COVID-19 in B.C.: Dr. Bonnie Henry asks British Columbians to think of "few faces and big spaces" this summer

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Today’s B.C. COVID-19 update from Dr. Bonnie Henry included one of the lowest new case counts in recent weeks, which is timely as the provincial government readies its plans for reopening parts of B.C.

      Despite the upcoming loosening of restrictions, Dr. Henry provided some cautionary words about the weeks and months ahead.

      Daily update

      In the update for May 5, Dr. Henry said that there are only eight new cases.

      The province has now had a cumulative total of 2,232 cases. Of those cases, 849 were in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,031 in Fraser Health, 124 on Vancouver Island, 177 in Interior Health, and 51 in Northern Health.

      There are three new outbreaks, for a total of 22 active outbreaks.

      One is at a longterm care facility—Evergreen House in North Vancouver—and two at acute care facilities—Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge and Richmond Hospital.

      The outbreaks at longterm care facilities involve a total of 443 people (271 residents and 171 staff).

      A total of 17 outbreaks are over. Dr. Henry noted that includes the outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, the location of the first longterm care facility outbreak, and that all people associated have recovered, which she said is “really great news”

      Outbreaks at Abbotsford’s MSA Manor Home and Kelowna’s Orchard Manor at Hawthorne Park are also over.

      At poultry processing plants, there is one new case at Superior Poultry in Coquitlam, raising the number of cases to 55; 35 cases at United Poultry in East Vancouver; and seven cases at Fraser Specialty Poultry in Chilliwack. Although the investigation remains undergoing into the latter facility, it has since reopened with appropriate measures implemented.

      The outbreak at the Mission Institution correctional facility remains at 134 cases (121 inmates and 13 staff).

      There are 78 patients in hospital, with 13 of those individuals in intensive care units.

      Unfortunately, there have been four new deaths (three in Fraser Health and one in Vancouver Coastal Health) for a total of 121 fatalities.

      A cumulative total of 1,472 people have now recovered.

      Contacting tracing and apps

      When asked about whether or not B.C. will use contact tracing apps, Dr. Henry said that they have been considering this issue and that they have been trialing some apps to find a suitable one, “particularly to assist…when we identify a case and when we identify contacts, being able to connect with them and use some of the information to help find out where they have been and who they’ve been in contact with”.

      However, she said that they haven’t yet found one that meets their needs and they remain uncertain about the benefits of such an app.

      “We need to find the right IT support for the work that we’re doing that doesn’t create more problems than it solved and we have not yet found one that we feel meets the needs that we have in British Columbia for supporting contact tracing,” she said. “We’re not clear that there’s any evidence, at least in our context, that having something on everybody’s phone that gives them generic messages about where they may [have been] or who they might have been in contact with is what we need right now.”

      In addition, she said they are working on it with provincial health authorities and tech experts “looking at how we can augment the IT system that we’re using already rather than using something new and different”.

      However, she said that they are keeping an open mind about possibilities.

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

      Reopening the province

      Although Dr. Henry gave some suggestions yesterday about things can consider in potentially expanding their social circles slightly in the near future, she emphasized today that we have not quite reached the point to do so.

      “We are not yet through this,” she reminded, adding that there is still a long way to go. “So please don’t start planning your playdates and expanding your bubble too soon.”

      She pointed out that B.C. is still having community outbreaks, which remain a concern.

      “As the modelling has shown, moving too quickly can undo all of the work that we have done,” she said.

      She also added that there are some things that won’t change, including no handshaking or hugging; maintaining physical distancing; and remaining at home when sick, particularly during the respiratory season in the autumn.

      “Few faces and big spaces,” she said is something to think about in the new normal.

      She said everyone will need to keep their number of contacts low, especially for households with those who are vulnerable, and will need to continue avoiding non-essential travel over next few months.

      Tomorrow (May 6), the provincial government will reveal its plans for reopening B.C. during the pandemic.

      In preparation for the announcement, Dix pointed out that while other provinces have presented their plans for reopening their economies, many of the areas that they are reopening are sectors that British Columbia never shut down.

      “Many of the sectors of society that have opened up in other jurisdictions, from garden shops to construction to resource sectors—all of these have never been closed in British Columbia,” he said. “So this means that we’ve managed by following the science here, by ensuring that those who continue to work do so safely, to model the kind of behaviour we’re going to continue to model in the days and months to come as we prepare for this summer, which we hope will be a summer of renewal.”   

      Dr. Henry said that among information that will be provided over the next few days will include summer activities, team sports, various retail sectors, and more. 

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