British Columbia

75 people in B.C. have now died of COVID-19, including 1st patient in the Interior

B.C. has seen 75 people die from COVID-19, as the number of cases in long-term care homes continues to climb.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are 44 new confirmed cases or 1,561 in total

Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix says British Columbians must meet certain criteria to be tested for coronavirus. (MIke McArthur/CBC)

B.C. has seen 75 people die from COVID-19, as the number of cases in long-term care homes continues to climb.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday that three more deaths from the disease have been recorded in the last 24 hours. That includes the first death in the Interior Health region, where a man in his 60s passed away at home.

Forty-four more cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in the province, for a total to date of 1,561. 

Henry said that after previous deaths of COVID-19 patients who were recovering at home, health officials have adjusted their monitoring strategy.

"We focus more attention on assessing people's symptoms during the second week of illness," she said.

Henry said the critical time for COVID-19 patients is around days five, six and seven of their illnesses, when they can very quickly go downhill.

There are active outbreaks at 21 long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland, where 265 residents and staff have tested positive for the disease.

The outbreak at Mission Institution also continues to grow, with 48 people now positive for the novel coronavirus and seven in hospital. Another three positive cases have been recorded among temporary foreign workers at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna.

As of Wednesday, there were 131 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 59 in intensive care. A total of 955 people have recovered from their illness.

During Wednesday's daily briefing, Henry stressed the importance of British Columbians showing kindness and understanding for each other during these trying times. She said she has heard stories of anger in the community, which she described as "a manifestation of anxiety and fear."

Henry urged everyone to support each other and respond to anger with kindness.

"We are all making a difference and we are getting through this together," she said.

Watch: Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about the importance of supporting each other

B.C's provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, acknowledges that uncertainty about the future can be challenging for people to hear, but in order to get through the COVID-19 outbreak, the public needs to do its best to support one another. 1:24

'Not a turning point'

Later this week, Henry plans to present new modelling on B.C.'s response to the novel coronavirus.

"We want everyone to understand and see what we're seeing. This is not a turning point," Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

"What we see is people around B.C. who are taking part, who are participating … to help bend the curve."

Henry said B.C. is still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's too early to talk about ending physical distancing measures.

"I do have great concerns about things going back to so-called normal," she said. "I can't even begin to think that we would allow that sort of return to practice that puts people at risk again."

She said the first steps toward normal life would more likely be in resuming certain operations of the health-care system that have been on hold for the last month.

"It will be some weeks before we can let up even a little bit," she said.

Earlier Wednesday, the federal government announced it is relaxing eligibility requirements for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to include people who are still earning but with lower incomes, seasonal workers, as well as people who have run out of employment insurance.

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 Courtney Dickson

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