British Columbia

B.C. announces 40 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 271 with 1 new death

B.C. provincial health officer  Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 40 new coronavirus cases in B.C. on Thursday, bringing the total to 271.

B.C. health officer says province working through backlog of 'thousands' of tests

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry deliver the COVID-19 update on March 19, 2020. (MIke McArthur/CBC)

B.C. provincial health officer  Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 40 new coronavirus cases in B.C. on Thursday, bringing the total to 271.

Henry also announced one new death, bringing the total number of deaths to eight. The death is linked to the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. Seventeen people are now in hospital, with nine of them in intensive care.

As of Thursday, there are 152 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 81 in the Fraser Health region, 22 in the Island Health region, 12 in Interior Health and four in the north.

Henry once again emphasized the time is now "critical" to build a firewall against the disease, as the numbers of cases remain in an upswing and health workers continue to work through a backlog of "thousands" of tests a day.

A ban on all gatherings of more than 50 people remains in effect, and anyone returning to Canada from international travel has been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. The public has been urged to social distance by avoiding large gatherings and keeping two metres from one another where possible.

"There's been dramatic changes in our society and in the things we're doing here in British Columbia to slow down this virus," she said.

"The things that we're doing right now are going to save us in the next two weeks."

Henry also encouraged people to go spend time outside, but emphasized that social distancing is "not optional."

"We do have the legal authorities to enforce this. This is in your best interest as well."

Changes to MSP announced

Health minister Adrian Dix announced that the wait period for MSP for people returning to B.C. will be waived for those returning from impacted areas, and those who have been outside of B.C. for longer than is normally allowed.

Dix also echoed Henry's urgent tone, saying B.C. residents must act immediately to prevent coronavirus from spreading further.

"Right now and in the days and weeks and months ahead we need to do what we're asked to do. We need to do it 100 per cent ... we need to do it until we're told to stop," he said.

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry urge the public to immediately begin social distancing:

B.C.'s top doctor urges the public to maintain social distancing, saying the actions people take now will "save us" in two weeks. 1:09

Dix said 1.15 million people have now used B.C.'s self assessment tool, and said staff at the 811 call centre answered nearly 2,000 calls on Wednesday alone.

In response to a reporter question about whether additional ventilators have been procured for B.C., he said numbers would be announced once the shipment has arrived.

Over the past few days, B.C. has seen a series of unprecedented measures brought in from all three levels of government.

Earlier on Thursday, the City of Vancouver formally declared a state of emergency, giving it expanded powers. On Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced a provincial state of emergency to ensure provincial and federal resources are delivered jointly.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday morning that Canada and the U.S. agreed to temporarily close their shared border to non-essential travel. 

'Do the right thing'

Henry said she knows the measures brought in, coupled with the images of empty grocery store shelves, have triggered anxiety across the country.

"There's almost a sense of fear when you're walking around sometimes ... but the sun comes up and we realize that we are able to support each other," she said, reiterating that B.C.'s supply chains remain strong and there is no need to excessively stockpile supplies.

Henry said that dentists should only be providing emergency services at this time. Other health-care professionals — including physiotherapists and occupational therapists — should be enacting plans that separate them from other people.

There have also been questions around whether restaurants and bars should remain open. Currently, businesses with liquor primary licences, like bars, pubs, and nightclubs, have been ordered to close.

Restaurants and cafés that cannot maintain distances of one to two metres between people have been told to move to takeout and delivery models.

"I would appeal to the business owners out there:do the right thing," said Henry.

"Most people are doing the right thing."

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

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said five people were in intensive care. In fact, there are nine.
    Mar 19, 2020 4:30 PM PT

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