COVID-19: Dr. Bonnie Henry says "managing the virus is best thing we can do to manage the economy"

She made the comments as the province prepares to allow restaurants, cafés, pubs, hair salons, medically related businesses, and retailers to reopen on Tuesday (May 19)

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      B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, acknowledged in her daily briefing that some restaurants are going to have trouble surviving under WorkSafe B.C.'s rules regarding their reopening.

      Operators will have to provide two metres between tables. They'll also have to remove one chair in many cases to ensure that servers won't have to squeeze in between customers.

      In addition, buffets and other self-service amenities will have to be removed. Customers will pack their own unfinished food, hand sanitizers will be placed throughout establishments, and washrooms will have to be cleaned frequently.

      "We know that managing this virus is the best thing we can do to be managing our economy," Henry said.

      The phase two reopening of B.C.'s economy begins on Tuesday (May 19). In addition to allowing restaurants, cafes, and pubs to open, the province is permitting retailers, hair salons, barbershops, museums, art galleries, libraries, medically related services, childcare, and sports and recreation facilities to resume operations.

      Businesses will be required to limit the number of customers on the premises and ensure measures are in place to promote physical distancing. Plexiglass shields will be required under some circumstances, and in other cases, goggles will need to be worn to reduce the risk of infection.

      In addition, Henry suggested there could be times when nonmedical masks are advisable, such as on transit if there isn't two metres between passengers.

      "We do know that nonmedical masks can be very helpful for those very short periods of time when we cannot maintain our physical distance," Henry said.

      However, she emphasized that maintaining physical distance and insisting that people stay at home when they're sick are even more important measures than wearing nonmedical masks to contain the spread of COVID-19.

      Any business that reopens under phase two will be required to have a COVID-19 safety plan that's available for inspectors with public-health agencies and WorkSafe B.C. 

      Henry added that this safety plan must also be available to employees and customers. The first number people should call if they have questions is WorkSafe B.C. at 1-800-621-7233.

      She also said that businesses that are used to dealing with public-health inspectors, such as restaurants, can contact provincial health authorities.

      "As we cautiously progress through our restart plan, know that we are in this together," Henry declared.

      Today, she reported that there have been 21 new positive test results for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing B.C.'s total to 2,428.

      Of those, 2,062 are in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions.

      She also said that 1,932 have fully recovered and one more person has died. This brings B.C.'s total of fatalities to 141.

      In addition, Henry said that there are 355 active cases, with 49 hospitalized, and 11 in critical-care or intensive-care units.

      Henry noted that there have been no new health-care outbreaks since COVID-19 started spreading at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, where six staff and two patients have been infected.

      The B.C. Nurses Union has alleged that this is linked to a lack of personal protective equipment, which Henry denied.

      There are 15 long-term care or assisted-living facilities with outbreaks, along with five acute-care units.

      Fraser Health continues to investigate a community outbreak at an Oppenheimer Group fruit and vegetable warehouse in Coquitlam. Three workers there contracted COVID-19.