British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 16, 2020

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said three more residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver have died of COVID-19.

3 more deaths at Lynn Valley Care Centre; total cases tops 100; Canada closes borders to non-Canadians

A passenger is pictured at an empty international departures gate at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Richmond, B.C., on March 16, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • Three more COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in B.C., bringing national total to four.
  • The total number of cases in B.C. is now 103.
  • The province launched a dedicated phone line for information: 888-COVID19
  • British Columbians now asked to not hold gatherings with more than 50 people.
  • Vancouver has ordered all downtown bars and restaurants to close for St. Patrick's Day.
  • Canadian borders are closed to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, with a small number of exceptions.
  • Some B.C. cities — including Vancouver — are closing all community centres, recreation facilities and libraries.
  • Grouse Mountain is suspending operations and Mount Seymour is closing for the season
  • University of B.C. says it will transition to online classes for the remainder of the term 
  • Port Moody's Brewer's Row announces closure of brewery tasting rooms
  • Governments have advised against international travel, including to the United States, telling citizens who are abroad that the time to come home is now.

​​​​​​What you need to know today

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the deaths of three more people from COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total number of nationwide deaths from the novel coronavirus to four.

Henry said the three deaths, in addition to the first on March 8, occurred among residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. The care home has grappled with an outbreak of the virus that infected a cluster of patients and staff in recent weeks.

The province confirmed 30 more cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 103.

All levels of government in B.C. are now taking some of the most sweeping steps to date to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus through the province, asking British Columbians to cancel gatherings of more than 50 people.

Citizens are also being asked to stay home when they can, while officials directed every hospital in the province to prepare for an influx of patients and ask municipalities to close non-essential community hubs.

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry listens during a news conference regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19, in Vancouver, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the ministry has asked all hospitals in the province to move to an outbreak response phase, meaning all non-urgent scheduled surgeries will be postponed to free up "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of hospital beds, as the health-care system braces for more patients.

National borders closed

The provincial measures came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada is closing its borders to most people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Air crews, diplomats and immediately family members of Canadians are exceptions to the closure.

U.S. citizens are also exempt from the restrictions, a decision that disappointed B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, who advised Americans simply: "Don't come."

The federal government is mandating air carriers screen passengers with symptoms of the novel coronavirus out of lines so they don't board planes home, Trudeau said Monday morning. Ottawa is also restricting international flights to just four airports across the country, one of which being Vancouver International Airport.

The prime minister said the country is taking "increasingly aggressive steps'' to keep everyone safe in an "exceptional" time.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference on the COVID-19 situation, at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Monday, March 16, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Social landscape shifts

Close to home, the social landscape in many B.C. communities has changed to encourage social distancing, a public health practice of avoiding crowds and large gatherings that can slow the spread of a virus.

Health officials across the country say this will ease the burden on the health-care system over time — an intervention known as "flattening the curve."

Surrey, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Port Coquitlam and Delta are among the cities closing all recreation centres, ice rinks, pools, libraries and cultural centres as of Monday. Major events have been cancelled, businesses are closing, storefronts and residents are asked to avoid bars or restaurants with more than 50 people packed inside.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is now closed to the public indefinitely, and Vancouver's mayor has advised citizens to avoid bars and restaurants if they can't ensure a distance of at least one metre apart. 

Mayor Kennedy Stewart has also ordered all bars and restaurants in the downtown core to close on March 17, to avoid large crowds celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

And the four breweries who make up Port Moody's beloved Brewer's Row said they would be closing their tasting rooms for the time being, although facilities would be open to fill growlers and for off-sales. 

Both Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour also announced the suspension of operations.

Crown corporations and courts alter operations

Crown corporations are also changing the way they run: BC Ferries is cutting service between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay on Monday, citing lower demand, while BC Hydro will cancel all non-emergency planned power outages for the coming week to accommodate people spending more time at home.

B.C. Provincial Court is reducing operations as of Monday, cancelling conferences for family, child protection and small claims cases through May 4. Bail hearings will only be done virtually, unless a judge or justice orders otherwise.

The B.C. Supreme Court announced the cancellation of jury selection and said trials with juries would either proceed by judge alone or face adjournment.

The B.C. Court of Appeal asked parties to adjourn hearings and federal court proceedings were also cancelled.

Schools move online

A number of other universities and colleges, such as Simon Fraser University and Douglas College, are moving to virtual learning for their students. The University of British Columbia announced plans to transition to online classes for the remainder of the term.

Younger students in B.C. begin their first full week of March Break on Monday — a well-timed reprieve for health-care officials who had been contemplating whether to close schools earlier this month, but a stressor for parents deciding how to entertain their children at home.

Students are pictured on campus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on Nov. 20, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. and Manitoba are now the only provinces in Canada that have not closed schools amid the pandemic.

Henry said she expected to make an announcement related to schools sometime Tuesday.

Every region in the province

Henry said that only six of the patients who have been confirmed are in hospital. Five patients are considered to be 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.

The latest cases are linked to the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver, which saw 15,000 people attend on March 6-7. Anyone who attended has been asked to self-isolate.

Officials in B.C. have identified three outbreak centres on the North Shore: Lions Gate Hospital and the Lynn Valley Care Centre facility in North Vancouver, as well as Hollyburn House in West Vancouver. 

On Monday, Henry said there have been no further cases confirmed at Hollyburn House.

U.S. visitors asked to stay stateside

There are at least 673 cases in neighbouring Washington state, including 42 deaths.

The border closure announced by the federal government Monday does not apply to travellers from the U.S. The prime minister said the U.S. is not included in the ban "at the moment" because the relationship between the Canadian and American economies is delicate, adding the situation is still going to be examined "in coming days."

On Monday, B.C.'s health minister said he was concerned by the U.S. exemption. He urged visitors from Washington state — particularly those from King County and Snohomish County — to not visit Canada, given the severity of the stateside outbreak.

Dix had a strong message for any would-be visitors from the United States: "Don't come."

Adrian Dix says Canada's travel restrictions don't go far enough, as he calls for a travel ban on non-essential U.S. travel into B.C. amid the coronavirus pandemic. 0:38

Stricter airport measures in place

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, urged everyone to take measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, making sure elderly and vulnerable members of the community are protected and supported. That means cancelling non-essential international travel, avoiding crowds, working from home if possible, and staying two arms' lengths from others.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said on Twitter on Monday it is adding additional screening measures at all international airports, in wake of criticism over lax screening over the weekend.

Further, the prime minister said Monday international flights will now only be accepted at four airports in the country -- one of which is Vancouver International Airport.

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 at least 421 confirmed or presumptive cases. 

  • Ontario: at least 177 confirmed cases, including five cases listed by the province as resolved.
  • British Columbia: 103 confirmed, including four deaths and four cases listed by the province as resolved.
  • Alberta: 56 confirmed.
  • Quebec: 50 confirmed.
  • Saskatchewan: five presumptive, one confirmed.
  • New Brunswick: five  presumptive, two confirmed.
  • Manitoba: four confirmed, three presumptive. 
  • Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: eight confirmed.
  • Nova Scotia: five presumptive.
  • Prince Edward Island: one confirmed.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: one presumptive.

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

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.