British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 24, 2020

There are now 617 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C., and 13 people have died, but there are some signs of hope in the midst of this crisis — including the recovery of 173 patients.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says 617 cases detected in B.C.

A food delivery service member walks through downtown Vancouver on March 23, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • There are now 617 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Thirteen people have died.
  • 173 people in B.C. have recovered and have been cleared to stop isolating.
  • Two new residential care facilities have reported one case each of COVID-19: Little Mountain Place in Vancouver and Evergreen Heights in White Rock
  • All but four of B.C.'s provincial parks have been closed.
  • The B.C. government has unveiled a $5-billion relief plan for people and businesses.
  • Legislation protecting workers who take leave because of COVID-19 passed in the legislature.
  • The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed.
  • British Columbians remain under orders to stay home as much as possible and, if outside, to stay two metres apart from others.

B.C.'s public health officer said over the past two days, 145 new cases of COVID-19 have been detected, bringing B.C.'s total number of cases to 617.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, at a briefing Tuesday afternoon with Health Minister Adrian Dix, said there have been no new deaths in that time and an additional 73 people have recovered, increasing the total of resolved cases to 173.

Henry added that two new residential care homes have detected coronavirus cases: Little Mountain Place Residential Care in Vancouver and Evergreen Heights in White Rock have detected a single case each; a staff person at Little Mountain and a resident at Evergreen.

Protocols are in place at those facilities to contain the spread, she said.

"We are seeing escalating numbers in British Columbia," Henry said. "No community in this province is immune.

"None of us needs to get this virus and that's where ... physical distancing is so important."

Henry also spoke about the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver in early March. A B.C. dentist who attended the conference died of suspected COVID-19 complications, according to friends and family.

Henry would not confirm the cause of the dentist's death and said the coroner is investigating.

She said people in close contact with the dentist have been identified and put into isolation and at-risk people have been contacted.

Henry said the conference was a "major" source of infections in B.C., with 32 cases linked directly or indirectly to it.

Message the same: stay indoors, limit contact

Officials are again warning the public to obey health orders and continue staying home as much as possible, or risk enforcement to contain people indoors.

"If people do not follow these guidelines, we will put much more stringent measures in place," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

"Every day, someone asks me how long these restrictions will be in place. The truth is, we don't know yet," he added. "The duration of this crisis will be determined by the choices we make right now."

Canadians have been told repeatedly to stay home as much as possible, avoid groups and keep two metres away from the next person while outdoors and visiting businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies.

B.C. officials have said people can go outside for fresh air and exercise, but only close to members of the same household and at a distance from everyone else.

"If you want things to get back to normal, do your part. Stay home," Trudeau said.

"Do it for the health-care workers who we can't afford to lose during the biggest public health crisis our country has ever seen. Because here's the hard truth: If our nurses and doctors have COVID-19, they can't help you. They won't be able to treat you or your loved ones if you get sick. This is serious."

The City of Surrey has closed playgrounds in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

13 deaths in B.C., 173 recovered

There are now 617 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including 13 people who have died, but there are some signs of hope amid the crisis.

On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 173 people have recovered from their illness and have been cleared to leave isolation.

On Tuesday, B.C. Parks suspended services and closed facilities at all but four provincial parks to discourage people from getting outside in groups, for the safety of visitors and volunteers.

The temporary measures affect marine parks, visitor centres, nature houses, playgrounds, washrooms and day-use facilities. Visitors can still use trails and areas that are accessible, but they will be responsible for their own safety.

Mount Seymour, Cypress, Miracle Beach and Wells Gray provincial parks remain open, with some restrictions.

Avalanche Canada is also stopping its avalanche forecasting for the season one month early for safety reasons and because the pandemic has made it impossible to gather data needed to put the forecasts together. 

People sit in a field at a distance in Vancouver on March 16. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

'No one is immune,' minister reminds residents

Health officials have faced repeated questions as to why they are not naming specific communities where people have tested positive for COVID-19, rather than identifying case numbers by region. On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said it's a privacy concern — but, also, officials don't want anybody to get complacent.

"People should assume there are cases in their own communities. No one is immune ... I don't want to be creating a false sense of security that one community is safer than the other," Dix told CBC's The Early Edition.

"Everyone needs to behave as if COVID-19 is in their community now."

Dix said a projection showing where health officials believe COVID-19 is going in the province is "coming this week."

On Monday, residents of B.C. learned about the province's $5-billion relief plan, which includes $1,000 one-time payments for those who've been put out of work. 

During an emergency sitting of the legislature on Monday afternoon, MLAs approved amendments to the Employment Standards Act that prevent employers from firing workers who have to take unpaid leave because they are sick, need to self-isolate or have to care for a child who is ill.

Tenants who are struggling to pay the bills, however, are still waiting to hear whether there will be some form of rent relief.

Premier John Horgan and a dozen MLAs gathered in the legislative assembly to make special statements about the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

New fines in Vancouver

The City of Vancouver now has the power to fine businesses up to $50,000 and individuals up to $1,000 for not following the rules on social distancing.

Many B.C. cities have now closed down outdoor sports facilities and playgrounds to keep make sure people are maintaining the required distance.

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan is resisting calls from some corners to order a complete "lockdown" on non-essential businesses. He told reporters it was not an approach he preferred.

A jogger runs along the White Rock Pier on March 24, 2020, before the pier was set to shut down. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Councillors in White Rock, B.C., shut down the White Rock Pier on Monday night, after swarms of people visited the city's waterfront over the weekend.

At the international level, the Tokyo Olympics have been officially postponed until 2021. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the games will be held "not later than summer 2021'' but they will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Canadian Olympic Committee had previously said it would not send the country's athletes to the games if they were held this summer.

Important reminders:

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

There are 2,792 cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of 4:30 p.m. PT Tuesday.

  • Quebec: 1,013 cases, including four deaths and one resolved.
  • Ontario: 588 cases, including eight deaths and eight resolved.
  • British Columbia: 617 cases, including 13 deaths and 173 resolved.
  • Alberta: 358 cases, including two deaths.
  • Saskatchewan: 72 cases.
  • Nova Scotia: 51 cases.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 35 presumptive and confirmed cases.
  • Manitoba: 21 confirmed and probable cases.
  • New Brunswick: 18 confirmed cases.
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed cases.
  • Prince Edward Island: three confirmed cases.
  • The territories: three confirmed cases.

Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Not all provinces are listing figures on those who have recovered. The recent COVID-19 related death of a Canadian in Japan is not currently included in the province-by-province tally of 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 at least two metres away from people who are sick.
  • When outside the home, keep two metres away from other people.
  • 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 and The Associated Press

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