COVID-19 in B.C.: Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions about wearing masks and removing seniors from care homes

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      As B.C.’s provincial health officer provided updates on the number of COVID-19 cases, she also responded to questions about whether or not to remove seniors from longterm care facilities as well as wearing masks.

      Since the last update on April 4, Dr. Henry stated today (April 6) there have been 26 new cases from April 4 to 5 and 37 new cases from April 5 to 6, for a total of 63 new cases that has raised the provincial total to 1,266 cases.

      That includes 586 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 450 in Fraser Health, 128 in Interior Health, 79 on Vancouver Island, and 23 in Northern Health.

      Dr. Henry stated that there are 140 patients in hospital, with 72 of those individuals in intensive care units.

      A new source of concern is that there are two new positive inmates at the medium-security federal Mission Institution correctional facility in Mission, B.C., which holds up to approximately 280 offenders. The facility has been reported to be under lockdown.

      Over the past two days, there has been one new death—a man in his 40—which the B.C. Coroners Service is investigating as it was a death in the community (not in a hospital).

      A total of 783 individuals are now fully recovered.

      Three outbreaks at longterm care facilities are now over, with 21 active outbreaks—all in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions—and a total of 210 patients in longterm care facilities.

      When Dr. Henry was asked whether family should remove relatives from longterm care facilities, she explained that for many families removal is not an option as many residents of these require the care they receive at these facilities.

      “Our focus has been on doing everything we can to making longterm care facilities as safe as possible, to try and reduce the possibilities of introduction to longterm care and having that very low threshold for responding immediately should we have any concerns about illness and the outbreak protocols,” she said.

      She also stated that she does not believe that “right now is not the time to disrupt peoples’ lives in that way” by removing residents from longterm care facilities.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry

      Another issue for many people is the question of whether or not to wear a mask in public.

      At a news conference today, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam stated that wearing a non-medical mask can help to protect others in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

      Dr. Henry echoed Dr. Tam’s explanation that wearing a non-medical mask (such as a handmade cloth face covering) won’t protect the wearer but can be similar to coughing into sleeve or tissue, as it “may keep droplets in so that they’re not in the air or not on surfaces around you”.

      Dr. Henry stated it is not a recommendation but a “permissive use” for public places such as on transportation or when grocery shopping.

      “For short-term, they can protect others around you from your droplets,” she said.

      However, she also emphasized that masks are “not an alternate to things that we know work” such as physical distancing or handwashing, which she says remain necessities.

      She also stressed, as she has done so previously, that medical masks should only be worn by those in healthcare.

      “Medical masks and respirators need to be reserved for our healthcare settings and our healthcare workers because that is where they do the most good,” she said.

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