”
However travel within B.C. will still look different than in years past.
Henry said any visit to a holiday hot spot would include avoiding large gatherings, maintaining physical distancing and enhanced hand hygiene.