British Columbia announced Monday it is limiting private household gatherings to members of an immediate household, plus a “safe six,” the same day the province announced it recorded 817 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend.
The weekend increase is the highest daily rise over a three-day period in the province.
The new provincial health order on household gatherings, issued by Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, goes into effect immediately.
Henry said it has become clear gatherings of fewer than 50 people are not always safe.
“We need to pay more attention to those settings where we have people coming together for celebrations,” Henry said.
“This is going to be a challenge, more for some people than others. But this is something we need to do as a community.”
Henry said if someone comes from a large family, six additional guests may be too many. Henry said enforcement will be stepped up for those who may disregard the latest order.
She also said the orders are enforceable by bylaw officers, police officers, environmental officers, etc. People can issue complaints about a large party, in the same way they would file a noise complaint.
Henry said the new order will likely be in place into the new year.
“That is a possibility that we will not have large family gatherings over Christmas,” Henry said.
A new public health order from Dr. Henry limits gatherings in private households to household members plus a safe six.
— Adrian Dix (@adriandix) October 26, 2020
Henry also said on Monday that it is now an expectation (not a health order) that people wear non-medical masks in public spaces to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m also stepping up our recommendations and advice around wearing masks,” Henry said during Monday’s press conference.
And she is asking businesses to review their COVID safety plans with this new mask expectation in mind.
Henry says the expectation for masks in indoor spaces doesn’t change the way the school plans are designed.
“My expectation around masks is that we will all be wearing masks in public spaces,” Henry said, listing examples like grocery stores, renewing drivers licence, hardware store and transit. She said those are situations where people can’t keep a safe distance so that is an additional layer of protection.
Henry said the risk is still minimal outdoors, so if people are going out for a walk or a run and there’s space for people to spread out, no mask is needed.
Latest COVID-19 cases
Eleven of the 817 new cases in the province are epidemiologically-linked, meaning people who were never tested but were presumed to have COVID-19 because they developed symptoms and were close contacts of a laboratory-confirmed case.
From Friday to Saturday, there were 317 new cases (a new daily high). From Saturday to Sunday, there were 293 new cases and from Sunday to Monday, there were 207 new cases.
Three new COVID-19 deaths were reported over the weekend, all in long-term care in Vancouver Coastal Health. The B.C. COVID-19 death toll is now 219.
B.C. has now had a total of 13,371 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 250 in Island Health (no change from Oct. 23), 4,428 in Vancouver Coastal Health (109 more than Oct. 23), 7,529 in Fraser Health (665 more than Oct. 23), 693 in Interior Health (31 more than Oct. 23), 383 in Northern Health (12 more than Oct. 23) and 88 among people who reside outside of Canada (visitors and temporary foreign workers).
The highest number of new cases are in Fraser Health, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health.
“This is a bit of a sobering weekend for us. It is concerning for us to see growth in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Health to be specific,” Henry said.
There are 2,325 active cases in the province (316 more than Oct. 23). Seventy-seven people with COVID-19 are in hospital (two more than Oct. 23) with 26 in intensive care (two more than Oct. 23).
A total of 5,077 people who are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases (440 more than Oct. 23) and 10,734 people have recovered.
There have been four new health-care facility outbreaks at Queen’s Park Care Centre, Amenida Seniors Community, Agassiz Seniors Community and Banfield Pavilion 4 West.
The outbreaks at Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence, Thornebridge Gardens and Point Grey Hospital have been declared over.
