While the number of new cases in B.C. remains low as the province heads towards a new phase of its reopening plan next week, there remain some areas of concern. Two new outbreaks and more deaths were announced in the province’s daily COVID-19 update today.
Today (May 15), Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix stated in a news release (in lieu of a news conference) confirmed there are 15 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,407 in British Columbia.
There are 359 cases that are active, with 51 of those individuals in hospitals (12 of those patients are in intensive care units).
Over the course of the pandemic, there have been 878 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,164 in Fraser Health, 126 in Island Health, 181 in Interior Health, and 58 in Northern Health.
Two new outbreaks—one at a care facility and another in a Lower Mainland facility—have developed.
The first occurred at the acute care unit at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
A total of 15 longterm care facilities and five acute care units have active cases.
The other outbreak has taken place at the Oppenheimer Group, a fruit and vegetable processing plant in Coquitlam. A public-health investigation is underway, including contact tracing, and the plant currently is remaining open.
Tragically, there are five new deaths (four in Fraser Health and one in Vancouver Coastal Health) for a total of 140 people who have died during the pandemic.
A cumulative total of 1,908 people have recovered from the virus.
Reopening parks, businesses and services, and schools
B.C.’s second phase of its economic restart plan will begin on Tuesday (May 19) after the Victoria Day long weekend.
WorkSafeBC is providing health and safety guidelines for the sectors that can reopen, including restaurants, cafes, and pubs; salons and personal services; museums, art galleries and libraries, and real estate; retail; education (kindergarten to Grade 12); health services; in-person counselling; offices; parks and outdoor spaces.
Guidelines are forthcoming for more health services, child care, and sports and recreation.
Meanwhile, to help the food industry, the B.C. Agri-Business Planning Program, offered by the federal and provincial governments for food-processing businesses impacted by the pandemic, has expanded to include aquaculture and seafood companies.
B.C. agriculture, seafood, and food-processing business owners can apply if their revenues has declined by 30 percent or more during the pandemic.
For individuals, up to $5,000 in business planning services and coaching is available while up to $20,000 is available for groups, from a qualified business consultant, to develop an immediate and long-term recovery plan.
A specialized business planning program is also available for further bolstering businesses.
Business plan coaching will be available in the near future.
Full details are available at the program website.
Earlier today, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming and Premier John Horgan announced the provincial government’s plan to reopen schools part-time on June 1, with optional attendance.
A five-stage reopening plan is underway, with the intent to start the new school year in September.
Although both Dr. Henry and Dix have repeatedly urged people to remain close to home over the long weekend and to avoid non-essential travel, B.C. Parks began on May 14 to reopen some provincial parks for day use.
Some facilities will be open, such as trails, beaches, boat launches, docks, picnic tables, pit toilets, and climbing areas.
However, some popular parks, including Joffre Lakes, Garibaldi, Shannon Falls, Cypress, Seymour, Porteau Cove, and MacMillan Park, will remain closed.
To find out which parks are open, visit the B.C. Parks website.
B.C. Minister of Citizens Services and Multiculturalism Anne Kang issued a statement in response to the Vancouver Police Department reporting a notable increase in hate crimes with anti-Asian elements in March and April during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I cannot remain silent,” she said in a news release. “As someone who moved to Canada from Taiwan, I am outraged that anyone would engage in acts of discrimination, hate or violence. I am compelled as a government representative, immigrant and British Columbian to speak out against these vicious acts.”
She pointed out that Chinese Canadians have been in the province for generations and asked people to speak up when witnessing racism or report incidents to police if necessary.
In the wake of Canadian rocker Bryan Adams' comment about the pandemic being caused by “bat eating…bastards”, North Vancouver–Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma uploaded a video in which she explained how such comments by celebrities and public figures have a negative impact upon people.
Several initiatives, involving film and TV stars, have sprung up to address the racist attacks that have been reported across Canada and the U.S. during the pandemic, including the Vancouver Asian Film Festival’s Elimin8hate campaign and the Vancouver-based #HealthNotHate public-service announcement advertising campaign.
Until May 19, the provincial government’s Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network is accepting proposals from organizations for anti-racism or anti-hate efforts in communities.