COVID-19 in B.C.: One case at independent school, Peace Arch Park closure, Canadian app, and Phase 3

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      At today’s B.C. COVID-19 briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix talked about a positive case connected to a school, the closure of Peace Arch Park at the border, the federal release of a COVID-19 app, and moving into Phase 3.

      Daily update

      Today, Dr. Henry said that there are eight new cases, bringing the cumulative provincial total to 2,783.

      Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 950 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,441 in Fraser Health, 130 in Island Health, 197 in Interior Health, and 65 in Northern Health.

      Currently, there are 190 active cases, with 10 people in hospital. (Five of those patients are in intensive-care units.)

      As there aren’t any new health-care outbreaks, there are currently seven active health-care outbreaks—six in long-term care facilities and one in an acute care unit. A total of 588 people have been affected, including 365 residents and 233 staff members.

      Also, there aren’t any new community outbreaks, leaving three remaining active ones.

      Dr. Henry said that the outbreak at Nature’s Touch, a frozen-fruit processing plant in Abbotsford, has been declared over. (Five employees were reported as testing positive on May 25.)

      There are no new deaths—Dix pointed out there has only been one death over the past 12 days. The number of fatalities remains at 168.

      There are now 2,425 people who have recovered.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix (with B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry)
      Province of British Columbia

      Positive case at school

      Dr. Henry stated that there is one adult case linked to an independent school in the Fraser Health region.

      She said this person, who had a number of roles including teaching, had a small number of adult contacts, who were notified by public-health teams, and that no children were involved.

      However, the school has ceased all in-person classes for the remainder of the term.

      “Given that we still have spread of COVID-19 in our communities, this is not surprising, and it is something that we were preparing for and monitoring as children, teachers, and educators went back to in-classroom schooling at the beginning of the month,” she said.

      Park closure

      Earlier today, B.C. Parks announced that it is temporarily closing Peace Arch Park at the Canada-U.S. border tonight until further notice, because of the large number of people visiting the area to reunite with people from across the border.

      When asked about the closure, Dr. Henry clarified that public health didn’t close the park, but that B.C. Parks and the environment ministry closed it in consultation with communities.

      “I understand there were discussions with a number of community members, including the Semiahmoo First Nation, which was being affected,” she said.

      She also stated that the park wasn’t closed because of COVID-19, and that she was unaware of any cases linked to the park.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      Canadian app

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that a COVID-19 app will soon be available for Canadians to download on a voluntary basis. It will be released first in Ontario on July 2.

      Dr. Henry, who has said in the past that her team has had discussions about apps but has been unable to find one that satisfies their criteria, clarified that although the federally approved initiative has been referred to as a contact-tracing app, it’s actually a notification app.

      She explained that this app doesn’t help with contact tracing.

      What it does, she said, is provide notification to individuals to contact public health if they are in proximity to someone who tests positive.

      She said it can help in crowd situations—but only if many other people also have the app.

      “I think there’s probably a place for it,” she said. “It’s not answer in and of itself. It’s a piece, a tool, that we might be able to assist in some cases.”

      She said that it doesn’t replace contact tracing, as she emphasized that it is essential for individuals to be able to speak with a public-health representative who can ask the “right questions” and provide important information.

      However, she added that they are continuing to look at how to use technology for case management, contact tracing, and daily followup of contacts.

      Phase 3

      At a news conference on June 17, Premier John Horgan said that based on the case numbers over the past few weeks, he foresees the province moving into the third phase sometime next week.

      When asked about Phase 3, Dr. Henry said that while she is “cautiously optimistic” about continuing the reopening of the province, she remains concerned about recent developments.

      “The events of the last few days have been challenging,” she said, referring to the hospital cluster that spread to two long-term care facilities. In addition, she said that they are still seeing spread in communities, “primarily in the Lower Mainland”, with some additional cases in the Interior and northern B.C. over recent weeks.

      “We’re not at that point where we can let down our guard,” she said. “We need to continue to have the important measures in place that keep us all safe.”

      She said that “we need to continue those measures as a foundation as we transition” into the next phase.

      Dr. Henry will present a modelling update on Tuesday (June 23), rescheduled from June 22.

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