B.C. announces 53 new COVID-19 cases; one more death
VICTORIA -- Fifty-three more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in British Columbia and one additional person has died, health officials in the province announced Wednesday.
There are now 1,066 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in B.C., though modelling last week suggested the number of unconfirmed cases is higher than that. There have been 25 deaths from the virus in the province.
Of B.C.'s cases, 142 are in hospital, with 67 of those in "critical care," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at her daily briefing on the virus Wednesday afternoon.
At the briefing, Henry was asked again about criticisms from those who say B.C. has not been doing enough testing for the coronavirus.
She reiterated the province's testing strategy, which is to focus on those at high risk for infection, including seniors in long-term care homes, health-care workers and those who are associated with newly discovered "clusters" of the illness.
"We're particularly focusing on testing people who are in those environments that are high-risk," Henry said. "So, we have a testing strategy in the shelter system, we have a testing strategy in our long-term care homes, because we know it makes a huge difference if we detect those places early."
There are a total of 21 long-term care homes with outbreaks of COVID-19 in B.C., Henry announced Wednesday. That number is up from 19 on Tuesday, but Henry said the increase reflects the aggressive testing that's being done in those facilities.
Many of the care-home outbreaks that have been discovered so far involve a single patient, suggesting that efforts to detect the virus early in such facilities and contain it may be working, Henry said.
Even if the province had greater testing capacity than it currently does, the provincial health officer said her approach would be the same as it is now.
"We still would not be testing everybody who has very mild illness for a variety of reasons," Henry said. "Not only because of capacity - because it's a waste of resources for a lot of people - but also because we know this test is not 100 per cent. Early on, and when people have very mild symptoms, it can be falsely negative."
Henry said the advice for people who think they may have COVID-19 but haven't been tested wouldn't be any different if they did get tested.
"It doesn't change what we're going to tell people," she said. "We need to tell them on a population level, anybody who's sick - especially if you have a fever and a cough - you need to stay away from others, no matter what, whether you have COVID or anything else."
Henry also noted that the number of tests B.C. has conducted per million residents is still among the highest in the world.
"It's not like we're not testing," she said. "It's just our strategy has changed to focusing on where it makes the most difference and where it gives us the most information."
She added that the province does "surveillance testing" that piggybacks on testing for influenza and other respiratory illnesses in the general population. Some of B.C.'s first cases of community transmission were discovered through this type of testing, Henry said, adding that increasing this type of testing is something health officials are considering for the future.
A total of 606 people are now considered fully recovered from the virus in B.C., meaning the number of "active cases" - those in which the person infected has not died but is not yet recovered - in the province is 435. CTV News Vancouver's tracking of active cases suggests this is the lowest number of active cases the province has recorded since March 24, when there were 431.
During Henry's previous update, on Tuesday, she announced five new deaths. Previously, the most deaths recorded in a single day was three.
Henry had a bleak outlook on when restrictions might be lifted in B.C. during Tuesday's briefing, saying it'll be at least a few months before things get back to normal in the province.
She elaborated on this at Wednesday's briefing.
"Right now, we seem to be holding our own," the provincial health officer said. "We do have a few more weeks to go. Our goal is to have these restrictions that we've put in place, and the orders that we've put in place, for as short a time as possible, but we also need to be mindful that we need to increase our activities in society in a way that is not going to tip us over an edge or increase the number of people who are getting infected with this disease."
To that end, both Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix highlighted the importance of maintaining physical distancing measures in the coming weeks, especially for those returning to Canada from abroad, who are required to self-isolate for 14 days when they get back to the country.
"It would be, I think, a real betrayal of the people in your community to not follow those rules, which are, by the way, also the law at the federal level and the order at the provincial level," Dix said.
The health minister praised the efforts of the federal government to repatriate Canadians who are stranded abroad by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he also stressed that people landing in B.C. need to be warned in advance and at the airport about what is expected of them in terms of self-isolation.
"The rules that are needed here have to be imposed before people get on the plane and after they leave the plane," Dix said. "It is critically important that those rules be ensured and be communicated without ambiguity, clearly, plainly and with force. I'm hopeful that that will happen. That will continue to aid the efforts of millions of people in British Columbia."
Most of B.C.'s cases continue to be located in the Lower Mainland, with 497 confirmed infections in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 367 in the Fraser Health region.
There are now 114 cases in the Interior Health region, where officials confirmed a significant community outbreak on Tuesday.
The remaining cases in the province are in the Island Health region (72 cases) and in Northern Health (16 cases).
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alyse Kotyk