Updated: B.C. confirms more COVID-19 cases as Washington state declares emergency with nine coronavirus deaths

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      Update 2: B.C. confirmed three new COVID-19 cases this afternoon, after the one new case announced in the morning. The total number of cases in B.C. is now at 12. For information, see this article

      Update 1: Washington state reported three more deaths of COVID-19 patients, bringing the total to nine deaths for the state.

      Original article:

      After a sudden increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, Washington state and B.C. health officials have responded to the rapidly changing situation.

      Washington state has reported 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, while 231 patients are under public health supervision and being monitored.

      On February 29, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to several new cases and the first death from the virus within the U.S.

      The proclamation directs state agencies and departments to use state resources to assist affected communities and, if necessary, the use of the Washington National Guard.

      The Washington Military Department also activated the State Emergency Operations Center at Level 1, the highest level, to coordinate a statewide response.

      According to CBC News, researchers stated that the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks in the state and more cases may be reported in Washington, Oregon, and California.

      There are now 109 COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

      Canada now has 30 cases.

      Today (March 3), Ontario confirmed two more new cases—one linked to travel to Egypt and the other to Iran—bringing the total number of cases in Ontario to 20.

      Also today, B.C. announced a ninth case in a man in his 50s in the Fraser Health Region who returned from Iran.

      Quebec has one case and the most recent cases in Canada have been linked to Iran or Egypt.

      Canada raised the travel health risk alert for Northern Italy and Iran to Level 3 (avoid non-essential travel), as well as the South Korean cities of Daegu and Cheongdo. At Level 2 are Japan and South Korea.

      The B.C. government is asking all travelers from Iran and China to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival in Canada.

      All other travelers returning to B.C. from outside Canada are being asked to monitor themselves and their family members for symptoms.

      B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a joint statement on March 2 in response to the situation in Washington state.

      The statement explained that B.C. has offered its support of Washington state’s public health officials while coordinating its own response within the province.

      Currently, officials aren’t implementing any restrictions on travel to and from Washington state and no additional screening measures are being introduced.

      Dix and Dr. Henry reiterated once again, as in previous statements, that the “risk of COVID-19 spreading within British Columbia remains low at this time” and testing continues to screen British Columbians, traveler with symptoms, and their close contacts.

      If symptoms develop, individuals are asked to limit contact with others and call 811.

      “The most important measure anyone can take is preventing the transmission of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19,” the statement reads. “This includes cleaning your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow sleeve, and disposing of tissues appropriately.”

      Dix and Dr. Henry also are asking individuals who are sick, or have family members who are sick, to remain at home and away from others, including staying home from work or school, and postponing visits to longterm care facilities.

      Panic-buying was reported taking place in the Lower Mainland over this past weekend.

      However, Dix and Dr. Henry stated that while British Columbians should be prepared, excessive purchases are unnecessary.

      “Similar to how you may need to care for someone with influenza, you will want to ensure you have sufficient food, medications and support in place for you and your family to stay home for a number for days. These are the normal preparations when someone in your family is ill. There is no requirement for British Columbians to stockpile supplies.”

      More information about COVID-19 in British Columbia is available at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website. 

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