Health officials urge British Columbians to exercise caution this long weekend to avoid another COVID-19 surge
Province restricts non-essential travel to Haida Gwaii to control outbreak there
Even though cases have been ticking upwards over the last two weeks, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry noted on Thursday that most of the recent surge came from Canada Day events in and around Kelowna and commended British Columbians for doing their part to keep the disease in check.
"Thank you for resetting and rejoining our efforts to push our COVID-19 curve down and keep it low and slow in B.C.," she said, as she provided an update on the number of new cases of COVID-19 in B.C.
Over the past 24 hours, she said, 29 more people had been diagnosed with the disease, bringing the provincial total to 3,591.
There were no new deaths.
A total of 194 people have died from COVID-19-related illnesses since the beginning of the pandemic. There are 242 cases still active in B.C. and five people are currently in hospital, two of whom are in intensive care.
That's the lowest number of hospitalized cases since a public health emergency was first announced in March.
Non-essential travel to Haida Gwaii restricted
Although no new cases were announced Thursday on Haida Gwaii, the location of a recent outbreak, Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, issued an order Thursday restricting non-resident travel to the islands from the B.C. coast.
"Our foremost concern is the health and safety of all residents of Haida Gwaii, and we're working together to limit further spread of COVID-19," said Farnworth.
Northern Health says there are 20 confirmed cases on Haida Gwaii, 13 of which are still considered active.
In a news release, the province says travel to Haida Gwaii will only be permitted for the delivery of essential items, medical appointments, urgent or emergency family matters and other essential services decided by the Council of the Haida Nation, village councils and local governments.
The Haida Nation says the pandemic has been a test of reconciliation with the province and that it's critical to work together during the crisis.
"The province's work to enact an order that aligns with the Haida Nation's state of emergency is a respectful act and recognition of Haida jurisdiction and our responsibility as governments to work together to protect all communities and residents of Haida Gwaii from the threat of COVID-19," said Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, president of the Haida Nation.
A moment of appreciation
During the briefing, Henry took a moment to voice her appreciation for the effort and sacrifice British Columbians have made to restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Despite a recent surge, which she attributed mainly to a cluster around Canada Day events in Kelowna, she said there hadn't been much spillover to the elderly or into health-care settings.
"People have risen to the challenge and we've done an incredible job. So let's keep this effort going this weekend and every weekend this summer," she said. "We probably all know somebody who has bent the rules to make it work for them and that's not a surprise.
"I think until it hits home, we think we are immune to many of the effects of things like this virus. If you see them again, help them get back on track. Help them join the rest of us. Remind them that it is easy and possible to have fun to socialize and to socialize safely."
It's a balance that will need to be maintained until a vaccine is developed, Henry said.
"We will get through this," she said. "This is going to be our COVID summer."
Watch | Dr. Bonnie Henry tells British Columbians they've done an "incredible job" and ask they keep it up through the long weekend:
New rules for the Alaska loophole
The Canada Border Services Agency announced tighter rules for foreign nationals travelling to Alaska for non-discretionary purposes.
Beginning Friday, they will only be allowed to enter the country through five border crossings in Western Canada and will be permitted a "reasonable period of stay" to make the journey.