British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on May 14, 2020

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 15 new cases and 3 new deaths Thursday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reports 15 new cases and 3 new deaths Thursday

A teacher waits for children of essential workers to join her in a classroom in West Vancouver, B.C.. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • British Columbia has recorded a total of 2,392 COVID-19 cases with 15 new cases reported Thursday.
  • In all, 135 people have died from COVID-19 in the province. 
  • Of those who have tested positive, 1,885 people have recovered.
  • Provincial parks reopen today.
  • ICBC says the pandemic could result in a $1-billion hit this fiscal year. 
  • 90,000 people in Vancouver have lost their jobs since the pandemic began — but more residents paid rent in May than last month, a city-commissioned poll finds.
  • Dental offices will not reopen for full services on May 19.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $470 million to support fish harvesters during the pandemic.
  • Vancouver has passed a motion for city staff to explore how to ease restrictions for patios. 

Provincial parks are opening up and a long weekend beckons but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry continues to advise against non-essential travel.

At her Thursday briefing, Henry reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 detected in B.C. Three more people have died.

Fifty-eight people are in hospital with the virus, 12 in intensive care.

There have been 2,392 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. to date. So far, 135 people have died and 1,885 people have recovered.

Parks opening up

Provincial parks are reopening today, the first of a handful of restrictions to ease over the next few days as B.C. continues to record only a handful of new COVID-19 cases daily. 

B.C. Parks is set to reopen facilities like front and backcountry trails, beaches, picnic areas, washroom facilities and boat launches for day use. Campgrounds are set to reopen June 1. 

The change isn't meant to encourage British Columbians to travel outside of their communities, however. Health Minister Adrian Dix says any travel this weekend should only be for essential purposes.

The federal government is also poised to announce a gradual reopening of national parks and heritage sites. However, during his daily briefing on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they would not reopen in time for the long weekend. 

Trudeau also announced $470 million for the Fish Harvesters Benefit to support fish harvesters affected by the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening, Vancouver city councillors passed a motion for staff to explore ways to ease restrictions for patios in order to help restore business for restaurants and breweries while maintaining physical distancing rules. 

90,000 jobs lost in Vancouver

A poll commissioned by the City of Vancouver shows 84 per cent of respondents say they paid their rent this month, a 14 per cent increase from the start of April. 

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart attributed the increase to provincial and federal relief programs. 

As for homeowners, 78 per cent said they intended to pay their full property tax, a 13 per cent increase from April.

Vancouver lost 90,000 jobs, or 22 per cent of its entire workforce, since the pandemic began. More than 13,000 businesses have closed, a number Stewart called "staggering."

As restrictions begin to loosen, women and people over the age of 55 reported feeling less comfortable returning to businesses like salons, restaurants and gyms without regular cleaning. 

The city is looking at a shortfall of between $110 to $330 million depending how long closures last and whether property taxes are paid, Stewart said. 

"While the situation looks a little better in the city … it's still a very serious situation," Stewart said. 

Dental offices remain limited in services offered

Dental offices will not be offering full services on May 19, according to a statement from the B.C. Dental Association (BCDA).

Instead, the association says services including hygiene care will be introduced gradually when it's deemed safe.

The BCDA says WorkSafeBC and public health officials have begun to develop guidelines for various sectors to extend services, including dentistry, but those guidelines have not yet been published. 

Dental offices have been limited to emergency care since March 23. 

"Dental patients should contact their dentist to schedule an appointment, but please understand that until further direction is provided by the provincial health officer and the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C., dentists are only permitted to provide emergency and urgent services," BCDA spokesman Dr. Alastair Nicoll said in a statement. 

Pandemic puts ICBC in 'challenging position'

On Thursday morning, Attorney General David Eby said ICBC, the provincial auto insurer, has no financial buffer. He said it is in a "challenging position" because of the pandemic and faces an uncertain future

A decrease in collision claims resulted in a savings of around $158 million for ICBC, but claims are expected to rise again as more vehicles return to the roads. 

More than 150,000 customers changed or cancelled their insurance policies, while the value of ICBC's investment portfolio has decreased due to the pandemic. The financial impact could be more than $1 billion in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, Eby said. 

The province is reserving any decisions about premium changes or rebates until the end of the year, Eby said. 

"What we're seeing is uncertainty," he said. "We simply don't know how the year will end. It could be terrible or there could be a surplus."

ICBC has temporarily waived some fees amid the pandemic and drivers can renew their insurance by phone. Drivers who choose to suspend their insurance won't have to pay the usual $30 cancellation and $18 re-plating fees. 

Path forward 'not black and white'

As communities across the province prepare for the "new normal" of next week's Phase 2 pandemic response, B.C.'s provincial health officer is reminding people to keep their distance, even as restrictions ease.

"The path really is not black and white," Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday.

"We've never done this before and we all need to try and do our best within the important guidance that we have around the key measures to keep us safe."

B.C.'s top doctor says the provincial order limiting public gatherings to 50 people or less will remain in place for the forseeable future, while small groups will be allowed to meet up after the long weekend.

READ MORE: How B.C. plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions

Top COVID-19 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 10:30 p.m. PT Wednesday, provinces and territories reported a total of 72,278 cases. A CBC News tally of coronavirus-related deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 5,409.

The numbers 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 or 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

Find information about COVID-19 from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Non-medical information about COVID-19 is available in B.C. from 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. PT, seven days a week at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).

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.

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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