Update: Just after 4:30 p.m. PST, the province reported three new COVID-19 cases in B.C.
British Columbia has reported one new case of the novel coronavirus, bringing the provincial total to nine.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the latest case is a man in his 50s who returned from Iran last and is in the Fraser Health Region. The man and his close contacts are in isolation at home and are being monitored.
The latest case was discovered late Monday night and is not related to any previously announced cases. Henry said the man began to feel ill after he returned home.
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry provides an update on the status of COVID-19 in B.C.
Posted by CBC Vancouver on Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Henry said now is the time to think about preventing COVID-19 transmission in the community, with measures such as working from home if feeling unwell, frequent handwashing and avoiding shaking hands.
“We also need to start thinking, if you’re somebody at risk from having severe illness from COVID-19, you might want to reduce your risk of being amongst others. Even though we don’t have a lot of community transmission here in B.C., now’s the time to start thinking about the things that you want to do to try and prevent transmission, make sure you are protected,” Henry said.
“Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapeños and you need to change your contacts.”
People who are not feeling well should also not visit senior care homes or see older relatives who might be more vulnerable, Henry said.
“The overriding importance right now is not transmitting these infections in our communities,” Henry said.
On Monday, Henry said B.C. was monitoring the deaths from novel coronavirus in Washington state. On Tuesday, health officials confirmed there were nine deaths from coronavirus in the state. The seventh confirmed death was a patient was from Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. died last Wednesday at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.
Eight of the deaths are in King County and one in Snohomish County in Washington.
A total of 27 people in King and Snohomish counties in Washington state have tested positive for 2019 novel coronavirus, officially called COVID-19. Dozens of other people are being tested or monitored. Henry said the deaths in the U.S. are connected to two counties in the Seattle area, leading her to believe an uncontrolled spread is not underway.
Elsewhere in Canada, Ontario now has 20 cases of the novel coronavirus, with two new people added to the tally today.
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The latest cases followed a pattern that’s emerged during the rash of new positive tests, which saw the provincial total climb rapidly in the past week.
Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said the two latest people to test positive for the virus dubbed COVID-19 had recently returned from trips to Iran and Egypt. Other recent patients, including three announced on Monday, either had a similar travel history or were closely related to those who did.
“At this time, the virus is not circulating locally,” Williams said. “The province continues to carefully monitor this situation.”
Williams said the first of the new Ontario cases involves a woman in her 70s living in York Region north of Toronto. He said she returned from Egypt on Feb. 20 and reported to a hospital in Richmond Hill, 10 days later.
The other new case involves a Toronto-area man in his 50s who returned from Iran on Feb. 25 and went to hospital on Feb. 29. Both patients were released and are now in self-isolation at home, he said.
The new B.C. cases bring Canada’s novel coronavirus case total to 30: 20 in Ontario, nine in B.C. and one in Quebec. Four patients in B.C. have recovered.
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Henry said people can contact B.C.’s Health Link at 811 if they have travelled to King County or Snohomish County, have symptoms and are concerned. Washington state is not considered a highly affected area.
Travellers returning to B.C. from Iran will now face increased questions at customs and immigration points at airports about their health. Henry said those returning from China and Iran will need to isolate themselves for 14 days when they return home to Canada.
Henry said people travelling internationally should think about if they can handle a quarantine situation and should reconsider trips if they have underlying health issues. Travel within Canada and the rest of North America is still considered low risk, Henry said. But several countries and territories have since been added to a list of areas of concern, including Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Singapore and South Korea.
“If you are concerned, if you’re one of those people who fits into the high-risk category, this may be a time to defer your travel and think about not going, particularly to countries we know are having a challenge dealing with this virus.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spoke Monday by telephone about the coronavirus, each pledging support for the neighbouring jurisdictions.
Worldwide, more than 92,000 people have been infected, with the number of deaths now exceeding 3,100 people.
“This is where we have a global crisis that’s changing rapidly,” Henry said.
Henry said symptoms for COVID-19 can be similar to a cold so the way to track down cases is to look at travel history.
As of Friday, 1,012 individuals and 1,425 samples have been tested, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
All positive cases of the novel coronavirus in B.C. have been successfully managed at home and no one has been severely ill, Henry said. All the close contacts of the people infected in B.C. have been spoken with by a health authority.
Henry said people who are self quarantined can get groceries and other items delivered so they are not out exposing people in the community. The government recommends employers increase cleaning and hand hygiene availability, along with thinking about how to manage absenteeism through steps such as remote working or virtual meetings.
Schools should be increasing cleaning and hand hygiene, educating students on respiratory etiquette, in addition to putting mechanisms in place to support students who may be away for extended periods, the government said.
Event organizers should ask all participants to stay away if they are sick, returning from affected areas or have underlying health conditions that may be impacted by a respiratory illness. Organizers should also complete a risk assessment considering what is happening in the local community and who may attend the event.
Henry said the province has there are plans in place for a pandemic but “you’re never ready for the actuality of it.”
“There’s always things that we need to learn. This is a different virus. This is a brand new virus.”
The B.C. government announced Tuesday afternoon Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix will be holding another news conference in Victoria at 4:30 p.m.
With files from The Canadian Press and King 5.