British Columbia·Video

Expanding your circle? Keep it tight, says top doctor, as B.C. heads into long weekend

Health restrictions around social interactions and public gatherings in B.C. are about to become a little more relaxed in coming days, but that doesn't mean people can let down their guard about stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces 16 new cases on Wednesday, 1 more death

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided her daily update Wednesday afternoon. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Health restrictions around social interactions and public gatherings in B.C. are about to become a little more relaxed in coming days, but that doesn't mean people can let down their guard about stopping the spread of COVID-19.

That was the message from B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry Wednesday at a briefing where she announced 16 new COVID-19 cases have been detected in B.C. in the last 24 hours.

Henry said there has been one additional death in B.C.

"The path, really, is not black and white," Henry said of how people need to conduct themselves as they increase their contacts with others.

"That is the challenge we're all going to face. We've never done this before and we all need to try and do our best."

Smaller groups, bigger spaces and shorter visits will be best going forward, she said, as B.C. loosens restrictions while keeping its case numbers manageable.

As of Wednesday, there were 2,376 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. So far, 132 people have died and 1,859 people have recovered from the illness.

There are 59 COVID-19 patients in hospital, 14 of them in intensive care.

Henry said there have been no new community outbreaks detected. As of Wednesday, there are 15 active outbreaks in long-term care homes and five in acute care units.

Henry and other officials have repeatedly praised the efforts of British Columbians in flattening the curve in B.C. but offered reminders that despite coming changes, some things will stay the same.

Order against large gatherings still in place

Foremost, Henry said, her order against gatherings of over 50 people will remain in place for some time. And she reminded British Columbians that's a maximum number and only feasible if people are able to stay away from each other.

Whether it's a gathering of 50 or less than 50, she said, it can only go ahead if the venue is able to provide for appropriate physical distancing and protective measures.

Watch | Dr. Bonnie Henry offers tips on how to safely host a summer barbecue:

Dr. Bonnie Henry shares her recommendations on how to create physical distance while hosting a barbecue this summer. 1:24

Religious services, for instance, can go ahead next week but must meet these criteria. She said those services should aim for smaller sizes and the space must be large enough. Seniors at services need to be protected and services may need to be modified to avoid multiple people touching each other.

Hand hygiene will be important.

Henry said large stores, like grocery and department stores, can have more than 50 people inside, if physical distancing can be maintained. Plexiglass barriers are "incredibly effective" for retail as is cleaning and hand hygiene, she said.

'Commit to each other'

Henry also advised people to still stay home and local as much as possible this long weekend and to avoid non-essential travel, particularly those who aren't feeling well or who have been around someone who is.

"Stay home, and stay away from others," she said. "Nobody wants to bring this virus into their community, into their home, into their residence or into somebody else's home."

Henry said people need to be conscious of how many people they are letting into their circles. Keep those people consistent, she advised, and confined to one small group of people whose contacts you trust.

"Don't change it up every day. That's not going to be helpful right now. You need to commit to each other for the coming weeks and months that you're going to protect each other and care for each other."

When you are out, she said, don't share drinks or food. Go outside if possible. If you are inside, keep apart and keep visits shorter.

Henry highlights survey

After announcing a provincewide survey Tuesday, Henry said by noon Wednesday, over 75,000 people have responded.

The survey is asking for information on people's experiences and actions during the health emergency. 

"This helps us understand unknown impacts," Henry said Wednesday. "Please take a few minutes to fill it in. We want to hear from people across the province."

The survey also provides an opportunity for people to express interest in other studies, including a serology blood testing study to determine immunity in the province and a study on contact-tracing technology.

Henry especially asked that more young people complete the survey, found on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's website.

Students can apply for benefit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday morning that post-secondary students affected by COVID-19 can start applying for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit Friday. 

The CESB provides $1,250 per month for eligible students from May through August and $2,000 for students with dependents and those with a disability.

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 stated an incorrect amount for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) for students with dependents or a disability. The figure has been corrected.
    May 13, 2020 6:12 PM PT

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