People across the province must only socialize with their immediate household and wear masks in public indoor areas under heightened public health rules in British Columbia.
The additional restrictions, introduced by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, will be in place until Dec. 7. There may be extensions, according to Henry, as COVID-19 continues to be monitored.
Henry said the main focus of the restrictions is to reduce social interactions in the province where there has been an increase in transmission of COVID-19. According to Henry, the increase in transmission has put a strain on the healthcare system.
Under B.C.’s Emergency Program Act, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth is implementing a mandatory mask order for indoor public and retail spaces. This includes common public areas like elevators. People are allowed to remove their masks if they are eating and drinking.
Henry said children under the age of two do not need to wear a mask. People with certain medical conditions may also be exempt. Schools are not included under the mask order.
For those in workplaces, masks need to be work in common spaces but not while at a desk. If there is a plexiglass barrier set up, masks are not required. In a restaurant, servers must wear masks.
Further details about enforcement with the mask order will be coming, Henry said.
Under the new public health orders, people in B.C. can only socialize within their immediate household and must delay inviting friends and family Henry said people can still go for a walk with a friend or go fix a family member’s appliance, for example. If you live on your own, you can visit one or two people if you regularly spend time with them. Roommates count as part of an immediate household.
All community gatherings are now suspended, including gatherings that are fewer than 50 people and were following safety practices.
There can be no in-person services in places of worship. There are exceptions for weddings, baptism and funerals, but those must have a maximum of 10 people and there can be no reception after the events. Meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and childcare groups that are in places of worship are not affected by the order.
Businesses must revisit their COVID-19 safety plans and ensure they are being implemented. Employers must also suspend return-to-office plans and support work from home as much as possible until at least the new year. Henry said workplace inspections will be increased across the province.
High-risk group physical activities, including high-intensity interval training, hot yoga and indoor group spin classes, considered high-risk, are suspended, Henry said. Other fitness activities indoors will be monitored for transmission and must operate under updated guidelines.
Indoor and outdoor sports can continue but there can be no spectators and no travel outside of local areas.
Henry said people must curtail non-essential travel around the province as much as possible. But although limited travel is highly encouraged, there are no plans for a public health order at this time.
Henry said there is a lot of essential travel around the province and from other places in Canada and having the mechanisms in place to monitor travel can be challenging.
She added when there were recommendations against non-essential travel earlier this year, people took it to heart.
“It really is about we don’t always know people’s stories,” Henry said.
“There’s many ways that we understand essential travel and we trust people to take the right actions now because we are all being affected by this.”
Henry also recommends not travelling outside of B.C. unless it is essential, such as work or medical reasons.
The latest restrictions are not as strict as was seen during the spring in B.C. Restaurants and retailers can stay open for example, although with increased inspections. And schools and after-school care programs are still open.
Henry had earlier imposed restrictions on social gatherings in areas covered by the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities this month but now the orders are provincewide. She said the previous measures have failed to decrease the number of cases.
Read more on the B.C. government’s province-wide restrictions here.
New COVID-19 cases
On Thursday, 538 new cases of COVID-19 were reported.
Nine of the new cases are epidemiologically-linked, meaning people who were never tested but presumed to have COVID-19 because they developed symptoms and were close contacts of a laboratory-confirmed case.
One new COVID-19 death was reported on Thursday, bringing B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll to 321.
Of the new cases, 12 are in Island Health, 178 are in Vancouver Coastal Health, 309 are in Fraser Health, 28 are in Interior Health and 11 are in Northern Health.
B.C. has now had a total of 24,960 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Currently, there are 6,929 active cases (68 more than Nov. 18)
There are 217 people with COVID-19 in hospital (eight more than Nov. 19), with 59 in intensive care (one more than Nov. 19)
There are 9,929 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases (58 more than Nov. 19) and 17,279 people have recovered.
There are four new healthcare outbreaks and one new community outbreak. The community outbreak is at the LNG Canada Project Site in Kitimat, BC, where JGC Fluor (JFJV) is the prime contractor.
