British Columbia

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

Eight people have now died of COVID-19 in British Columbia and the total number of confirmed cases has risen to 271.

One additional death, bringing total number to 8; 271 cases of COVID-19 confirmed

A man walks away from City Hall in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday, the same day the city declared a local state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • One additional death at the Lynn Valley Care Centre bringing total number of deaths to eight.
  • B.C. has confirmed a total of 271 cases of COVID-19.
  • 17 people are in hospital. Nine in intensive care. Five have fully recovered.
  • Dr. Bonnie Henry stresses that social distancing measures are "not optional"
  • The B.C. government has declared a provincial state of emergency.
  • The City of Vancouver officially declares local state of emergency.
  • The prime minister said social distancing measures could last "weeks to months."

​​​​​​What you need to know today

An additional resident of North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre has died, bringing the total number of deaths from the novel coronavirus in British Columbia to eight.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the number of confirmed cases has risen to 271, an increase of 40 cases from Wednesday.

Haro Park Centre care facility in Vancouver on Wednesday. One person inside the facility has contracted the novel coronavirus, marking the third infection at a long-term care home in Metro Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Seventeen of the confirmed patients are in hospital and nine of those people are in intensive care.

B.C. is now under a province-wide state of emergency. The declaration was made Wednesday to give the government broad and sweeping power to compel action while preserving supply chains of groceries and other essential items in the face of COVID-19.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the "all hands on deck approach" will allow for the delivery of federal, provincial and local resources in a co-ordinated way and complement the declaration of a public health emergency in B.C. announced Tuesday.

A man walks down an empty Government Street in Victoria on Wednesday. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The City of Vancouver unanimously approved its own local state of emergency on Thursday. A number of other municipalities, including Delta and New Westminster, have moved to do the same.

The province on Thursday announced B.C. Liquor Store hours are being reduced to protect staff. The Crown corporation is also going to begin limiting the amount of people allowed in a store at a time, where necessary.

B.C. Supreme Court operations suspended

B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson suspended the court's regular operations Thursday in order to comply with public health guidelines and contain the spread of COVID-19.

Henry stressed that her orders around social distancing, self-isolation and self-quarantine are "not optional."

The emergency declarations give Henry and the province the power to enforce her demands, and she said they have been working with law enforcement agencies to discuss implementation. 

The Supreme Court will hear urgent matters by telephone or video — including orders issued under the Quarantine Act and the Public Health Act and matters involving refusal to accept treatment, civil restraining orders and urgent injunctions.

Emergency funds should come within weeks: minister

Early Thursday, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Canadians worried about having enough money to pay for food, rent and medication can expect emergency funds in two to three weeks. The aid, announced Wednesday, will be delivered to applicants by direct deposit, rather than cheques in the mail.

In a news conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is "considering using any measures necessary" to ensure the country has the medical equipment it needs to manage COVID-19. He said Canada might use its military procurement policy to get devices such as ventilators.

A camera operator monitors his camera as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a statement about the measures the government is putting in place to fight the COVID-19 virus in Ottawa on March 18, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Trudeau said Ottawa is looking to "expedite access to lab test kits" needed to diagnosis the illness. The prime minister said 50,000 Canadians have been tested for the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began, with 25,000 of those tests administered in the last week alone.

"The need for these test kits is growing," Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the government is also "fine-tuning" the deal with the United States to close the shared border to non-essential visitors. He said he expects the border will be formally shut to travellers like tourists and shoppers between Friday and Saturday.

People like international students, workers with visas and temporary foreign workers will still be allowed across. Truck freight will be permitted.

Social distancing still crucial

Health Minister Adrian Dix urged all British Columbians to do their part to help contain the virus by avoiding crowds, working from home when possible and practising social distancing. 

Minister Dix described the importance of social distancing:

Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed that people in B.C. must immediately begin social distancing and self-isolating to help curb the spread of coronavirus. 0:46

"To those who have been reluctant … I want to say that your friends and your neighbours and your family are counting on you," he said.

Trudeau said health officials' advice to the government is that social distancing requirements could last "weeks or months."

Meanwhile Henry encouraged British Columbians to "get outside" but to stay apart.

"There are thing you can do, even if we are doing social distancing. You can walk your pet. You can go for a bike ride. You can play with your kids," she said.

"These are the things that you want to do, as a small group, as a family together, and maintain your distance from others when you're outside as well."

The B.C. government has announced the postponement of byelections in Victoria, Rossland and Lytton that were scheduled to take place in April, as well as a referendum that was planned for Kamloops.

Details on federal aid

The federal government pledged up to $82 billion on Wednesday to support the Canadian economy, businesses and workers. The plan includes a new Emergency Care Benefit to provide income support to workers who have to stay home but don't have access to paid sick leave.

British Columbians abroad try to head home

As the reality of the new restrictions on daily life sink in, British Columbians working and travelling in countries around the world are trying to heed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's advice to come home to Canada.

But they're finding flight cancellations and closed borders make that very difficult, and they're having trouble getting help from Canadian embassy and consulate officials.

Once back home in B.C., everyone returning from any international travel has been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. 

B.C.'s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people remains in effect. All bars and nightclubs have been ordered to close, and other businesses have been told to implement social-distancing measures to keep people one or two metres apart.

Recent days have seen a steady stream of public facilities, businesses and stores shutting down to meet the recommendations of the provincial health officer.

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 773 confirmed or presumptive cases, including 10 deaths. 

  • Ontario: 257 cases, including five recovered and two deaths*.
  • British Columbia: 231 confirmed cases, including five recovered and seven deaths.
  • Alberta: 119 confirmed cases.
  • Quebec: 94 confirmed cases, including one recovered and one death.
  • Saskatchewan: 16 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • New Brunswick: Seven confirmed and four presumptive cases.
  • Manitoba: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases. 
  • Nova Scotia: Five confirmed and nine presumptive cases.
  • Prince Edward Island: Two cases the province lists as positive.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Three presumptive cases.
  • Repatriated Canadians: Nine confirmed cases.

*It was not immediately clear if the provincial tally of cases in Ontario, which sits at 257, includes the second death reported in the province.

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 Canadian Press

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