Coronavirus updates for March 27: Health workers advised to contact school principals to discuss their kids' care

The latest news on the novel coronavirus from Vancouver, B.C., and across Canada

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      4:40 p.m.

      Public schools are not going to open at the end of spring break on March 30.

      That's left many parents trying to figure out how to work from home and school their children.

      Today, the B.C. government announced that a new website is being created to support K-12 students as long as in-class education is suspended.

      In addition, guidelines have been created for "school leaders", who are working on alternative approaches to provide online learning opportunities.

      “This is a challenging time for families in B.C. as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is vital students have a sense of routine and continued opportunities to learn while they are at home,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a news release. “These guidelines will ensure the needs, health and safety of students are put first as school leaders actively plan to serve the unique needs of their communities.”

      The ministry has urged frontline health-care workers to contact their kids' principals if they need urgent care.

      "Other parents who are deemed an essential service worker and who may need child care for their school-age children can expect to hear from their school regarding care options by Friday, April 3, 2020," the ministry noted. "Schools will be doing their best to accommodate urgent child care needs while meeting the guidelines and directives of the provincial health officer."

      More information is available on the government website.

      3:56 p.m. Doughnut shop closed for violating health order

      The City of Vancouver has shut down a Tim Hortons outlet in downtown Vancouver for "gross misconduct".

      It came after the restaurant at 108 West Pender Street did not limit the number of people in the restaurant, which was in violation of provincial and city regulations created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      The suspension came after four visits and several warnings by property-use inspectors.

      They've visited more than 5,800 restaurants and 1,000 personal-care facilities since March 20.

      1:35 p.m. $3-million fund created for arts sector

      Lisa Beare, the minister of tourism, arts and culture, has announced a new Arts and Culture Resilience Supplement in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      An additional $3 million will be administered by the B.C. Arts Council.

      This means that organizations are eligible to receive up to $15,000 in early April to help them pay their bills.

      "Starting in April 2020, the B.C. Arts Council will provide operating clients a 50% advance on 2020-21 funding to help with their cash flow," Beare said. "We are also extending application deadlines, relaxing reporting requirements and allowing organizations to use funding to cover immediate needs like rent and utilities."

      11 a.m. B.C. Greens halt leadership race but federal Greens carry on

      The B.C. Greens have suspended their leadership race—less than a day after the federal Conservatives did the same thing.

      One of the candidates, Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau, issued a statement saying it's "clearly inappropriate to continue aggressive campaigning and fundraising in light of the stresses and pressures people are facing".

      The federal Green leadership race has not been postponed, however. 

      The replacement for Elizabeth May will be crowned at a convention in Charlottetown that is scheduled from October 2 to 4.

      8 a.m. Cannabis businesses have been deemed “essential services”

      In British Columbia, the provincial government has designated regulated cannabis producers and retailers as “essential services”, which will allow them to continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      In a news release issued on March 26, Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general, provided a list of essential services that included health-care providers, law enforcement, first responders, food banks, and care for seniors and people with disabilities.

      Cannabis retailers and producers were included under the heading of “Food and agricultural service providers”.

      Elsewhere in Canada, cannabis businesses have been deemed essential in Ontario and Quebec.

      As for the United States, a recent Politico article on the subject notes that in some areas of the country, cannabis retailers are being treated the same as pharmacies, “reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural perceptions about the drug over the last decade”.

      For more on this story, visit

      Case Summary

      * 66 new COVID-19 cases were reported in B.C. from March 25 to March 26.

      * 66 people are in hospital in B.C. with COVID-19.

      * 186 people have recovered from COVID-19 in B.C.

      * 26 B.C. patients with COVID-19 are in intensive care.

      * 14 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C.

      * 359 cases are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

      * 241 cases are in the Fraser Health region.

      * 52 cases are in the Island Health region.

      * 62 cases are in the Interior Health region.

      * 11 cases are in the Northern Health region.

      * Approximately 3,500 tests per day are being conducted in B.C.