VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Three new COVID-19 deaths in B.C. reported Tuesday all involved long-term care homes, while the number of cases involving staff and residents at such facilities increased.
As well, Health Minister Adrian Dix said an agreement has been reached regarding uniform wages for workers at care homes to ensure fairness and that employees aren’t dividing their time at more than one facility.
The latter was cited as a cause for the first outbreak in B.C., at the Lynn Valley Care Centre.
Dix did not disclose specifics about the agreement.
“This has been worked out with the many players in the area, including unions and many of the care homes themselves,” he said.
The total number of deaths in the province related to COVID-19 is now 72.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said two of the new deaths occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, while the other was in the Fraser Health region.
She also reported that an additional care home, the South Granville Park Lodge, now has a virus outbreak, bringing the total of such facilities affected to 21.
Henry said the number of cases involving residents and staff at long-term-care and assisted-living facilities increased to 289, up from 254 the day before.
The number of residents infected went up to 165 from 159, while 124 staff have now tested positive, up from 97.
Re: uniform wages offered to workers at care homes to ensure fairness while employees banned from dividing time at more than one facility, @adriandix not disclosing specifics today about unique agreement reached last week.
News conference has ended.
Next update 3pm Wednesday.
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) April 14, 2020
The majority of deaths in B.C. continue to be linked to long-term care homes, as are close to half of all of those in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada announced new guidelines for care homes on Monday, including increased screening and cleaning, as well as restricting entry to only visitors and volunteers deemed essential for basic, medical or compassionate residential care.
They are all also required to wear masks at care homes.
Henry said the single-site rule for care workers in B.C. is an order and compliance is expected. However, some areas of the province are ahead of others and exceptions have been made in the short-term, she added.
“Fraser Health is working on this and will be in compliance. And there is not a blanket exception within Fraser Health,” Henry said.
“It is complicated, and much more complicated in the Lower Mainland, where you are dealing with two quite large health authorities that have a number of facilities.”
Meanwhile, the province will redeploy a mobile command unit to the Abbotsford area to assist with an outbreak at a federal prison in Mission.
The number of infected inmates at the Mission Institution remains at 41, while seven are in hospital.
Six correctional officers there have also tested positive.
Henry said Abbotsford Regional Hospital has developed a dedicated unit to care for those from the prison. Fraser Health will use the province’s mobile medical unit to help look after patients in a hospital setting, including critical care, if needed, she added.
The unit had been set up at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
“But it will be deployed to the Abbotsford area to provide additional support for this ongoing and very concerning outbreak that we have at the Mission correctional facility,” Henry said.
Henry said the Okanagan Correctional Centre continues to have a single case, while three more have been recorded at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna, bringing the total there to 23. All involve temporary foreign workers.
The number of recorded cases of coronavirus in B.C. has now passed 1,500, with a recovery rate of 62 per cent, up a bit from Monday.
Of those cases, 134 people remain in hospital with COVID-19, including 58 in intensive care.
Regarding hospitals, Dix said 13,938 elective surgeries have been cancelled so far during the pandemic.
“That is, obviously, a very significant thing,” he added.
But emergency surgeries continue — 8,221 have been completed during the same time frame, about half of those were scheduled as urgent.
“People are continuing to work in other aspects of the health care system,” Dix said.