British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on April 8, 2020

Though there are signs of hope that B.C. is bringing the COVID-19 situation under control, health officials continue to be concerned that the upcoming holiday weekend could bring new chances to spread the disease.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will give her daily update at 3 p.m. PT

A City of Vancouver parks sign promoting physical distancing is pictured at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 45 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the province on Wednesday.
  • A total of 1,336 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in B.C.
  • 838 of those patients have recovered from their illness.
  • 135 patients were hospitalized as of Wednesday, including 61 in intensive care.
  • Five more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in B.C. to 48.
  • Travellers returning to B.C. will need a formal self-isolation plan before being allowed to pass customs.
  • B.C. has closed all its provincial parks, effective immediately.
  • The City of Vancouver is asking the province for a $200 million emergency grant to mitigate financial disaster.
  • BC Ferries is reducing the number of sailings to and from the Southern Gulf Islands.

B.C. health officials announced Wednesday that a slight reduction in the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 is a positive sign, but that a total of 48 people have now died from the virus across the province.

Across B.C. hospitals, 135 patients are being treated for COVID-19, including 61 in intensive care units.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there have been five more deaths in the past 24 hours, including one at the Lynn Valley Care Centre and two at the Amica Edgemont Village.

There were 45 new positive cases on Wednesday, bringing the provincial total to 1,336 confirmed cases.

Long weekend travel worries

There is hope B.C. is starting to control its spread of COVID-19, but health officials continue to be concerned the upcoming holiday weekend could bring new chances to spread the disease.

Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday that all travellers returning to B.C. from abroad in coming weeks will now be required to present a formal self-isolation plan to provincial and federal authorities before being allowed to pass customs.

Travellers will be provided forms and will have to explain, in detail, how the person plans to self-isolate. These will be considered legal documents. The federal government is responsible for enforcement the 14 days of self-isolation under authority of the Quarantine Act. 

"This is not a suggestion," Horgan said. "We have an expectation of those that have been away — as grateful as they are, I'm sure, to be back in British Columbia — to pick up the ball and carry it as we have."

Returning British Columbians must have a self-isolation plan starting Wednesday. However, the official forms will be provided on flights and at land borders starting Friday.

Repatriation flights carrying Canadians back home have already landed as of last weekend and more are expected in the coming days.

Watch: B.C. Premier John Horgan says those without a self-isolation plan will be quarantined.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says if you don't have one, you'll be sent to a quarantine site. 1:19

Service B.C. will stay in contact with those self-isolating at home through phone calls or text messages. Henry says the province will be providing support through grocery and medication deliveries where necessary.

The premier said the changes will apply to land borders as well as Vancouver International Airport. For those who don't have a plan, a quarantine site will be set up while they prepare one. If they don't come up with a plan, they will spend 14 days of self-isolation at the site.

People who are symptomatic will not be allowed to leave the airport. 

"We need to make sure that all the work that Canadians have been doing is not erased by people coming back that don't have the same awareness.

Horgan did, however, grant one "egg-ception" to the travel restrictions: He said the Easter Bunny is allowed to travel freely through the province this weekend.

Provincial parks shut down

B.C. Parks is closing every provincial park in the province, effective immediately, to reinforce the need for people to stay home this weekend after visitors failed to stay far enough apart in recent weeks.

"This action is difficult but necessary," said B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman wrote in a statement Wednesday. 

"This applies to British Columbians and out-of-province visitors who were planning to visit or stay at our provincial parks. The message is clear: Stay home, avoid travel, do not put yourself or others at risk."

BC Ferries has announced it is scaling back the number of trips to and from the Southern Gulf Islands.

Starting April 10, and for the next 60 days, only one ship, the Salish Raven, will travel back and forth between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay. It will stop en route at Pender, Mayne and Galiano.

The Queen of Cumberland will travel between Swartz Bay, Saturna, Mayne, Galiano and Pender islands.

BC Ferries is suspending service to Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island. The island will be served by its two other routes, Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour and Crofton to Vesuvius.

The revised sailings schedule will be available online in the coming days, according to BC Ferries.

Small towns wary of visitors

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix both expressed concerns Tuesday about the long weekend ahead. They pleaded with British Columbians to stay at home and resist the temptation to travel.

"It is important that we don't go to communities that don't have the resources to support us if we get sick," said Henry.

Watch: Adrian Dix cautions against long weekend travel

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says 'let's bend the curve and not the rules.' 0:58

In the East Kootenay, the regional district has gone so far as to ask the provincial government to close the border with Alberta to stop residents of that province from holidaying in B.C. 

Henry, however, says she doesn't have the authority to shut down a provincial boundary. She and Dix added they're pleased with faith leaders' plans to celebrate all of the upcoming religious holidays virtually.

The number of patients hospitalized with the novel coronavirus has levelled out in recent days, even falling slightly from 149 on Saturday to 138 by Tuesday. At the same time, the rate at which new cases have been confirmed has slowed, with 25 new cases announced Tuesday, for a total of 1,291.

A total of 805 people — nearly two-thirds of all patients — have recovered from their illness. However, 43 patients have died.

  • Have you recovered from COVID-19? We want to hear from you. Email impact@cbc.ca.

Vancouver losing millions in revenue

On Wednesday, Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart called on the provincial government to provide the municipality with a $200 million emergency grant to prevent financial disaster.

He said city hall is facing a serious gap in funding that it won't be able to make up in the near future.

The City of Vancouver is already trying to stem financial losses by issuing temporary layoff notices to 1,500 staff, by placing restrictions on hiring and travel, and with a capital spending review.

Stewart says the municipality is losing between $4 and $5 million in revenue a week due to a 50 per cent reduction in non-tax revenue from community centres, libraries and other facilities shutting down as well as the suspension of parking fine enforcement.

The city is also incurring costs to respond to COVID-19, particularly in the Downtown Eastside.

Financial aid

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday the federal wage-subsidy program for employers affected by COVID-19 will have looser requirements than previously announced.

Rather than having to show a 30 per cent decline in revenues, he said employers can show a 15 per cent decline in March. They can also compare their revenues to previous months rather than the previous year.

The prime minister also announced changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program, which is being reconfigured to match students looking for summer work with industries still hiring during the pandemic. Trudeau said the federal government will pay 100 per cent of the wages paid by employers through the program.

Trudeau said the government is working on further measures to financially support self-employed entrepreneurs, small businesses and young people who aren't eligible for existing emergency financial aid programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Top stories today

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 3 a.m. PT on Wednesday, Canada had 17,897 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19. The provinces that release data on patients considered recovered had listed 4,054 cases as resolved. CBC News, which has been tallying the reported deaths, has recorded 421 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada, with two known coronavirus-related deaths of Canadians abroad.

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 for test results. 

For a look at what's happening across the country and the world, 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 The Canadian Press

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