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B.C. sees first COVID-19 death in more than a week

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Jun 23, 2020 at 8:50 pm PDT

Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy B.C. Government, Flickr)

Order banning large gatherings will remain in place until there's an effective way to stop spread of virus: top doctor

B.C. last recorded a death related to COVID-19 on June 12

Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province anticipates entering Phase 3 of its economic restart plan soon

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. recorded its first COVID-19-related death in more than a week as the province saw 32 new cases over the weekend, including the first new one on Vancouver Island since the beginning of June.

With record numbers of cases being reported around the world, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday her order banning gatherings of 50 people or more will remain in place until there is an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

“The 50 is there for a reason,” she said. “It’s a manageable number.”

B.C. last recorded a death related to COVID-19 on June 12. The province wasn’t clear when the latest death — the 169th in B.C. — occurred.

B.C. recorded 10 new cases from Friday to Saturday, six between Saturday and Sunday, and 16 from Sunday to Monday.

“As we look ahead, our objective is to keep doing that, to keep our COVID-19 rates low and slow. We know that when the virus is anywhere. The risk is everywhere. And we’ve seen again record numbers of cases being reported around the world, including in our neighboring countries,” Henry said.

She added the province anticipates entering Phase 3 of its economic restart plan soon.

“The premier will be sharing more information about that this week,” Henry said. “We must continue, however, to minimize our cases, to manage them quickly and effectively with public health action, and with everybody doing their part,” Henry said. “The gradual easing of restrictions means more activities can get underway, but it does not mean, mean, or the change to our basic principles of foundations of what is keeping us safe here in British Columbia.”

She reiterated closed and indoor spaces, along with close contact and crowds increase the risk of spreading the virus.

Henry said no one thing would cause the province to reverse the health and safety restrictions eased as part of the second phase, but cases just popping up with no connections would cause her to take notice.

Those are things that we’ll be looking at, and we have some tools that help us investigate that. So we have tools like whole genome sequencing that can help us link where cases may have come from. We have a lot of work that we’re doing in public health to make sure we can find people quickly, and we can find your close contacts quickly. So, again, it goes back to the work of having small numbers — few faces, big spacesso that we’re not trying to catch 1,000 people, but manageable numbers of people,” she added.

However, the province may have to impose restrictions on certain activities or areas, she said.

“I’m thinking about things like certain workplaces, or places where people are in common accommodations. Long-term care is an area that we’ll be looking at and making sure that if we start to see more introductions into long-term care, then we can step back on the restrictions.”

Regarding reports of people in Vancouver and the Okanagan ignoring the ban on large gatherings, Henry said the province has explained what people need to do and why and has relied on them to do the right thing.

She said people need to continue to be creative within the health and safety regulations imposed.

“It is a rule and bylaw officers and RCMP have been involved in some parts around the province of reminding people of these rules and encouraging them to move along or to split up into smaller groups in different areas, and we know there’s been a couple of examples of that over the weekend where that has been effective. But our approach has always been one of education and working with people to make sure that they understand,” Henry added.

“We all want this to go away,” she said of the virus. “I certainly do.”

B.C. has recorded 2,822 cases overall, with a recovery rate close to 88 per cent.

Among those, 182 remain active, with 14 people in hospital, including six in intensive care.

No new outbreaks were recorded since Friday, while six remain active at health-care facilities.

In an unrelated matter, Health Minister Adrian Dix promised whistleblower protection for healthcare workers who come forward as part of an investigation the province launched Friday into allegations of hospital emergency room staff playing a game, guessing the blood-alcohol levels of patients, particularly Indigenous people.