British Columbia

6 new COVID-19 infections in B.C. as virus spreads inside care home

Six more people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19, including two residents at a long-term care home, provincial health officials have confirmed.

Health officials say 2 residents sick in outbreak at North Vancouver care facility

Health officials are investigating the spread of COVID-19 inside the Lynn Valley Care Centre, where more than 200 people are residents. (Deborah Goble/CBC)

Six more people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19, including two residents at a long-term care home, provincial health officials have confirmed.

Two residents at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver are infected. The facility is now considered the site of an outbreak, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Saturday. The virus spread after a worker contracted the virus earlier this week.

Another pair were infected while aboard a previous cruise on the Grand Princess and are now back in the province. The other two new infections are related to travel from Iran.

"We are by no means near the end of this," said Henry. "We've seen the progression around the world, we've seen what's happened in other communities, and we're preparing as best we can for that."

The province is now advising all British Columbians to avoid travelling on cruise ships.

Residents and workers at the Lynn Valley Care Centre have been screened. Health officials are concerned about transmission to other facilities as care workers tend to work at multiple health centres. (Deborah Goble/CBC)

Care home investigation

The province has deployed resources to investigate the outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre. Staff from Vancouver Coastal Health have been at the facility for the last three days as part of the province's outbreak response.

The coronavirus spread into the care home through a worker who is infected. She was the province's first case of community transmission.

"This is one of the scenarios that we have been most concerned about," said Henry, who was close to tears at her news conference. There are more than 200 residents at the facility, many of whom are considered vulnerable because of their age and underlying health conditions.

WATCH: Dr. Bonnie Henry overcome with emotion while reporting newest coronavirus cases

Dr. Bonnie Henry is concerned for families and health workers affected by the coronavirus. 2:11

All residents at the facility have been screened for symptoms.

Health officials are also tracing the steps of care workers at the centre to ensure the virus hasn't spread to other parts of the community. Henry said many care workers work in multiple facilities.

Althea Gibb-Carsley's 94-year-old mother-in-law lives at the Lynn Valley Care Centre. She said the centre has done a good job letting family members know about the infections and steps it's taking to prevent the virus from spreading.

She said she's not overly worried about the situation.

"I think it's prudent to worry a bit, I think it's more prudent to not panic and wash your hands really well and if you have ... a cough or a fever, don't spread it around," she said. "It means being thoughtful and erring a little on the side of caution. But I don't think it's anything to panic about."

Avoid cruise ships, minister says

A pair of travellers — a man and woman in their 60s — contracted the virus while aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship on a trip in mid-February.

It's the same vessel that is currently quarantined off the coast of California over fears of an outbreak. More than 200 Canadians are on board, and it's scheduled to dock in B.C. early April.

Scrambling to keep the coronavirus at bay, officials ordered the Grand Princess cruise ship to hold off the California coast Thursday, March 5, to await testing of those aboard, after a passenger on an earlier voyage died and others became infected. (Scott Strazzante/The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle)

Health officials have been in contact with other B.C. passengers who boarded previous trips on the ship and warn that there could be more positive cases.

Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix is urging all British Columbians to avoid travelling on cruise ships.

"Those who are considering going on cruises, who have bought tickets on cruises, need to very seriously consider their position — and if you're asking my advice, I say don't go," said Dix.

On Saturday, an association that represents cruise lines in Canada and the Pacific Northwest sent out a release in response to sentiment's such as Dix and Henry's.

Cruise Lines International Association said its members are taking proactive measures to screen passengers and keep them safe from COVID-19 and that restrictions are "unwarranted and could have long-term detrimental effects on the Canadian people and economy."

The association said the cruise industry in Canada helps generate more than $3 billion in economic activity and more than 23,000 jobs at travel agencies, airlines, hotels and other industries.

There have been 27 positive cases of coronavirus in B.C. This illustration provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 novel coronavirus. (The Canadian Press)

Provincial efforts ramped up

On Friday the province announced plans to ramp up its response to the coronavirus outbreak, outlining a wide-ranging provincial pandemic co-ordination plan to contain the spread of the COVID-19, the disease that results from the virus.

The plan focuses on "delaying, containing and preparing the province to minimize serious illness and economic disruption" — first by identifying and containing cases, and then, in its second phase, escalating government co-ordination to quickly direct resources.

A total of 27 people in B.C. have tested positive for the virus. At least four have recovered. A patient in her 80s who was in critical condition is now stable.

The province is urging people not to attend work, public events or gatherings if they are sick.

"And if you are going to get together, let's look at refraining from our usual greetings. Now is the time to put some distance between us to keep our germs to ourselves," said Henry.

About the Author

Jon Hernandez

Video Journalist

Jon Hernandez is an award-winning multimedia journalist from Vancouver, British Columbia. His reporting has explored mass international migration in Chile, controversial logging practices in British Columbia, and the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Follow Jon Hernandez on Twitter: