British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 20, 2020

A total of 348 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in British Columbia, and nine people have died.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has ordered all restaurants to end eat-in services

A restaurant worker waits for customers in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday. Restaurants and bars in the city have been ordered to stop dine-in services by the end of the day Friday, or face prosecution. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • B.C. has ordered all restaurants and bars to shut down dine-in operations.
  • A case of COVID-19 have been confirmed at another Metro Vancouver care home.
  • U.S.-Canada border will be closed to non-essential travellers at midnight tonight.
  • Asylum seekers trying to cross into Canada will be turned back at the border.
  • The University of Victoria and St. Michaels University School confirmed students tested positive.
  • B.C. has confirmed a total of 348 cases of COVID-19, including 77 new cases on Friday.
  • Nine people have died, including eight connected to the outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre.
  • B.C. promises compensation for child-care providers.

​​​​​​What you need to know today

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has ordered every restaurant and bar in B.C. to stop all dine-in services and move to takeout and delivery only.

That follows a similar announcement made earlier in the day by the mayor of Vancouver.

"The changes being announced today are major. They mean ... many, many people will be laid off," said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

"We are doing this because we think this is what we need to do to keep vulnerable people from becoming seriously ill, or worse."

The city is taking its actions under the state of emergency declared by council on Thursday. 

Stewart also warned all retail operations to ensure social distancing is enforced in their facilities, otherwise they will also face consequences.

On Friday, West Vancouver and Pitt Meadows followed in Vancouver's footsteps and declared their own states of local emergency.

West Vancouver Mayor Mary-Ann Booth explained, "We need these powers to ensure everyone practices social responsibility, even if we need to compel."

Case at 4th Metro Vancouver care home

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at another Metro Vancouver care home. There are now four long-term care facilities in the region with cases of the illness diagnosed in residents or staff.

Fraser Health confirmed Friday a staff member at Dufferin Care Centre in Coquitlam, B.C., had been positively diagnosed. A statement said the staff member is in self-isolation at home. The health authority said it is ensuring other staff working at the centre do not work at any other facility as the investigation into the transmission continues.

The public health emergency over COVID-19 didn't stop people from enjoying the first day of spring at Trout Lake in Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Residents and staff will be screened twice a day, the authority said. Visitors have also been restricted to essential visitors only.

The Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, Hollyburn House in West Vancouver and Haro Park Centre in Vancouver are all long-term care homes with confirmed cases among residents and/or staff.

Eight of the nine COVID-related deaths in B.C. stem from the outbreak at the Lynn Valley centre.

Help for child-care providers

As B.C.'s health-care professionals and other essential workers continue to put in long hours in the midst of the pandemic, Henry has stressed that child-care services must be available for those who need them.

On Friday, the B.C. government announced that providers who remain open during the crisis will receive compensation for doing so — amounting to seven times their average monthly government funding. The province says that should cover about three quarters of an average facility's monthly expenses.

Henry has said that anyone who can care for their children should keep them at home during this pandemic. Child-care providers who close their doors will receive two times their average monthly government funding, which is meant to cover fixed costs like mortgages and leases.

Border closure begins at midnight

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada and the U.S. have finalized their mutual agreement to shut the border to non-essential travellers, such as tourists. Trudeau said Friday the closure will take effect at midnight.

The Peace Arch-Douglas border crossing between Canada and the United States in Surrey, B.C., on March 18, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

He also announced Canada and the U.S. have also reached a "reciprocal arrangement [under which] we will now be returning irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada-U.S. border.

"It's an exceptional measure," said Trudeau.

As recently as Thursday, the government said the solution to screening refugee claimants was not to turn them away, but to assess their health when they were intercepted and then hold them in isolation for the standard 14 days.

Support for manufacturers

The Canadian government is launching support for manufacturers as they shift their focus to producing equipment needed to treat people for COVID-19, such as ventilators, masks and tests for the novel coronavirus.

Trudeau said companies already making medical equipment will be able to increase production, while other businesses can shift their facilities to begin producing medical supplies. An example, Trudeau said, is the auto-parts sector moving to build medical gear instead.

"Canadian companies are among the most innovative and agile in the world, and we're very confident that we're going to be able to work with them to respond to the pressing needs in our health-care system."

77 more cases confirmed in B.C.

In B.C., Henry announced on Friday afternoon that the province had identified another 77 cases of COVID-19. That brings the provincial total to 348, including eight people who have died.

Of those people, 22 are in hospital, including 10 who are in intensive care. Six people have fully recovered.

As of Friday, TransLink is bringing in rear-door boarding on all its buses and making them free. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Two schools in Victoria each confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in their communities. The University of Victoria said one of its "upper-level" students who lives off campus is now recovering with the illness at home. The university said the student's family notified the school of the case.

Students, parents, and staff with connections to St. Michaels University School in Victoria were notified late Thursday that a senior student has been diagnosed with the virus. A statement said the student contracted the illness from a family member at home and "was unlikely to be infectious during his last days at school."

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.

As of Friday, TransLink is implementing rear-door boarding on all its buses and making them free.

Municipal, provincial, national orders

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said an "all hands on deck approach" through the state of emergency 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.

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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expects new restrictions on non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border to take effect Friday night.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to get home, although the government says travellers presenting symptoms won't be able to board flights.

Social distancing 'not optional'

Henry once again emphasized the time is now "critical" to build a firewall against the disease, as the numbers of cases remain in an upswing and health workers continue to work through a backlog of "thousands" of tests a day.

"There's been dramatic changes in our society and in the things we're doing here in British Columbia to slow down this virus," she said Thursday.

"The things that we're doing right now are going to save us in the next two weeks."

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry urge the public to immediately begin social distancing:

B.C.'s top doctor urges the public to maintain social distancing, saying the actions people take now will "save us" in two weeks. 1:09

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. 

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.

Restaurants and cafés that cannot maintain distances of one to two metres between people have been told to move to takeout and delivery models.

"I would appeal to the business owners out there: do the right thing," said Henry.

Recent days have seen a steady stream of public facilities, businesses and stores shutting down to meet the recommendations of the provincial health officer. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has also advised its members to stop hosting open houses.

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

As of 3:30 a.m. PT on Friday,  there were 873 presumptive and confirmed cases in Canada, with 12 deaths and 11 listed as recovered.

  • British Columbia: 271 confirmed cases, including five recovered and eight deaths.

  • Ontario: 258 confirmed cases, including five recovered and two deaths.

  • Alberta: 146 confirmed cases, including one death.

  • Quebec: 121 confirmed cases, including one recovered and one death.

  • Saskatchewan: 20 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Manitoba: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • New Brunswick: 11 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Nova Scotia: 14 confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Prince Edward Island: Two cases the province lists as positive.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Three confirmed and presumptive cases.

  • Repatriated Canadians: 10 confirmed cases.

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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