British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 13, 2020

The measures taken by provincial officials health officials on Thursday and Friday have been the widest-reaching of the outbreak so far.

Canadian Parliament suspended; British Columbians asked to avoid travelling out of the country

A woman wearing a mask stands in front of departures screens at Vancouver International Airport. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • There are 11 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including three cases at a hospital in North Vancouver.
  • Canada's top doctor has advised every Canadian to cancel all travel outside of the country, in line with provincial recommendations in B.C.
  • The federal transport minister has announced cruise ships carrying more than 500 people won't be able to stop in Canada until July 1 — an economic blow to B.C.'s tourism sector.
  • March break begins Friday. Health officials in B.C. say they are not extending the break at this time.
  • Provincial, federal health officials now recommend cancelling gatherings of more than 250 people.
  • Organizers have cancelled the annual BMO Vancouver Marathon.
  • There are now 64 cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

​​​​​​What you need to know today

B.C. has detected 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 64, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Friday.

That includes an outbreak at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, where three administrative staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Five of the new cases announced Friday are related to travel to Iran, Egypt, the Philippines and Mexico, and one has been linked to the ongoing outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. All new cases are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

Right now, two of B.C.'s COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospital. One man in his 80s has died.

Lions Gate access restricted to patients, family

The affected staff at Lions Gate have not worked in clinical areas at the hospital, but out of caution, visitor access has been restricted to patients' family members only. Patient access is unrestricted.

On Thursday, provincial and federal officials took the most wide-ranging measures to prevent the spread of the virus since the novel coronavirus outbreak began.

British Columbians are being asked to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada. Any B.C. resident who does travel abroad is asked to self-isolate for 14 days when they return.

Canada's top doctor echoed the warning on a national level on Friday, advising all Canadians to cancel any travel outside of Canada.

Cruise ships barred, social distancing encouraged

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday cruise ships carrying more than 500 people will not be allowed to dock in Canada until July 1, slashing the economy-boosting cruise ship seasons in Victoria and Metro Vancouver by half. The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said Friday the local economy is set to take a $70-million hit as a result of the cancellations.

Henry also recommended cancelling any gatherings of more than 250 people. Health-care officials have asked residents to start social distancing — not getting close to other people, aside from what is necessary — to lessen the chance of the novel coronavirus spreading through large groups at once.

Faith leaders have been told to keep their services to fewer than 1,000 people and limit physical conduct. The Canadian Council of Imams and the Muslim Medical Association of Canada recommended Friday that services be suspended indefinitely, including today.

The University of British Columbia has cancelled classes with 250 students or more until virtual alternatives are in place.

City facilities undergo 'enhanced cleaning'

The City of Vancouver is cancelling all events with more than 250 people but says tickets will be reimbursed if already purchased. Community centres, libraries and fitness centres are still open but undergoing enhanced cleaning.

Saunas and steam rooms will be closed and some facilities like the swimming pools at Hillcrest Centre and Killarney Community Centre will have limited access to make sure numbers don't swell past 250. 

The city says its emergency operation centre has been running since Monday and plans are underway to maintain services for the most vulnerable people, including services for the homeless community. 

No extended spring break at this time

Many school districts across B.C. will begin their two-week spring break on Friday. 

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said Thursday the ministry has not considered extending spring break due to COVID-19 because risk in schools remains low.

Many parents in B.C. were calling for schools to be shut down, particularly after the Ontario government announced it is closing all its publicly funded schools for two weeks following spring break to slow the spread of the virus.

Parliament suspended; prime minister's wife infected

Parliament was suspended on Friday. Conservative House Leader Mark Strahl said all parties have agreed to adjourn the House of Commons for at least five weeks while allowing the government to spend money to respond to the pandemic. 

NDP House Leader Peter Julian said politicians are uniting across party lines to lead by example, avoiding a large gathering of people.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at Rideau Hall with his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, on Sept. 11, 2019. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Late Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, had tested positive for COVID-19. She is in isolation and feeling well, with mild symptoms.

The prime minister said he was in good health with no symptoms, but will stay in isolation for 14 days and hold meetings by telephone or videoconferencing at the advice of his doctor. The prime minister's office said Grégoire Trudeau began showing flu-like symptoms after returning from a trip to the United Kingdom.

Cases in B.C.

Henry, the health officer, announced an outbreak on Thursday at a second care home on Vancouver's North Shore.

Three patients linked to Hollyburn House in West Vancouver: one is a resident in his 90s and the other two are health-care workers who are also connected to an outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver.

The other new cases announced Thursday included three linked to travel to the U.K. or Egypt and one apparent case of community transmission that is under investigation.

Important reminders:

B.C.'s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the risk of contracting coronavirus in B.C. communities remains low.

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

In Canada, public health officials have reported more than 150 confirmed or presumptive cases. 

  • 60 confirmed cases in Ontario, with five cases resolved.
  • 23 confirmed cases in Alberta.
  • 17 confirmed cases in Quebec.
  • One confirmed case in New Brunswick.
  • Three presumptive cases in Manitoba.
  • One presumptive case in Saskatchewan.
  • One confirmed case at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which has been assessing risk as the global outbreak progresses, has said the risk remains low in Canada.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said on Twitter that outbreak control measures are meant to slow the spread of the disease, reduce the impact on the health-care system and give hospitals time to prepare. That means that everyone needs to practise good hygiene and protect older people and those with weakened immune systems from exposure.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

What about testing?

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) says testing is currently available for people who have a history of travel to regions affected by COVID-19 and symptoms typical of an infection.

Affected areas include Mainland China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

To find out if you can be tested, contact your health-care provider or call HealthLink BC at 811 to talk to a nurse and get advice. Stay away from others and do not visit a health-care provider without calling ahead. 

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Unless you're already infected, masks won't help you.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

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

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