COVID-19 in B.C.: Health-care workers at long-term care facilities; expanding social circles; and reopening casinos

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      During today’s daily B.C. COVID-19 update, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that today (April 30) marks 100 days since the first provincial statement was issued about what was then known only as the novel coronavirus.

      Meanwhile, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix provided an update on the ongoing process of ensuring healthcare workers are working at only one facility and Dr. Henry talked about the possibility of people expanding their social circles.

      Daily updates

      Dr. Henry said there are 25 new cases, bringing to provincial cumulative total to 2,112 cases.

      Of those, there have been 815 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 961 in Fraser Health, 120 on Vancouver Island, 170 in Interior Health, and 46 in Northern Health.

      While the number of active outbreaks at long-term care facilities remains unchanged with 24 locations, there has been an increase in the number of cases, as now 256 residents and 153 staff members who have been infected. 

      The case number at poultry processing facilities remains the same (42 cases at United Poultry in East Vancouver and 50 cases at Superior Poultry in Coquitlam).

      At the Mission Institution medium-security correctional facility outbreak, there are 12 new cases, raising the total number to 120 cases. Dr. Henry explained that as COVID-19 has a long incubation period, there may be more people who develop symptoms in the near future.

      The number of hospitalized individuals continues to drop, down from 89 patients yesterday to 82 people today, with 30 of those patients in intensive care units. 

      There have been two more deaths in the province, raising the death toll to 111.

      A total of 1,322 people have now recovered.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix (with B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry)
      Province of British Columbia

      Long-term care facilities

      Dix provided an update about the continuing process of ensuring that healthcare workers aren’t working at multiple long-term care facilities, which he described as a very “complex situation”.

      He said that out of 45,000 employees working in long-term care facilities (as well as assisted living facilities, private hospitals, extended-care hospitals, and provincial mental-health facilities), there are 7,350 employees who have or have had jobs at multiple facilities, involving 545 facilities.

      Dix said there are now 276 facilities that have completed single-site plan for employees (slightly more than half), which includes 103 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 40 in Fraser Health, 43 in Interior Health, 64 in Island Health, and 26 in North Health.

      “We expect more significant progress next week,” Dix said, noting that the numbers do not include facilities that are partially completed and that plans at all 545 facilities are under way.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix)
      Province of British Columbia

      Expanding social circles

      When asked about whether casinos would reopen, which were closed under a public health order, Dr. Henry said that those sites are her lowest priority.

      “It would be last on my list to consider for reopening at this point because we know that type of environment is a closed environment,” she said. “We know that many of the people who frequent that environment are older people or people with underlying illnesses, perhaps people who might are more vulnerable to having severe illness from COVID-19.”

      She said she would have to be convinced of the necessity to reopen them and that they would most likely be considered much later in the reopening process.

      “It’s certainly not in the first phase of what we’re considering in terms of how do we get things moving again in our economy and in our social structures,” she explained.

      In contrast, Dr. Henry says she feels “very passionately” about the importance of “being outside…to be able to release when we’re going through such stressful times as these”, but doing so safely.

      She went on to talk about how she wants people to think about how they might be able to carefully expand their social circles while protecting those among them who are the most vulnerable.

      “As we’re moving into the next phase of this, we need to consider—each of us, and own family—how we want to and how we can expand our circles but doing it in a way that is safe,” she said. “So that does mean, yes, we might be able to connect with others in a way that we haven’t been able to do in the last little while, but we need to be thoughtful about it.”

      While she said there won’t be large groups gathering or indoor parties this summer, she suggested that people can look at how they may be able to have more contact and more people in their lives or even going back to work, which may involve making arrangements for children or vulnerable household members.

      “The challenge is going to be: how do we protect those people who need it most?” she said.

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

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