COVID-19 in B.C.: B.C. parks closed, international travel requirements, self-isolation deaths, and more

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      As B.C. reported more deaths today, many points made during yesterday’s update were followed up with announcement and actions by the B.C. government today, particularly in light of the long weekend.

      Daily update

      In today’s B.C. update (April 8), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that over the past 24 hours there were 45 new cases to bring the provincial total to 1,336 confirmed cases.

      Of those, 615 cases are in Vancouver Coastal Health, 487 in Fraser Health, 130 in Interior Health, 81 on Vancouver Island, and 23 in Northern Health.

      For a second day, there aren’t any new longterm care facilities affected. Yet while the number of affected care homes remains at 21, the number of cases within those facilities have increased from 213 to 226 cases (138 residents and 88 staff).

      The number of hospitalized individuals continued to lower, from 138 to 135 patients, with 61 of those in intensive care units (down from 66 patients yesterday).

      Tragically, five more individuals have died, raising the total fatalities to 48 deaths.

      A total of 838 individual have now recovered.

      Local travel

      Yesterday, Dr. Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix had spoken about maintaining efforts over the long weekend by not engaging in any non-essential travel, the provincial government has taken another step to discourage weekend getaways.

      Following the Vancouver Park Board closure of vehicle access to Stanley Park, B.C. Parks announced today that it is closing all provincial parks until further notice to ensure that British Columbians and those from out-of-province remain at home.

      In a news release, the B.C. environment ministry stated that some park visitors continue to ignore the provincial health officer’s physical distancing requirements, which are challenging to enforce in the wilderness.

      “We tried to provide safe space for people to get some exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks,” B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman. “But it has proven too challenging to maintain safe distance between visitors. This action is difficult but necessary.”

      A current suspension on all camping in provincial parks, that had previously been announced on March 20 as continuing until April 30, has now been extended to May 31.

      Parks Canada, B.C. Parks, and Metro Vancouver have all been progressively closing vehicle access, services, camping, and parks. 

      International travel

      Regarding international travel, Dr. Henry mentioned yesterday that one area of weakness that she hoped to see improvement in was followup support provided for travellers arriving in B.C. from outside Canada.

      Today, the provincial government announced that it is implementing new measures for those international travellers at all points of entry to ensure they can self-isolate for 14 days. These travellers will be legal required to provide a self-isolation plan, with any required additional support (such as food deliveries, prescriptions, or supplies) to be followed up on by officials or travellers sent to government-provided accommodation sites.

      Any international traveller who does not comply can face a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months in prison. (Anyone who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm can face a fine of up to $1 million and/or three years in prison.)

      information for travellers can be found at the B.C. government website.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      Self-isolation concerns

      As two COVID-19 deaths have taken place in B.C. outside of hospitals, including a dentist who attended the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver in early March where an outbreak was identified, Dr. Henry responded to questions about what is being done for people who are self-isolating.

      “As we’re learning about this virus and how it affects people, we have been learning there’s a critical period of time, usually in the second week so around day 5 to day 10, and we see that with, for example, the prime minister in the U.K., where some people will just be getting better and be fine. Other people can very quickly go downhill.”

      During that period, Dr. Henry said that they want to ensure that anyone with concerns receives the healthcare that they need.

      While she said that they do have daily followup with people who are ill, those in self-isolation who begin to experience any concerns should contact 811 for further assistance or 911 in the case of an emergency.

      “If you have concerns about shortness of breath, if you have concerns that your fever and that your feeling not well is not resolving, particularly after five to six to seven days, then call 811,” she said. “Call 911 if you can’t breathe or if you’re feeling short of breath, if you have chest pain. It is important that people know these are signs that you need to seek additional help.”

      Dix also pointed out that more resources have been added to the 811 phone line (which is operated by HealthLink BC), and that the average wait time for calls was under 30 seconds yesterday.

      B.C. correctional facilities

      According to Correctional Service Canada, there are now 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the medium-security Mission Institution in the Fraser Valley (there are 17 tests still waiting for results).

      To reduce the spread of the virus in prisons, B.C. Corrections reviewed candidates for early release and had temporarily released 95 inmates from nine jails between March 1 and April 2, according to CTV News. Many of those individuals were serving intermittent sentences.

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