2/4 To date, 14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. All of these cases are considered to be associated with this outbreak and occurred in the same general work location. Specific on-site employees are being screened.
— Northern Health (@Northern_Health) November 19, 2020
There are 118 active cases in Island Health: 28 in the southern Vancouver Island area, 76 in the central Vancouver Island area and 14 in the northern Vancouver Island area.
Island Health has now had a total of 429 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. According to the B.C. COVID-19 dashboard, there are three people with COVID-19 in hospital in Island Health, with one in intensive care. A total of 305 people have recovered in the health authority and six people have died since the start of the pandemic.
Southern Vancouver Island includes the Greater Victoria region, Southern Gulf Islands and the Port Renfrew area.
Central Vancouver Island includes the Cowichan Valley, Duncan, Nanaimo, Parksville, Port Alberni and Tofino areas.
Northern Vancouver Island goes from the Comox Valley to Port Hardy but also includes surrounding areas like Alert Bay and Sointula.
More COVID-19 information
If there is a confirmed COVID-19 case in a school, public health contacts affected school community members directly. Regional health authorities also post school notifications on their websites, providing the date and type of notification (outbreak, cluster or exposure) for impacted schools.
Island Health has seven current COVID-19 school exposures listed:
- A cluster at Dover Bay Secondary, 6135 McGirr Rd. Nanaimo on Nov. 2, 5, 6.
- A cluster at John Barsby Secondary 550 Seventh St. Nanaimo. The first exposure was on Nov. 5,6. The second exposure was Nov. 9, 10.
- An exposure at Frank J Ney Elementary 5301 Williamson Rd. Nanaimo on Nov. 12.
- A cluster at Randerson Ridge Elementary 6021 Nelson Rd., Nanaimo on Nov. 4,5,6, 9, 10
- An exposure at Ladysmith Secondary School 710 6th Ave. Ladysmith on Nov. 9, 10, 12, 13
- An exposure at Alberni District Secondary School 4000 Roger St. Port Alberni on Nov. 12, 13
- An exposure at Lakeview Christian School 729 Cordova Bay Rd. Victoria on Nov. 16.
The Island Health school site can be found here.
Island Health’s COVID-19 data breaks down North, Central and South Island case counts and lists the number of days since any new lab-diagnosed cases. You can find the data here along with any public exposures.
To see B.C.’s COVID-19 numbers by day and health authority, along with testing numbers, positivity rates and recoveries, visit the B.C. COVID-19 dashboard. The numbers are updated at 4:30 p.m. PT each weekday.
To see a list of all provincial public COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks in the province, including links to exposures and outbreaks listed on health authority websites, visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website ( BC CDC) here.
Island Health has two current COVID-19 outbreaks. One was reported on Nov. 11 at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital after transmission in the transitional care unit. Five staff members tested positive and Island Health said Tuesday no other new COVID-19 cases had been associated with the outbreak to date.
The other outbreak was reported on Nov. 16 at the Tsawaayuss (Rainbow Gardens) long-term care home in Port Alberni. That outbreak, which was declared after a staff member tested positive, is confined to the long-term care building. A resident of the building has also tested positive for COVID-19.
There is also a possible COVID-19 exposure at Browns Socialhouse at 1661 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Nov. 5.
Island Health provides updates on the locations and times of known possible exposures to COVID-19 to the public in our region when they are unable to reach or identify all individuals potentially exposed via contact tracing. A close contact exposure means face-to-face contact for an extended period of time with a person who is infectious.
The possible exposures listed are believed to be low risk but, out of an abundance of caution, Island Health asks that anyone who may have visited any of the locations listed on the specified dates and times to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms.
And the BC CDC has set up a COVID-19 epidemiology dashboard, which compares B.C. to other jurisdictions nationally and globally. It will be available on Tuesdays and Fridays.
According to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide is more than 56 million. More than 1.3 million deaths have been recorded.
Watch. Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix on Nov. 19, 2020, below:
With files from The Canadian Press