In total, 19 long-term care or assisted-living facilities and two acute-care facilities have active outbreaks. They are:
- Haro Park Centre long-term care facility (second occurrence) in Vancouver Coastal Health
- Royal Arch Masonic Home long-term care facility (second occurrence) in Vancouver Coastal Health
- Three Links Care Centre long-term care facility in Vancouver Coastal Health
- Banfield Pavilion 4 West long-term care facility in Vancouver Coastal Health
- Agassiz Seniors Community long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Dr. Al Hogg Pavilion long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Amenida Seniors Community independent-living facility in Fraser Health
- Baillie House long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Evergreen Baptist Care Society long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Fair Haven Homes Burnaby Lodge in Fraser Health
- Fort Langley Seniors Community long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Good Samaritan Victoria Heights assisted-living facility in Fraser Health
- Laurel Place long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Peace Portal Seniors Village long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Queen’s Park Care Centre long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Rosemary Heights Seniors Village independent-, assisted- and long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Sunset Manor assisted-living facility in Fraser Health
- The Village assisted-living and long-term care facility in Fraser Health
- Zion Park Manor long-term care facility in Fraser Health
There has been one new community outbreak at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre. The outbreak at the FedEx Office at the Kelowna International Airport has been declared over.
Two schools have now been closed due to COVID-19: one in Fraser Health and the previously announced closure in Kelowna.
Henry said health officials have seen a direct correlation between new cases and social gatherings in private homes.
“We know the vast majority of homes cannot safely accommodate large numbers of people,” she said.
Henry was asked if she considered implementing the new rules in Fraser Health only, as that’s where most of the transmission is. She said the decision is to focus on the “setting” (i.e. private gathering, events in homes), as opposed to particular regions.
Henry also said although Island Health’s numbers are low at the moment, Island Health has seen some exposure events and transmission.
“It doesn’t change the fact that if we have a large gathering and people are coming from other parts of the province, they’re bringing risk with them,” she said.
“Yes the fact we have low rates on the Island is protective but it is not absolute. We need to be aware that having a large party, a large wedding, a large event introduces risk. And the risk is less than what we’re seeing in other places but it is not zero.”
There are nine active cases in Island Health: three on southern Vancouver Island, five on central Vancouver Island and one on northern Vancouver Island.
There are no COVID-19 hospitalizations in Island Health and 235 people have recovered.
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 one school exposure listed as of Oct. 22. The exposure is at Wood Elementary in Port Alberni on Oct. 19.
According to Island Health, if your child’s school has been notified of an exposure, no action is required unless you are contacted by Public Health or are otherwise directed by school officials.
The Island Health school site can be found here.
B.C. has posted detailed information about the geographic distribution of COVID-19 cases from January to September 2020. This map will be updated monthly, according to B.C. health officials.
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 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 in the province, including links to exposures listed on health authority websites, visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website ( BC CDC) here.
According to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide is more than 43.3 million. More than 1.1 million deaths have been recorded.
And the BC CDC is urging people to keep safe this Halloween amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Non-medical masks or face masks can be part of the costume but costume masks should not be worn over non-medical masks or face masks as that may make it difficult to breathe.
People who are trick-or-treating are asked to follow public health guidelines. They should keep the celebrations outdoors and in local neighbourhoods, leaving space between other groups. People are asked to be patient and wait for other groups to finish before taking a turn.
If porch lights are off, trick-or-treaters should stay away from the house to respect the homeowner.
Some other Halloween safety tips from the BC CDC are:
- Stay bright: Wear bright colours and/or utilize reflective tape, buttons and lights for costumes
- Clean hands frequently: Wash your hands before and after going trick-or-treating. Keep hand sanitizer with you if eating treats on the go. You don’t need to clean every treat.
- Check candy: Check the treats first and be wary of unsealed or broken wrappers. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Find creative ways to distribute candy by using tongs, a baking sheet or making a candy slide to create more space when handing out candy. Hand out individually sealed, pre-packaged treats instead of offering a shared bowl.
- Help make trick-or-treating more accessible to everyone by handing out treats from the bottom of your stairs or at your curb-side.
- If you can, stand outside your door to hand out treats so that children won’t need to touch the door or doorbell.
- If you’re unable to sit outside to hand out treats, clean and disinfect doorbells and knobs, handrails, and any other high touch surfaces.
- If you are decorating, avoid props that can cause coughing, such as smoke machines.
- If you’re feeling sick or self-isolating, turn off your porch light and stay home.
Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry on Oct. 26, 2020
With files from CBC and The Canadian Press