'Zero chance' of orders being lifted before May, as COVID-19 cases in B.C. surpass 1,000
5 new deaths were announced in the province, where 19 long-term care homes are now affected
B.C. health officials announced 43 new coronavirus cases in the province on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,013 — and stressed there is "zero" chance that the orders brought in to curb the spread of the virus will be lifted before May.
Five more people have died of COVID-19 in B.C., bringing the total number of deaths from the virus to 24. There are now 128 people in hospital, 61 of them in intensive care, as well as cases in 19 long-term care homes.
"[There is ] zero chance — none — that any of the orders will be varied by the end of April," said Health Minister Adrian Dix, adding "I think we're in this for a long time."
Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry discuss when a sense of normalcy could return to B.C.:
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the virus will have to be monitored "until there is a vaccine."
"I do think it's more and more less likely that we'll be able to get back to more normal life, which I miss a lot, before at least the summer," she said.
"And then we need to be preparing for the potential of a second wave in the fall."
The cases that have been identified break down as follows:
- 476 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
- 348 in the Fraser Health region.
- 67 in Vancouver Island Health.
- 107 in Interior Health.
- 15 in Northern Health
A total of 507 people have recovered from the disease.
Henry says B.C. is also investigating its first large community outbreak, which involves temporary foreign workers at Bylands Nursery in West Kelowna.
While there are 19 long-term care homes where at least one staff member or resident is affected, only two of them involve major outbreaks: Haro Park Residential Care Home and the Lynn Valley Care Centre.
Timeline for lifting physical distancing still unknown
Henry said the timeline for when restrictions on gatherings and public life will be lifted will remain unclear for a while.
"I haven't given up hope entirely that we may get a reprieve in the summer ... although how much of a reprieve is yet to be seen ... I don't believe that we will have all of these restrictions for all of that time. This is a critical time for our first wave," she said.
"We've seen in other countries that we do reach a peak and then things start to come down ... We need to hold the course right now. I don't think we need to be this locked down for many, many months. The next few weeks are really critical."
Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry address why B.C. isn't sharing the location of COVID-19 patients:
Health Minister Adrian Dix said that the province has acquired 15 new ventilators, and that 15 more had been refurbished. Over the past two weeks, 83 ventilators have been added to B.C.'s health-care system.
He says there are 4,171 empty beds in the system, after the cancellation of elective surgeries across the province.
"Nobody has sacrificed more than people who are waiting for surgery," he said. "While the surgeries have been cancelled for the moment, they have not been forgotten."
Community outbreaks and location of cases
Henry said the farmworkers affected by the West Kelowna outbreak entered B.C. through the province's temporary foreign workers program before restrictions were brought in.
She said they were tested over the weekend, but hadn't previously been moving around the community as they'd come in from abroad.
"We'll be monitoring that very carefully. It'll be two to four weeks before we understand the full impact of the outbreak," she said.
"We're very lucky that this group has very good accommodations where we're able to isolate them effectively, but we know that's not the case in all facilities that host temporary farmworkers."
Henry and Dix also faced repeated questions from reporters about why B.C. does not share the locations of COVID-19 patients.
While other provinces, including Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta, report the cities where cases have been confirmed, B.C. reports the cases by health authority.
"There is still very much a stigma associated with it," said Henry.
"It's not a non-disclosure policy in any way. It's about how we're best able to support people. We don't have the ability to know everybody in our environment who has this disease."
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