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20 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., no new deaths

Long-term care homes still a concern during COVID-19 pandemic
Long-term care homes still a concern during COVID-19 pandemic

British Columbia has recorded 20 new COVID-19 cases in a day for the first time since June 3.

However, there were no new deaths associated with the coronavirus on Thursday, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

With new cases having largely plateaued in the province, Henry warned the public about getting complacent — noting recent exposure events at a Vancouver nightclub and two strip clubs. The province is reviewing its guidelines for those environments.

People still need keep their contacts down to about 65 per cent of normal, said Henry, while avoiding the “three C’s.”

“Close contact, closed spaces and crowds: We need to minimize those and make sure we’re taking the actions to make sure this virus doesn’t spread quickly,” she said.

Henry said the province is also working on new guidance for other activities that have remained off-limits for several months. Advice for resuming choirs, for example, will be unveiled in the coming days.

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The province’s case total now stands at 3,028, nine of which are epi-linked.

More than 88 per cent of those patients have fully recovered, while 175 cases remain active.

Seventeen of those cases are in hospital, four of them in critical care.

There were no new health-care outbreaks or community outbreaks.

What can essential workers crossing the U.S.-Canada border do while visiting?
What can essential workers crossing the U.S.-Canada border do while visiting?

Visits with seniors

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The province lifted its ban on visits to long-term care homes — under strict new guidelines — at the end of June.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday that 61 B.C. facilities have now filed safety plans that permit one individual at a time to attend, on pre-booked visits. The province hopes to see that number climb significantly next week, he said.

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However, Dix acknowledged that not everyone will be happy with the heavy restrictions, including time limits, on visits.

“I understand that people may be concerned, now that we’re having visits, that they’re not sufficient,” he said.

“We’re going to try and reach out and expand that, but it’s absolutely essential that’s done in a safe way.”

Henry said the eventual goal is to allow more frequent visits with larger groups, but she said the priority must remain on safety.

Active outbreaks remain at just two long-term care or assisted living facilities, the Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver and the Maple Hill Long-Term Care Centre in Langley.

Antibody testing update

Henry said the province would unveil early results of some research on antibody testing — a key method by which officials hope to determine how many people have contracted the virus, and whether they are building immunity — next Thursday.

Getting results has taken several months — in part, because it takes weeks for people to develop antibodies. Henry said researchers have also dealt with a high number of false positives and false negatives, forcing them to do multiple tests to validate results.

B.C. ‘s top doctor on the challenges of COVID-19 antibody testing
B.C. ‘s top doctor on the challenges of COVID-19 antibody testing

However, she said what officials have seen so far is encouraging.

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“The bottom line is that it reflects what we have seen here in British Columbia, that very few people have become affected at a population level,” said Henry.

No second lockdown?

With a “second wave” of the virus feared for the fall, Henry said the province is improving its modelling — using data gathered in B.C. during the spring and summer.

Early B.C. modelling of the virus had relied on comparisons to China, Korea and Italy.

Ask an Expert: Second wave preparations
Ask an Expert: Second wave preparations

Henry said the province developing scenarios and contingencies with the goal of keeping B.C. open should the second wave break.

“(We hope) we know so much now about being able to control these outbreaks, and control the spread in the community that we won’t need to shut down all hospitals, and that we won’t need to stop things like surgeries and decant people out of the hospitals like we did.”

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Henry is taking a four-day weekend starting Friday, meaning the province’s next live COVID-19 briefing will be on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

 

More to come.