B.C. reports 95 new cases of COVID-19 as testing expands
Province reaches 100 deaths as cases spike related to outbreaks in federal institution and a poultry plant
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are 95 new cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia, a spike that brought the total number of cases to 1,948 on Saturday.
Henry said part of the reason for the dramatic jump in cases is because of additional testing related to community outbreaks at a federal prison and a poultry processing plant.
Forty of the new cases are linked to the federally-run Mission Institution, where 106 inmates and 12 staff members have contracted the virus. An inmate at the federal prison died from COVID-19 complications earlier this month. Henry said two inmates are currently in hospital.
Henry said there are also 16 new cases at Superior Poultry, a processing plant in Coquitlam, B.C., and 11 new cases linked to workers returning home from the site of an outbreak at a work site in Kearl Lake, Alta.
She also announced two new deaths, bringing the province's total to 100. One of those deaths marked the first recorded fatality linked to one of the province's many First Nations communities.
"This is a tragedy that's beyond just us, it's a tragedy for all of us," Henry said, her voice wavering.
"Our elders, in particular in our First Nations communities, are culture and history keepers. When they become ill and when they die, we all lose."
Watch Dr. Henry speak about the death in Alert Bay, B.C.:
Henry said there are currently 96 people in hospital, including 41 in critical care.
She also said a total 1,137 people have recovered from the disease.
Earlier this month, health officials mentioned that B.C. could ease up on some restrictions related to the coronavirus over the next few weeks.
When asked how these kinds of spikes in numbers could affect those plans, Henry said there's no exact number the province is aiming to reach but "we do want to see a decrease in cases."
Part of the province's strategy is to understand how the virus is spreading and have testing and surveillance in place to catch community outbreaks early.
Henry said the province is looking at potential transitions to open up elective surgeries, which are currently not being offered.
"We can't let go our guard yet," she said. "We've seen in Alberta, we've seen in Ontario as well, these outbreaks can become very large very quickly."
'You are not alone'
Henry also made reference to the province's announcement earlier in the day to move tent city residents into hotels in Victoria and Vancouver by May 9, saying it was "welcome news."
"We have not forgotten that we have two public health crises, two public health emergencies in the province," she said, referring to B.C.'s opioid crisis.
She then mentioned that although it's important for everyone to keep physical distance from one another, for some people, "being at home means not being safe."
Speaking specifically about victims of domestic abuse, Henry said their immediate safety is more important than physically distancing.
"We want you to know that you are not alone," Henry said, adding that domestic violence can sometimes increase during crises like this one.
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