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Five more COVID-19 deaths in B.C., restrictions could extend into summer

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Mar 31, 2020 at 8:33 pm PDT

FILE - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the priority now is to push for a vaccine. (Courtesy Government of B.C.)

The priority now is to push for a vaccine: Dr. Henry

Henry also announced 43 new cases of the virus

507 people have now fully recovered from it in B.C.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported Tuesday five more deaths in B.C. due to the novel coronavirus, while suggesting orders to help contain transmission of COVID-19 could extend beyond May and into the summer.

But the priority now, she added, is to push for a vaccine.

“Realistically,” Henry said, “we are going to be in some form of having to monitor and prevent transmission of this virus until we have a vaccine, or enough of the population is immune to it, that it’s no longer infecting people. But we know that that’s a very high number.”

B.C. is likely in its first wave of COVID-19 at the moment, she said.

“When we get through our first wave, which will likely be in a few weeks, and maybe into May, for sure, we need to start thinking about what does it look like again to understand, if we are starting to see importations again, if we are starting to see clusters and cases being transmitted in the community,” Henry added.

“I do think it’s more and more less likely that we’re going to be able to get back to full, normal life — which I miss, a lot — before, at least, the summer.”

Then, she said, B.C. needs to start preparing for a second wave.

“In the meantime, we need to put every possible effort into development of a vaccine,” Henry added.

Health Minister Adrian Dix reiterated that there is “zero chance” any of the protective orders will be varied by the end of April.

“What it looks like in May or June or July is hard to say, and a lot of it depends on whether people are committed, which I believe they are, and I think we’ve seen that, to responding with a 100-per-cent effort to bend the curve,” Dix said.

“But this is going to be a challenge for a long time.”

With the five deaths reported Tuesday, the total number of those related to COVID-19 in B.C. increased to 24.

Henry also announced 43 new cases of the virus, and that 507 people have now fully recovered from it.

Henry also said 19 care homes or assisted-living facilities now have cases of COVID-19.

Two, the Lynn Valley Care Centre and Haro Park Centre, have full-blown outbreaks, she added.

However, Henry said most of the 17 others have only single cases, either a staff member or resident.

She credits aggressive provincial measures for limiting the transmission of the virus at the latter facilities.

Earlier Tuesday, a staff member at another long-term care home in Langley was diagnosed with COVID-19. The employee of Langley Lodge is in isolation at home, according to the Fraser Health Authority.

Henry said 128 people in B.C. remain hospitalized with COVID-19, including 61 in intensive care.

All five deaths reported Tuesday were cases in the Lower Mainland — four in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, the other in Fraser Health.

During the daily briefing, Henry addressed a question about an outbreak at Bylands Nursery in west Kelowna involving temporary foreign workers who arrived before travel restrictions were put in place. Henry said the workers were identified as ill and tested this past weekend, while their close contacts have been isolated.

Henry also said the foreign workers weren’t in the community, but did mix with each other. The cases were caught relatively early, she added, and some who were exposed to the virus are not currently sick, but could become ill in the coming weeks.

Henry added she’s concerned about more outbreaks involving temporary foreign workers.