British Columbia

B.C. records 5 more deaths from COVID-19, bringing total to 48

Residents and staff at long-term care homes in B.C. continue to suffer the impact of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 226 out of the 1,336 patients confirmed to date.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announces 45 new confirmed cases, for a total of 1,336

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide an update on the the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C. (MIke McArthur/CBC)

Residents and staff at long-term care homes in B.C. continue to suffer the impact of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 226 out of the 1,336 patients confirmed to date.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday that the province has confirmed another 45 cases of the disease, and recorded five more deaths, for a total of 48.

Three of those deaths were residents of North Vancouver care homes — a couple who died at Amica Edgemont Village, as well as yet another resident of the Lynn Valley Care Centre. There are active outbreaks at a total of 21 long-term care facilities in the Lower Mainland, and 138 residents and 88 staff have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Health Minister Adrian Dix offered his condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives to the disease.

"It is one of the things that drives Dr. Henry and everyone involved in the provincial health team," he said.

When asked why outbreaks at long-term care homes haven't been seen on Vancouver Island, which is home to communities with high concentrations of seniors, Henry answered, "I wish I knew."

She said it's possible that the larger population and more frequent travel between the Lower Mainland and Washington state may have been factors. Henry added that B.C.'s first major outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre was not detected until it was relatively advanced, and said health officials have learned a lot from that experience.

Henry also announced Wednesday that the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has fallen slightly once again to 135, with 61 people in intensive care. A total of 838 people have recovered from their illness.

She acknowledged that B.C.'s testing rate for COVID-19 has fallen, even though testing capacity has increased. But she said testing should soon increase again as the province begins more testing in the community and in co-operation with physicians.

Both Henry and Dix continue to emphasize that British Columbians should stay at home and not travel to holiday homes in small communities with fewer resources to wait out the pandemic. They are also urging everyone to mark religious holidays without visiting family and friends.

"Find the virtue in virtual … find togetherness without gathering," Dix said.

Dix said he has spoken with Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro about the upcoming long weekend, and they both agreed that no one should be travelling between the two provinces for anything but essential work.

But Henry said that because the disease takes some time to incubate in newly infected people it will take a week or two before we see whether people in both provinces have followed officials' advice.

"We're in the thick of it right now," she said.

The province announced earlier Wednesday that every traveller returning to B.C. from outside of Canada in coming weeks will now be required to present a formal self-isolation plan to provincial and federal authorities before being allowed to pass customs.

If the traveller does not have a plan, the province will prepare a "quarantine site" for passengers until they come up with an alternative plan.

The province also announced Wednesday that all provincial parks will be closed effective immediately.

The timing of the decision is notable with a long weekend ahead and sunny weather forecast for much of the province. An existing ban on camping in provincial parks was also extended until May 31. 

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

With files from Roshini Nair

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