B.C. reports 2 new cases of COVID-19 as province moves into Phase 2 of reopening

B.C. reports 2 new cases of COVID-19 as province moves into Phase 2 of reopening

British Columbia health officials are reporting just two new cases of COVID-19 as the province moves into Phase 2 of its restart plan.

The number of new reported COVID-19 cases is the lowest number since March 3 when there were three new cases. Health Minister Adrian Dix noted Tuesday that it has been about 17 weeks since B.C. issued its first COVID-19 statement, on Jan. 21.

“The people of B.C. stayed apart and worked together,” Dix said. “All of you made a difference.”

Three COVID-19 deaths were also announced Tuesday: two in Fraser Health and one in Vancouver Coastal Health. All the deaths were in long-term care.

There has now been a total of 2,446 cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 1,975 recoveries. There are 45 hospitalizations of May 19 and 12 in ICU. One of the hospitalizations is on Vancouver Island.

Of the confirmed cases, 883 have been in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,196 in Fraser Health, 126 in Island Health (no change from May 18), 181 in Interior Health and 60 in Northern Health.

Of the cases in Island Health, 120 people have recovered.

According to Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, there are no new outbreaks in health-care settings or in the community. There are currently 14 active outbreaks in long-term care and five in acute care units in hospitals.

Henry said Tuesday is an important milestone for the province and it moves into Phase 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan.

“I want to reassure you that we would not be easing these restrictions if we did not feel we could do so safely,” Henry said.

“We can flatten our curve and safely reopen our province, but we must take it slowly.”

Henry once again said owners can take the time needed to safely reopen, advice many businesses in the province appear to be following.

Under Phase 2, the government is asking people to stay close to home and avoid any travel between communities that is not essential.​

In Phase 2, under enhanced protocols, the following can reopen:

  • Restoration of health services
    • Rescheduling elective surgery
  • Medically related services:
    • Dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, and chiropractors
    • Physical therapy, speech therapy, and similar services
  • Retail sector
  • Hair salons, barbers, and other personal service establishments
  • In-person counselling
  • Restaurants, cafes, and pubs (with sufficient distancing measures)
  • Museums, art galleries, and libraries
  • Office-based worksites
  • Recreation and sports
  • Parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces
  • Child care

Henry said that any businesses that reopen must follow the guidelines from public health officials and WorkSafeBC.

Henry also reminded the public to stay vigilant about washing their hands, avoiding touching their faces, keeping a physical distance and staying home in response to any symptoms of illness.

“I have no doubt that we will get through this by working together and working out the kinks in the coming weeks,” she said.

The B.C. government also announced today that it will be giving pandemic pay to health and social service workers who give in-person support to some of the province’s most vulnerable people.

Finance Minister Carole James says more than 250,000 workers are eligible for a lump-sum payment of $4 per hour over a 16-week period.

James says the cost of the extra pay is part of the federal government’s $5-billion COVID-19 action plan to provide relief for people, communities and businesses in the province.

“People at the front lines of the pandemic are working tirelessly to keep us and our loved ones healthy, while also delivering services to the most vulnerable in our community,” James says in a news release.

Also on Tuesday, the federal government extended a planned border closure with the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision to prolong the ban on non-essential travel between the two countries until June 21 was a necessary step to protect the health of people on both sides of the border.

Canada’s top public health official also highlighted the need to keep borders closed and concentrate on ensuring the domestic situation is well in hand before welcoming outside visitors.

“We have to cautiously lift measures within our borders first just to see slowly what actually happens,” Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday. “We will want to see that cases are still suppressed. We’re still going to manage, detect and clamp down on any new spots that might come up.”

The U.S. has more than 1.5 million active cases of COVID-19, accounting for roughly 42 per cent of the world’s active case load and well above the roughly 79,000 diagnoses documented in Canada.

The death toll south of the border crossed the 90,000 threshold over the weekend, while in Canada it stood at just over 5,900 as of Tuesday.

Canadian and American officials mutually agreed to the extended closure, which prohibits discretionary travel while permitting trade shipments, commerce and essential workers to flow in both directions.

Dix said he supports the extension but he is not convinced the situation in the U.S. will improve enough in the next month to allow for a safe reopening of the border.

He said while other Canadian provinces have enacted many of the same measures as B.C. to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19, “the situation is much less clear” south of the border.

“The fact that they’re struggling is nothing but a sorrow to us.”

To see a breakdown of COVID-19 cases in B.C. since the start of the pandemic, visit the BC COVID-19 dashboard. 

According to researchers with Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide is more than 4.8 million, with over 322,000 deaths. The numbers come from official and media reports. 

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix on May 19, 2020 below:

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC

More to come

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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