B.C. declares public health emergency on March 17 as 83 new COVID-19 cases bring total to 186

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      British Columbia's provincial health officer, in conjunction with the provincial government, has declared a public health emergency as the number of COVID-19 cases has leapt up by the largest amount the province has reported thus far in one day since the onset of the outbreak.

      Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. provincial health officer, announced today that there are 83 new cases in the province.

      She attributed the jump due to a number of factors, including a “dramatic increase” in the number of people voluntarily getting testing, an expansion of testing across the province, and a delay in confirming some cases. In addition, Dr. Henry said there is a backlog of cases to be confirmed, which she said will be resolved in the next few days.

      There are now 116 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 47 in the Fraser Health region, 12 in the Vancouver Island Health region, seven in the Interior Health region, and four in the Northern Health Authority region.

      There were an additional three new deaths announced today. Two are related to the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver and one in the Fraser Health Region.

      Three deaths were previously announced on March 16, in addition to one previous death, which brings the total number of deaths to seven.

      Five additional cases have recovered.

      The total number of cases is now at 186 in B.C.

      Seven cases are in hospital while the majority of cases are in self-isolation at home. 

      Dr. Henry ordered all bars and clubs to close and that all restaurants and cafes that cannot maintain distancing must close or transition to take-out-only.

      She added that grocery stores, pharmacies, public transportation, and utilities, which will remain in operation, also need to incorporate social distancing measures.

      She explained that social distancing includes measures to reduce the number of people going into healthcare facilities, keeping seniors protected, and remaining one- to two-metres (or arm span from fingertip to fingertip) away from others.

      Dr. Henry supported Trudeau's decision to not close the U.S.–Canada border, as she said the U.S. and Canada do have interconnected economies, including services and goods. However, along with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, also agreed that the border should be closed to tourists and visitors. 

      Dix also emphasized that Canadians should not be visiting the U.S. right now either.

      A new self-assessment tool has been launched at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website.

      For more information on COVID-19 in B.C., visit the BCCDC website.

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