British Columbia

Provincial health officer says physical distancing in Phase 2 going well as B.C. records 10 new cases

B.C. is reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 2,517. Two additional people have died.

Contact tracing will be key to successfully reopening business, local travel, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday that most British Columbians are following physical distancing rules as businesses come to life again. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • 10 more people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in British Columbia, bringing the total to 2,517. 
  • Two more people have died in the past 48 hours, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 157.
  • There are 303 active cases in B.C.
  • 39 people are in hospital, 8 of them in the ICU.
  • 2,057 people have recovered, representing 82 per cent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C.
  • There is one new community outbreak at Nature's Touch frozen fruit processing plant in Abbotsford.
  • There are 14 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care homes, and two ongoing outbreaks in acute care facilities.
  • No new resident cases have been reported in long-term care homes.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced ten new cases of COVID-19 in B.C. on Saturday, as well as two additional deaths from the virus.

So far, 157 people have died of COVID-19 in the province, while 2,057 people — representing 82 per cent of diagnosed cases in B.C. — have fully recovered.

Henry said that for the first time in a long while, no new residents of  B.C.'s long-term care homes have tested positive.

There is one new community outbreak at the Nature's Touch frozen fruit processing plant in Abbotsford where five workers have tested positive. Henry said that outbreak was caught early and the plant is now closed. 

Days into B.C.'s transition into Phase 2 of re-opening, Henry noted the probability of new infections will go up as there are more gatherings — and that could be reflected in the number of cases early next week.

"We need to remember, and these outbreaks remind us, gatherings of any kind increase the risk of transmission. And our public health surveillance needs to continue to identify new cases ... The faster we can identify new cases, the faster we can respond to prevent spread," she said.

"This is our transition phase. This is our time when we need to be careful."

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry comment on B.C.'s re-opening so far:

Dr. Bonnie Henry says British Columbians have been following social distancing guidelines as restaurants and businesses reopen. 0:43

Henry, who joked about her own haircut as salons have opened this week after being shuttered for months, said she's been pleased to see B.C. residents visiting local businesses, including restaurants, while respecting physical distancing guidelines. 

"I thought it was really exciting. I was out for a walk last night and people were following the rules. I think things are going mostly really well," she said.

B.C. to beef up contact tracing by fall

Henry said that during the earliest days of B.C.'s contact tracing, a few infected people interacted closely with up to hundred people — or more. Since physical distancing measures were introduced, the average number of contacts came down from between six and eight, to three.

"In public health it gives us that fighting chance to find people quickly, in case they need health care, before they transmit it to someone else," she said. 

Henry said that "several hundreds" of people are currently working as contact tracers in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, with fewer in the less populated regions.

She said B.C. will continue to increase the size of the teams in anticipation of the fall when there will likely be an increase in respiratory illness. Already, the province has recruited medical students, retired nurses and doctors, and set up a nurses hotline. 

Henry also encouraged the federal government to use similar methods as B.C. to track people entering Canada once international borders begin to reopen. So far, 18,000 people who have entered B.C. have presented self-isolation plans. 

"That is going to be an absolutely critical if and when we open up our borders, particularly with the U.S.," she said. 

"That's an area that I think we need to beef up — we'll be speaking with our federal counterparts about how to do that."

Outbreaks a reminder — and a warning

Henry said the new outbreak at the frozen fruit processing plant, like those observed in long-term care homes and correctional facilities, serve as a reminder of what could happen if large crowds began to gather once again.

"Most of the outbreaks have been in those settings because other settings where we would see outbreaks have been shut down," she said.

"As we're opening up more settings, [outbreaks] tell us we need to be vigilant."  

Looking ahead to the summer, Henry said that if B.C. continues to hold its line on new cases, current restrictions on non-essential travel within the province could ease. 

"If things continue to go well, then yes, I will be encouraging people to vacation at home in B.C., to experience what we have here," she said.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

About the Author

Michelle Ghoussoub

@MichelleGhsoub

Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. She has previously reported in Lebanon and Chile. Reach her at michelle.ghoussoub@cbc.ca or on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub.

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