While B.C.’s provincial health officer and health minister explained what is being done to obtain personal protective equipment for healthcare workers during today’s daily provincial update, federal health officials released modelling to provide a look at how the pandemic might unfold on a national level.
As we head in to the long weekend, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix repeated previous messages about the need to avoid non-essential travel, including into neighbouring provinces or territories, as they have emphasized over the past few days.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bonnie Henry stated today (April 9) that over the past day, there have been 34 new coronavirus cases confirmed, bringing the province’s total to 1,370 cases, with 626 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 508 in Fraser Health, 82 on Vancouver Island, 130 in Interior Health, and 24 in Northern Health.
The number of hospitalized individuals once again decreased, from 135 to 132 patients, although the number in intensive care units rose from 61 to 68 patients.
Unfortunately, there have been two more deaths, for a total of 50 fatalities.
Once again, there aren’t any new affected longterm care facilities, and one outbreak has been resolved, thus reducing the total number of facilities to 20.
However, the number of cases within those facilities continues to rise, from 226 to 235 (143 residents and 92 staff).
Personal protective equipment
Dix and Dr. Henry also talked about what is being done to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers—and that it's not as simple as some might assume.
So far, he said that they have been able to source PPE from various vendors and suppliers, particularly from China.
From donations, they have received 100,000 surgical masks, 83,000 N95 masks, 20,000 gloves, 10,000 goggles, and 1,760 protective coveralls.
Meanwhile, the province has purchased 800,000 surgical masks, 157,000 isolation gowns, 85,000 gloves, and about 54,100 masks.
That’s in addition to 900,000 surgical masks and 36,000 N95 masks from the federal government.
While these amounts may sound large, Dix called this “incremental progress” as they attempt to buy hundreds of thousands of PPE.
He also pointed out that “not all PPE is created equal” and that masks that some people may see sold online “do not meet the standards required” for the healthcare system.
Dr. Henry explained that there are many different types of N95 masks available, and what may available in retail stores or online may not be appropriate for healthcare.
“The medical variety that we need has to be fluid-resistant and a few other criteria,” she explained, and added that they are obtaining these PPE in large quantities from various parts of the world where sources meet the required medical standards.
As they have to ensure all PPE “provides appropriate protection” for employees, Dix explained that it is not simply a matter of obtaining the equipment and distributing it—he said they have to inspect and test all PPE before it enters healthcare system.
“It’s not about quantity and speed of delivery—it’s about quality and safety, and that is what we’re doing,” he said, adding that they have seen what has happened in other jurisdictions when this is not practised.
One such example emerged this past week when the City of Toronto announced on April 7 that about $200,000 worth of surgical face masks distributed to the city’s longterm care homes had to be recalled after they were found to be defective, after reports of ripping and tearing.
Dix said that during the SARS outbreak, even though they had large amounts of a particular mask, it did not meet medical health standards and, as a result, even when N95 masks ran low, they were unable to use them.
Today, federal health officials released modelling on how the pandemic, which is still in its early stages in Canada compared to other countries, could develop across the nation.
Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam stated at a news conference that it remains too soon to know when Canada might see a peak in transmissions and she emphasized that models are not predictions but possible scenarios that could develop.
For instance, a weaker level of control measures (including less physical distancing and isolation of cases) could result in not only in more infections (25 to 50 percent of the population infected) but also a more prolonged pandemic period that could stretch into 2021.
If restrictions had not been implemented, there could have been up to 350,000 deaths.
Officials estimate there could be up to 32,000 COVID-19 cases and up to 700 deaths in Canada by April 16, and containment measures could remain in place for several more months.
Even with strong measures in place, there could be somewhere between 11,000 and 22,000 deaths over the duration of the pandemic.
"We can't prevent every death, but we must prevent every death that we can,” Dr. Tam stated.
Dr. Tam also explained that because Canada is an earlier stage of the pandemic, officials can look at what other countries are doing and learn from various examples as Canada plans ahead.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Canada has over 20,650 cases with over 500 deaths and over 5,100 recoveries.
The vast majority of the cases (94 percent) have been in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta, with very low transmission rates in the territories.