British Columbia

Long weekend actions will define B.C.'s COVID-19 trajectory, says top doctor as deaths climb by 3

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 35 new coronavirus cases in the province on Saturday, bringing the current total to 1,445.

'What happens this weekend is going to be reflected in what we see in the coming weeks'

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry declares a public health emergency in the province on March 17, 2020. (Province of British Columbia/Flickr)

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 35 new coronavirus cases in the province on Saturday, bringing the current total to 1,445.

Henry also announced three new deaths, bringing the total number to 58.

She also once again stressed the importance of not travelling this long weekend — even for people travelling to second homes.

"What happens this weekend is going to be reflected in what we see in the coming weeks. We do not want to see increasing numbers of cases, increasing challenges in our health-care system," she said.

Henry also commented on what she called "overblown" reports that ferry sailings were full headed into the long weekend — with sailings waits becoming a point of tension and anxiety for those in small communities. She said she'd been in contact with BC Ferries, which has significantly reduced sailings and is operating at 50 per cent capacity.

"They did confirm that they're only seeing a fraction of the traffic that they would normally see this weekend. I am heartened that I think most people are doing what we need them to do and they're staying home," she said.

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry address concerns over BC Ferries traffic:

B.C. health officer addresses 'overblown' reports of long weekend travel

3 years ago
Duration 0:49
Dr. Bonnie Henry says BC Ferries has reported seeing a "fraction" of its usual traffic over the long weekend.

Though provincial parks, and some regional parks and beaches are closed this weekend, Henry said she did not want to order the full closure of shared outdoor spaces.

"I think it's important for us to get out to be with our family, our households and experience the fresh air. It's important during a time like this when we have so much anxiety, when people are cooped up, particularly children, to have those opportunities to go outside," she said.

"I think we're at a fine balance and we're doing the best that we can to make sure that people — for their mental and physical health — are able to be outside."

Henry said that provincial parks were closed because of concerns around physical distancing in certain facilities, and B.C.'s fast-approaching wildfire season.

There are currently 134 people in hospital, with 63 people in critical care. So far, 905 people in B.C. have fully recovered.

There are 246 cases connected to long-term care homes in the province, but no new outbreaks were announced on Saturday. Henry said the province has been working to support people in those facilities to ensure there are no shortages in staff, as has been reported in provinces like Quebec and Ontario.

Henry also provided comment on when children might return to B.C. schools, but said it will be at least a few weeks before a date is set.

"It really depends on how things manage over the next two weeks. We are talking about planning for reopening and what that might look like," she said.

"There's still going to be things like physical distancing, like handwashing that aren't going to change, so how do we do that in the best possible way in our classrooms settings is one of the things that we will be answering over the next few weeks." 

Henry also provided an update on an outbreak in a federal correctional facility in Mission, where there are 26 cases among staff and inmates, with five cases in hospital.

Henry said B.C. is working with the federal government to ensure stockpiles of personal protective equipment remain sufficient, saying so far the province is in a "reasonable place."

"I won't ever say 'good' at this point because we know there are continuing challenges. But as we reported, we did get supplies that were needed in the past week," she said, adding that the biggest challenges are in Ontario and Quebec, but that B.C. is currently "not in a place" to share supplies.

The cases break down as follows:

  • 642 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

  • 558 in Fraser Health. 

  • 84 in Vancouver Island Health. 

  • 135 in Interior Health.

  • 26 in Northern Health.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Ghoussoub

Reporter, CBC News

Michelle Ghoussoub is a television, radio and digital reporter with CBC News in Vancouver. She can be reached at michelle.ghoussoub@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @MichelleGhsoub.

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