COVID-19 in B.C.: "Let's bend the curve, not bend the rules" for travel and gatherings on long weekend

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      Although B.C.’s provincial health officer confirmed there have been some new deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the number of cases in some regions remained unchanged and there also haven’t been any new outbreaks at longterm care centres.

      Meanwhile, Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix also addressed the issue of people wanting to travel or hold gatherings as the long weekend approaches.

      In today’s daily COVID-19 update (April 7), Dr. Henry confirmed 25 new cases—one of lowest numbers of new cases reported in recent weeks—for a total of 1,291 cases in the province. That includes 603 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 458 in Fraser Health, 128 in Interior Health, 79 on Vancouver Island, and 23 in Northern Health.

      She added that there hasn’t been any change in the latter three regions over the past day.

      In addition, there are haven’t been any new outbreaks at any longterm care facilities, with the number of affected facilities remaining at 21. There are 213 individuals in longterm care facilities who have tested positive (132 residents and 81 staff).

      The number of hospitalized individuals is at 138 (down by two cases from yesterday), with the number of patients in intensive care units decreasing from 72 to 66.

      Unfortunately, there have been four more deaths (three in Vancouver Coastal Health and one in Fraser Health) for a total of 43 deaths. (Dr. Henry stated that so far, there is one healthcare worker who has died.)

      On a positive note, a total of 805 people have now recovered.

      “We’re in the thick of it right now,” she said of the current situation, noting the importance of maintaining efforts as we approach a long weekend.

      Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      With numerous upcoming religious celebrations this month, including Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, Dr. Henry and Dix had a conference call with 130 B.C. faith leaders this morning.

      Both Dr. Henry and Dix offered reminders that group celebrations, even in small numbers, remain problematic.

      Once again, Dr. Henry emphasized the importance of praticising physical distancing inside closed environments. She added that the virus is most commonly transmitted between close contacts, such as between family members indoors on a daily basis.

      Dr. Henry pleaded that it is important to “pay special attention” to seniors in various communities.

      “Our elders hold our history, our language, and our traditions, and are a precious part of our communities around this province and through these celebrations over the coming weeks, please keep that in mind so that we can maintain our safe distance to protect them,” she said, while Dix reminded people to connect and support them through remote means.

      When she was asked about whether or not people should be concerned if joggers or cyclists breathing heavily pass by while outdoors, she said that the virus is not as easily transmitted outside.

      “This virus is susceptible to ultraviolet light,” she said. “It doesn’t spread as well outside as most viruses don’t, and droplets drop away and don’t live in the environment in a way that came be harmful for us quite quickly.”

      She said that someone running by quickly is “an unlikely way that this would ever be transmitted”.

      However, while she said being outdoors may be “less risky”, she did state that people still need to maintain distances and avoid breathing on one another.

      Following the closure of parking lots at beaches and parks as well as outdoor sports spaces across Vancouver, the Vancouver Park Board announced today that vehicle access to Stanley Park would be closed on April 8 to reduce visitors there.

      Once again, both Dix and Dr. Henry discouraged any plans for travel, such as to holiday homes or smaller communities, over the long weekend.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix

      “Let’s bend the curve, not bend the rules, this weekend,” Dix stated, who added that they are now in the 12th week of COVID-19 briefings.

      Dr. Henry reiterated that many smaller or rural communities across the province may not have the medical resources if someone becomes ill or if there's an emergency.

      When asked about workers traveling to industrial sites in Northern B.C. and the Yukon, she said that they have provided guidance enforced by local health authorities, with preventative measures recommended such as shift changes and monitoring, reducing the number of people involved at sites, and individuals remaining at sites for longer periods of time.

      Full details are available at B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

      As she had previously mentioned, she repeated that industrial sites can’t be abandoned for health and safety reasons, and that production needs to continue at some sites.

      One area that Dr. Henry identified as being a weak spot is that they are seeking to improve followup with individuals who have arrived from other countries and who are being quarantined (under the federal quarantine act) at home for 14 days.

      She said there is currently no ongoing contact on a daily basis, but that they are working with their federal partners in the hopes of doing so in the future.

      While Dr. Henry hopes there will come a time when a wane in infections will bring about an opportunity to consider the possibility of resuming some activities while health officials continue to monitor any possible transmissions, she said people may not be able to return completely to previous behaviour in the near future.

      “We’re in for a bit of a ride on this,” she said. “It’s not going to be able to go back to 100 percent where we were in January or at Christmas time where we were able to celebrate and come together.”

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