B.C. announces 11 new COVID-19 cases, including 'cluster of cases' at hospital
VANCOUVER -- B.C. health officials have identified another 11 COVID-19 infections in the province, including a "cluster of cases" at a Metro Vancouver hospital.
All of the new cases are located in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at her daily update on the global pandemic Friday afternoon.
Three of the cases are administrative staff at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, a situation Henry described as "an outbreak."
The employees did not have contact with patients, however, and Henry said measures have been put in place at the hospital to limit the potential spread of the virus.
One other case is a close contact of a person who contracted COVID-19 at Lynn Valley Care Centre, the seniors' home in North Vancouver where a resident recently died after contracting the virus.
Five more cases are related to travel from other countries, which the province warned against on Wednesday. The new cases came to B.C. from Iran, Egypt, the Philippines and Mexico, Henry said.
The remaining two cases are still under investigation.
The 11 new cases come at the end of a week that saw mass cancellations of public gatherings and new recommendations against travel abroad imposed both by the B.C. government and the federal government.
Henry addressed the rapidly changing nature of the situation in her remarks Friday, taking the opportunity to try to reassure British Columbians that they can continue their daily lives, even as they take precautions to protect themselves.
"There are many things we can do," Henry said. "We're not talking about shutting down society here. It's still very safe today in B.C. - all across B.C. - to go out, to go shopping, to go to restaurants."
Outdoor activities, in particular, are good to continue, the provincial health officer said, noting that the virus is not airborne.
"Go outside and play with your family," Henry said. "Go up to our ski hills. Go up to Whistler. Go out and experience what we have here in British Columbia right now."
The comments from B.C.'s top doctor seemed aimed at reassuring the public after the province announced a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people and warned against international travel on Thursday.
She said she would be issuing an order on Friday to make the ban on large gatherings mandatory, something she said would allow event organizers to activate insurance policies for events that were cancelled.
Henry also updated the public on the provincial recommendation that people returning from abroad stay home from school or work for 14 days.
As she did on Thursday, Henry again described this 14-day period as a "requirement," but noted that it would not be applying to flight crews, long-haul truckers and other frequent travellers deemed "essential" to the movement of goods and services.
Those people do bring with them a risk of infection, Henry said, and they need to be vigilant in their self-monitoring. She said the province would be communicating with industries about specific guidelines for their situations.
At the same time, not everyone arriving in B.C. from abroad needs to be tested for COVID-19, Henry said. Recent travellers who do not develop symptoms during their two weeks of self-isolation do not need to be tested, she said.
"There is no reason to test anybody who's not sick," Henry said, noting that employers should not be requiring a negative coronavirus test before allowing isolated employees to return to work.
Both Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed the importance of the public doing their part to help slow the spread of the pandemic in the province. That includes following the province's recommendations against holding large gatherings and against travelling abroad. It also includes practicing "social distancing," washing hands frequently, not touching your face, staying home when you're sick and coughing and sneezing into a sleeve or a tissue that you immediately throw out.
"We're all part of this," Dix said. "We have agency here to help one another, to assist one another, to protect one another as a society."
The health minister said he was pleased with the province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far, but there is a lot more work to do.
"We have been dealing with it, I think, very well up to now, but the challenges in the next four weeks dwarf the challenges in the last four weeks," Dix said.
The latest cases bring the total number of COVID-19 infections in B.C. up to 64, and the Canadian total to about 200. Six of the people in B.C. who tested positive for the virus have since recovered, two are currently hospitalized, one has died and the rest are in isolation at home.