British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on April 1, 2020

Wednesday marks a difficult day for many British Columbians as rent, bills and other expenses come due after weeks of lost income.

There are 1,066 cases in the province as of Wednesday

Customers line up outside of a TD bank in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday. Staying two metres apart from others is a critical part of physical distancing. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • The province has announced bill credits and payment breaks for BC Hydro customers.
  • There are 1,066 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. as of Wednesday.
  • Twenty-five people have died.
  • Just over half of all confirmed cases, 606 in total, have now recovered.
  • Residents at two additional care homes have tested positive.
  • Two employees of Coast Mountain Bus Company, including a bus driver, have also tested positive.
  • The B.C. government has extended the provincial state of emergency.
  • North Vancouver is closing parking lots near popular beach and hiking spots.
  • The province is at a "critical" point in its fight against the coronavirus and strict physical distancing must continue.

Wednesday marks a difficult day for many British Columbians as rent, bills and other expenses come due after weeks of lost income.

The provincial government has announced BC Hydro is offering a three-month bill credit to people who are out of work or working at a reduced wage because of the outbreak. The credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the previous year and will not have to be repaid.

For small businesses forced to close during the pandemic, the utility is offering bill forgiveness for April, May and June.

Premier John Horgan said large, industrial customers can have 50 per cent of their payments deferred for the next three months.

In addition, the premier said the B.C. Utilities Commission has approved a one per cent rate drop "across the board" to help cut costs for customers.

Both provincial and federal governments have said they are working to get billions in financial aid flowing to the public as soon as possible, in the form of tax breaks, bill deferrals, wage subsidies and breaks on loan payments.

A rebate from the provincial government did not arrive in time for renters and landlords, though a ban on evictions did. Some tenants and landlords have worked out an understanding around rent between themselves. Commercial businesses are still calling for rent relief and an eviction moratorium as expenses continue to pile up.

To help cover costs for frontline workers during the crisis, the helicopter airline Helijet has announced it will provide free seats for health-care responders travelling on business between Vancouver and the company's Vancouver Island terminals in Victoria and Nanaimo.

The seats will be given to "doctors, nurses or others in the health-care sector who may need to travel quickly to provide direct patient care," according to a statement.

A woman sits on a bench in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

North Vancouver to close parking lots close to popular parks and trails

The District of North Vancouver has announced it's closing parking lots near many of its most popular parks, trails and waterfront spots.

Starting April 4, parking lots near Deep Cove, Panorama, Cates Park/Whey-ah-Wichen and Kilmer Park will be closed, and new parking restrictions will take effect on streets near park and trail areas.

"These additional closures are to help flatten the curve and to prevent overcrowding in the District's parks and trails," said the DNV in a statement. 

Many of North Vancouver's favourite nature spots are closed until further notice, among them Quarry Rock and Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, as well as skate parks, BMX tracks and picnic shelters.

You can find a full list of North Vancouver closures here

The District of North Vancouver is closing parking lots near many of the areas favourite parks and hiking spots, including Panorama Park, Deep Cove and Cates Park. The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, pictured here, is already closed. (Lynncanyon.ca)

Video calling app for teachers and students

On Wednesday, B.C.'s Ministry of Education announced it has paid to license Zoom for teachers so they can host video calls that act as virtual classrooms for students while in-class learning is suspended due to the pandemic.

Zoom is a video conferencing tool, primarily used for businesses, that has surged in popularity as a new way to connect since the outbreak forced millions of workers and families to stay home. The ministry said use of the software works under B.C.'s privacy legislation and will be available to teachers this month.

State of emergency extended

B.C.'s provincial state of emergency has been extended until April 14 after 1,066 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths.

On Tuesday night, Premier John Horgan used a province-wide address to urge British Columbians to do their part by staying home whenever possible and keeping a two-metre distance from other people outside the home.

"What we do today will affect what our doctors, nurses and first responders face in the days and weeks ahead. It will determine how many of us stay healthy, and how much we can do to flatten the curve," he said. 

"You might not feel it in your living room, but everyone in B.C. is pulling together and there are early signs that our actions are making a difference. But we can't stop now."

Watch the premier's full address:

In a provincewide address on March 31, 2020, Premier John Horgan urged British Columbians to "do their part" by staying home to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus and announced B.C.’s state of emergency would be extended. 6:18

Horgan's address followed the news that there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 among a group of temporary foreign workers at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna.

Fourteen workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and 63 other migrant workers are now in isolation, with more test results pending.

COVID-19 cases have also been confirmed at two new long-term care facilities, for a total of 21 homes experiencing outbreaks in the Lower Mainland.

Fraser Health said that one resident at the Swedish Assisted Living Residence in Burnaby and two residents at Chartwell Cedarbrooke Retirement Residence in Mission have been diagnosed with the disease.

Meanwhile, Coast Mountain Bus Company says a bus driver in Port Coquitlam and an employee at the Burnaby Transit Centre have also tested positive.

By Wednesday afternoon, 142 people were in hospital as a result of the virus, with 67 patients in intensive care. Just over half of all confirmed cases — 606 in total — have fully recovered.

Words of encouragement painted on boarded-up windows in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood are pictured on Tuesday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

According to Henry, the peak of the outbreak is still to come in B.C., and it's crucial that people continue to keep their distance from others to minimize its impact.

"We know that, right now, it is still dangerous for us to be gathering in groups because that's where transmission can happen. We need to keep that firewall between us for the next couple weeks until we have a better idea of how this virus is moving through our community," Henry told CBC's The Early Edition on Tuesday.

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

As of noon PT Wednesday, officials in Canada had reported at least 9,550 confirmed and presumptive cases, with 111 deaths. The provinces and territories that are providing details on recovered cases have listed a total of 1,594 as recovered.

The numbers, which are updated at least daily by the provinces and territories, are not a complete picture, as they don't account for people who haven't been tested, those being investigated as a potential case and people still waiting to learn the results of their test.

For a look at what's happening across the country, check the CBC interactive case tracker.

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.
  • Masks won't fully protect you from infection, but can help prevent you from infecting others.
  • 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 CBC's The Early Edition, On The Island and The Canadian Press

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