Provincial health officer says B.C. has reached critical time to build firewall against COVID-19

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      As B.C.’s provincial health officer provided an update on COVID-19 in British Columbia, she also heavily emphasized that the province has now reached a critical time frame to flatten the curve.

      Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today (March 19) that there are 40 new cases in B.C. today, bringing the provincial total to 271 cases, which is the largest amount in Canada.

      There are 152 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 81 in the Fraser Health region, 22 on Vancouver Island, 12 in the Interior Health region, and four in the Northern Health region.

      Dr. Henry announced one new death today, which occurred at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. The provincial total is at eight deaths.

      Meanwhile, the number of individuals in hospital has risen from 13 to 17 (with nine in intensive care) since yesterday.

      There weren’t any new recoveries announced, and a total of nine cases have recovered.

      Dr. Henry heavily emphasized the importance of taking all health recommendations seriously to slow down and prevent infections. She said this is a “critical time” for B.C. to build a firewall.

      "This is not optional," she said. "I want to be very clear that everybody needs to take these actions now and this is what's going to protect us for the next few weeks.... The importance cannot be minimized."

      She said that has felt encouraged by those who are taking things seriously by maintaining social distancing She added that while everyone is practising social distancing, she also emphasized the importance of people remaining socially connected through remote means and to support others, particularly vulnerable populations.

      “This is not a normal time and we need to keep those distances between us,” Dr. Henry stated. She said that it’s okay to venture into the outdoors for exercise or fresh air while avoiding contact with others. But she said B.C. otherwise needs “everyone to lay low” and people should only visit places like grocery stores out of necessity.

      Canada has over 840 cases, with approximately 150 in Alberta, approximately 260 in Ontario, and over 120 in Quebec.

      Meanwhile south of the border, the United States has soared to over 13,600 cases.

      Italy, the hardest hit location outside mainland China, is reporting over 41,000 cases. Iran and Spain are both exceeding 18,000 cases.

      While many Asian locations where some of the first COVID-19 cases appeared continue to see increases, rates of increase have been maintained in many of these locations that are lower than in Europe, including Singapore (345), Thailand (272), Hong Kong (208), and Vietnam (85). 

      South Korea (approximately 8,600) and Japan (approximately (950), with the highest numbers outside in Asia outside mainland China, also appear to be have controlled their rates of increase.

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