COVID-19 in B.C.: As new case numbers drop, province prepares process for reopening

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      As British Columbia reaches the 2,000 mark for COVID-19 cases, details about reopening the province will soon be revealed.

      Also during today's daily COVID-19 update, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the decrease in new case numbers is an encouraging sign and she also addressed issues about transmission on public transit.

      Daily update

      In today’s update (April 27), Dr. Henry said that since the last update on April 25, there were 39 new cases from April 25 to 26, followed by 11 new cases from April 26 to 27, for a total of 50 cases over the past two days.

      Accordingly, B.C. has had a cumulative total of 1,998 cases.

      There are two new longterm care facilities, both in Abbotsford with one case each: Valhaven Home and MSA Manor.

      While 12 outbreaks at longterm care facilities have been resolved, there remain 21 active outbreaks involving 389 people.

      At the Superior Poultry outbreak in Coquitlam, there are now 25 cases and at the United Poultry outbreak, there are 34 cases.

      At the Mission Institution correctional facility, there are now 118 cases (106 inmates and 12 staff).

      There are now 11 cases linked to the Kearl Lake oil sands project in Alberta.

      Dr. Henry said that they have a list of names across B.C. associated with the project who they are trying to contact but they unfortunately don’t have the contact information for all the individuals. Accordingly, she emphasized that anyone with symptoms needs to call 811 or a healthcare provider.

      Currently, there are 97 individuals in hospital, with 36 of those patients in intensive care units.

      Over the past two days, there have unfortunately been three more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 103 deaths (64 deaths have been in longterm care facilities).

      There are now a total of 1,190 people who have fully recovered.

      B.C. plans for reopening

      Dr. Henry said that despite the community outbreaks, the number of cases are decreasing. She pointed out that having only 11 new cases over the past day, even during this period of expanded testing, is a “really positive sign”.

      She said there is “clear evidence” that safety measures are working here and that “the vast majority” of current cases are linked to known community outbreaks.

      Over the past few weeks, she said they have been working on plans to ease restrictions that will be tailored to pandemic conditions in B.C.

      “Our focus is to provide a consistent framework so that different sectors know where they need to operate within, and we’ve done that already for many of the essential businesses that have continued to operate during the past months,” she said.

      She added that they are aware of challenges in B.C. such as spring flooding and wildfire season, and the challenges that residents have faced, such as the recent floods in the Central Interior. 

      She said they will be providing details in the next few days about the approval process for businesses that hope to reopen.

      Transmission on transit

      When asked about transmission of the virus on public transit, Dr. Henry said that they have looked at examples from around the world to see where transmissions happen.

      She said that there are some “very rare instances in public transit” that took place primarily in China “before there was crackdown and spacing put in”. She said these examples underscore the importance of health precautions that people have been practising such as physical distancing and not touching one’s face.

      Accordingly, Dr. Henry says that transit is not a high-risk environment.

      “There is no evidence that we’ve seen that there is spread through transit in British Columbia,” she said.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.