British Columbia

B.C. marks 11 more deaths from COVID-19, but lowest daily increase in cases in 4 weeks

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 45 new coronavirus cases in the province on Monday, bringing the total to 1,490. Eleven more people have died of the illness.

69 people in the province have now died of the illness, as case count rises to 1,490

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix at a previous daily briefing. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

In her 50th daily update on the spread of COVID-19 in B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 45 new confirmed cases of the virus in the province on Monday, bringing the total to 1,490.

Eleven more people have died, bringing the number of deaths to 69. The majority of deaths in the province remain connected to long-term care homes.

The update provided on Monday reflects two 24-hour time periods, with 25 new cases detected between Saturday and Sunday, and 20 new cases detected between Sunday and Monday — two of the the lowest daily percentage increases since March 6, when the province began announcing new cases every day.

Henry said the daily update, which has become must-watch viewing for many people across the province, will continue as B.C. continues to manage the crisis.

"We remain committed to keeping these updates going for as long as needed," she said.

"We are asking you as well to keep holding the line, keep doing what we are doing, especially for youth and children —remember this is not forever, but it is for now."

Too early to set date for relaxing restrictions

Henry also said B.C. would need to consider a number of factors before setting a date for restrictions to be eased, including the status of cases in neighbouring provinces, the ability to monitor the border with the U.S. and quickly detect outbreaks, and the capacity of B.C.'s health-care system.

"The basics, the hand hygiene, the safe distancing, making sure that our workplaces are able to have enhanced cleaning, the working from home ... those are things that are going to be in place for a while," she said.

"Those are things that we're going to have to keep doing over the next coming months until we have enough herd immunity that we're not going to get a dramatic increase and rapidly increasing infections in our community. "

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, who have warned B.C. residents against all non-essential travel, also commented on traffic and lineups around ferries over the long weekend, which have become a point of tension and frustration.

Dix said that while there are "undoubtedly" people travelling unnecessarily, there has been a huge decrease in BC Ferries traffic compared to the same period last year — up to 90 per cent on some major routes.

"One of the reasons why there's focus on people not seeming to be following the rules is the extraordinary work being done by everybody. … Of course, it's not perfect. I remain amazed and respectful of all the British Columbians sacrificing so much in this cause," he said.

Henry and Dix were also asked to comment on a video posted to social media over the long weekend, which showed a man calling on people to defy directives to stay home.

Dix said the individual who posted the video represented "marginal" views not widely held by the majority of people.

Henry said she was not considering bringing in further restrictions as a result of actions of people "trying to make their name for themselves to do things that they think are defiant."

"I do think it is important for people to go outside. I think it's important for our mental health, for our physical health, for our family health. So I encourage people to go outside — but to do it in a way that maintains that distance. We know that this virus can't magically jump between people," she said.

"Rather than closing down beaches, I think we need to make sure that people are aware of the rules. We need to step up enforcement of some of those rules."

There are currently 137 people hospitalized, with 58 of those cases in intensive care. So far, a total of 926 people in the province have recovered from the virus.

Henry provided an update on an ongoing outbreak at a federal correctional facility in Mission, B.C., where the number of cases has risen to 35, with eight people in hospital.

"This is, of course, of great concern to us," said Henry. "Our priority is to protect all those who are in the facility."

Henry said that despite unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment, B.C. has continued to source enough supplies for now, thanks, in part, to a donation from Alberta.

"We have enough PPE to meet current demand but we're not in the clear yet," she said.

Henry said B.C. is not currently procuring rapid testing kits developed by Spartan Bioscience as the Ontario-based company is already backed up with orders until the summer. The nucleic acid test, which detects the RNA of the virus, is already currently done in B.C. labs, though the province could look at increasing capacity at a later date.

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