British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 15, 2020

Social distancing measures continue as British Columbia tries to prevent the spread of the virus.

Social distancing measures continue as British Columbia tries to prevent the spread

Lonsdale Quay is pictured in North Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The latest:

  • B.C. officials say there are now 73 cases of COVID-19 in B.C.
  • Six people have recovered, and one person has died from the illness in the province.
  • COVID-19 testing in B.C. will focus on care homes, health workers and active outbreaks.
  • The federal government has advised against international travel, including to the United States, telling citizens who are abroad to come back home while commercial travel options remain available.
  • Great Canadian Gaming says it will close all 10 of its B.C. casinos at midnight Sunday.
  • Some municipalities have announced they are closing all recreation centres, ice rinks, pools and libraries.
  • B.C. Ferries has reduced sailings on Sunday and Monday to meet current traffic demands.
  • Whistler Blackcomb closed today for one week to reassess its approach toward coronavirus.
  • Cypress Mountain Resort has announced it will suspend operations at 4 p.m. on Sunday until further notice.
  • Capilano University and Langara College have both paused all classes for Monday and Tuesday as they transition to online courses.
  • BC Hydro says it will cancel all non-emergency planned power outages.
  • Premier John Horgan has warned British Columbians against hoarding supplies, encouraging them to look out for one another and be reasonable. 
  • Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will provide her next update at 10 a.m. PT Monday.

​​​​​​What you need to know today

The province had 27 coronavirus cases last Sunday, and one week later, that number stands at 73. Although a North Vancouver man in his 80s became the first — and so far, only — COVID-19 related death Monday, six people have since fully recovered. 

B.C.'s cases now span every regional health authority in the province, with the majority of patients undergoing self-isolation at home with mild symptoms. 

Officials are focusing on the three outbreak centres: the Lions Gate Hospital and the Lynn Valley Care Centre facility in North Vancouver, as well as Hollyburn House in West Vancouver. 

Testing is now being streamlined to focus on outbreak clusters, healthcare workers, those in hospital, and people in long-term care homes.

Travellers who have been outside the country do not need to be tested even if they show mild symptoms, says Dr. Bonnie Henry, but they are asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days. 

But some were scrambling to actually make it back home.

On Sunday Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne again recommended Canadian travellers return to Canada via commercial means "while they remain available." 

He also said on Sunday that Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau would be announcing new borders and airport measures soon.

In the meantime, social distancing measures are being encouraged across the province and Dr. Henry issued a public health order Friday against gatherings of over 250 people. 

Great Canadian Gaming, which operates 10 casinos in B.C., has announced that it is suspending all operations at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, the City of Surrey said it is closing all recreation centres, ice rinks, pools and libraries to prevent spread of the virus.

Delta will do the same on Monday, while West Vancouver will shutter similar municipal facilities at 8 p.m. PT Monday.

BC Hydro said on Sunday that it would cancel all non-emergency planned power outages for the coming week as people are spending more time in their homes.

Safety for vulnerable people

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Sunday that more non-essential programs and services would be cancelled over the coming week.

"My top priority right now is to ensure we do what we can to slow or stop the spread of the virus and to make sure our most vulnerable neighbours are safe, especially seniors, those living in SROs or who are experiencing homelessness," he said in a release.

Many popular events and activities have been cancelled or shut down to prevent the possible spread of the virus, including a week-long closure of Whistler Blackcomb.

Cypress Mountain Resort announced it will suspend operations on Sunday at 4 p.m. given concerns around the virus. 

"We have worked tirelessly over the past couple of weeks to increase preventative measures in order to reduce the possibility of transmission of the coronavirus, but ultimately we feel the appropriate step right now is to be socially [responsible]," says a statement on the resort website.

Online education

Capilano University and Langara College have both announced that all in-person classes on Monday and Tuesday are suspended as the schools transition to online courses, which will begin on Wednesday.

Metro Vancouver's Douglas College, which has 25,000 students, said it would be open for classes Monday. It is making plans to stop in-person classes, which will be implemented no later than March 20.

BC Ferries is cutting service Sunday and Monday between Tsawassen and Swartz Bay, citing lower demand. Four sailings in either direction will be cut Sunday including the noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

On Saturday, Vancouver Coastal Health announced that visitors to all its facilities would be restricted to family members. Fraser Health is also limiting the number of visitors to its hospitals.

In neighbouring Washington state, 40 have died and more than 550 have been infected. Officials said the disease is straining the supply of protective gear available to medical providers despite shipments from the federal government.

WATCH | How COVID-19 is playing out very differently in Seattle and Vancouver:

Seattle and Vancouver: 2 cities, 2 different COVID-19 outbreaks

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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.

'Keep on making music'

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra said more than 26,000 viewers watched a live stream of its finale for BeethovenFest on Sunday after the ban on mass gatherings.

Otto Tausk, conductor, along with Saleem Ashkar on piano and other musicians played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 and Symphony No. 6, Pastorale, to an empty Orpheum in Vancouver.

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

In Canada, public health officials have reported at least 341 confirmed or presumptive cases. 

  • 145 confirmed cases in Ontario, including five people who have recovered.
  • 56 confirmed cases in Alberta.
  • 39 confirmed cases in Quebec.
  • One confirmed case and five presumptive cases in New Brunswick.
  • Four confirmed cases and three presumptive cases in Manitoba.
  • Six presumptive cases in Saskatchewan.
  • Three presumptive cases in Nova Scotia.
  • P.E.I. confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Saturday.
  • Newfoundland has one presumptive case.
  • Four confirmed cases among Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton.

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

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 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.

With files from the Associated Press

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