COVID-19 in B.C.: As number of cases continue to rise, province changes testing criteria

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      While the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, B.C.’s provincial health officer provided some good news and also spoke about changes to testing.

      Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today (March 23) that there have been 48 new cases since the last update made on Saturday (March 21) for a total of 472 cases in the province.

      Of those cases, 248 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 150 in the Fraser Health region, 39 on Vancouver Island, 30 in the Interior Health region, and five in the Northern Health region.

      Of those, there are 33 patients in hospital, with 14 in intensive care units.

      Dr. Henry stated that there are now six longterm care facilities with cases, with one new case reported at the German-Canadian Care Home and another new case reported at Delta View Care Centre. Both cases are staff members.

      Tragically, three new deaths occurred—one at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, one at the Haro Park Centre, and one in the Fraser Health region—for a total of 13 deaths in the province.

      The good news is that a total of 100 cases are now recovered. Dr. Henry stated that the majority of these cases experienced mild illness.

      In addition, Dr. Henry stated that the backlog of cases mentioned last week should be resolved today or tomorrow.

      She talked about how B.C. has changed testing criteria to focus on healthcare workers, longterm care, and clusters of cases in the community that are not linked to travel.

      She stated that the majority of travellers who have returned to B.C. from outside Canada need to self-isolate, even with mild symptoms, and do not need to be tested.

      “I know there has been some concern expressed that our change in our strategy for testing means that there’s a bunch of cases that we’re not actually getting to or that we’re not recognizing in the community, and while we do recognize that people who have symptoms and they’ve had an exposure may have this disease, it doesn’t mean everybody needs to be tested,” she explained.

      She added that they will post “epidemiological-linked cases”, such as family members of an individual who has tested positive will be counted as cases.

      Again, she also stressed the need to protect healthcare workers and both she and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix also emphasized the need to maintain essential services, such as grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies, with safe measures in place.

      “We have to engage in this fight at 100 percent and that means maintaining the essential services that are required to continue to function so that it is absolutely essential for grocery store workers to go to work and be available for work for the rest of us,” Dix stated.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix noted that 22 nurses volunteered to assist at North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre, which he called "an extraordinary thing”.

      In addition, Dix said the number of beds in acute care have increased by 1,234 since March 20 while the number of beds in critical care have been increased by 177.

      On March 20 and 21, Dr. Henry ordered all restaurants to end dining service and also ordered all personal-service establishments, such as salons and spas, to close. 

      Information about COVID-19 in B.C. is available at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website, and an online self-assessment tool is also available.

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