VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced one new death related to coronavirus and 42 more confirmed cases Wednesday.
Henry says the newest death announced is again linked to the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where a majority of deaths in B.C. have taken place. As well, 42 residents and 21 staff members from that care home have been infected.
Another care home, Broadway Pentecostal Lodge, has recorded a coronavirus case, as a healthcare worker there tested positive.
Henry also reiterated gatherings should be no more than two people but did not address how to mitigate the large groups in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Henry says many residents in the impoverished community have underlying health conditions and may be more vulnerable to having severe illness from the virus.
“Really it is the protection of the people who are living there who may be more vulnerable to having severe illness from COVID-19 that we’re focusing on,” she says.
She says they have plans in place to manage and protect those living in the community, including how to help them isolate and care for those who are ill.
First responders and others working in the area have also raised their concerns about people ignoring social distancing rules.
Some officers dedicated to policing Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside say they’re anxious about possibly being exposed to COVID-19 and bringing the virus home to their loved ones.
Earlier this week Vancouver Police Union President Ralph Kaisers told NEWS 1130 some members are no longer getting out of their cars unless they have to.
“We are still going to be responding to any priority call that we have to attend to, but they’re obviously would be some concern or maybe a concern for getting out and dealing with a call potentially that doesn’t necessarily need face to face contact.”
The total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C. is now 659, and 183 people have fully recovered from the virus.
So, is enough being done to keep this virus from exploding in the Downtown Eastside?
Vancouver City Councillor Lisa Dominato says various programs have been implemented to help “mitigate” the impact.
“We have been working closely with agencies there. We have put in handwashing stations, personal protective equipment –make that available to agencies in the DTES, as well. All levels of government are engaged on this and it is certainly top of mind for mayor and council. We have a task force in place. I know that the mayor has had conference calls with DTES service agencies addressing concerns around physical distancing and care of our most vulnerable residents.”
Even so, she says she understands why some first responders and other front-line workers are reluctant to keep showing up.
“When I think about our VPD officers, Vancouver Fire as well, they’re being as responsive as possible. They’re stepping up in what is a very challenging time, but I do want to acknowledge, I can appreciate the concerns and the anxiety that people are feeling.”
Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission says now is the time support services are needed most in that community.
“It could be really damaging if it were to be more widespread, so, on the one hand, you have a group that already feels forgotten, abandoned, marginalized, to a large extent, cast aside –absolutely can not let them down.”
He also tells NEWS 1130 the situation is already extremely dangerous.
“It could really be devastating. By nature of being homeless, people do not have the opportunity to protect themselves. So, it’s a really big concern because we know that if the virus were to be widespread in this community, it would really take a toll.”
Hunka says a mobile unit has been testing for COVID-19 in the area and, at this point, there’s no evidence of any localized outbreaks, but a widespread outbreak could easily happen.
“It’s really hard for people to physically distance themselves from one another. We obviously have closed down our dining hall which typically serves hundreds of people and are serving meals out the door instead. We also have chalk markers on the ground, but it’s really hard.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International is urging governments across Canada to make sure basic human rights are protected during various states of emergency.
-With files from The Canadian Press