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B.C. health officials report 2 deaths, 33 new cases of COVID-19
VICTORIA -- Two more people have died from COVID-19 in British Columbia, bringing the death toll in the province to 126.
Health officials announced the new deaths and 33 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus at their daily briefing on the pandemic Thursday afternoon.
The announcement comes one day after the province announced its plans for a phased reopening of the province's economy beginning over the May long weekend.
Of B.C.'s 2,288 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 76 people are currently in hospital with the virus. Of those, 20 are in critical care.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed that even as the province begins taking steps to ease the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, nothing should be changing dramatically overnight.
The mantra for the coming weeks, Henry said, will be "few faces and big spaces."
As the reopening plan progresses to its second phase after Victoria Day, British Columbians can choose to expand their social circles in a limited way, she said, but they'll still need to be mindful of the connections they have and the dangers of potentially spreading the virus to vulnerable people in their lives.
"I know some people are looking for very clear direction and rules that everybody must follow, but we recognize that everybody's circumstances are unique," Henry said.
Henry also stressed that businesses reopening under the provincial plan will not all move at the same speed.
Some businesses may need longer than others to ensure they can operate safely once restrictions are lifted, Henry said. Others may determine that their businesses won't be economically viable if they make the changes needed to their facilities to ensure safe operation, and decide not to open.
"We do not expect that everybody must follow the same plan," Henry said. "It will depend on your own business."
While every business that reopens must have a plan to limit the spread of COVID-19, not every reopening plan will be submitted to health officials for approval, the provincial health officer said.
Instead, every business must publicly post its reopening plan for members of the public to assess.
"It's part of our social contract," Henry said. "Businesses will say, 'Here is what we're doing,' and we as consumers need to do our part."
That "doing our part" will include things like being on time for scheduled appointments, maintaining physical distance if waiting outside a business for service and cancelling appointments and staying home if you feel even slightly ill, Henry said.
The provincial health officer said health officials will be monitoring B.C.'s reopening plan as it proceeds, adding that British Columbians' personal decisions about how and when to expand their social circles have the potential to affect the trajectory of the province's pandemic.
Changes may need to be made - and restrictions reimposed - if B.C. experiences a significant increase in coronavirus outbreaks, either as a result of increased social interactions or a seasonal resurgence of the virus in the fall, Henry said.
"The future is in our hands, and we must continue to wash them," she said.
Most of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C. are in the Lower Mainland. That includes 1,064 people in the Fraser Health region and 865 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
Elsewhere in the province, 179 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Interior Health region, 126 in Island Health and 54 in Northern Health.
A total of 1,512 people who have tested positive for the virus in B.C. are now considered fully recovered, meaning there are 650 active cases of COVID-19 in the province.