B.C. health officials reported 234 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including three new cases in Island Health.
Four of the new cases 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.
There was one additional death in Fraser Health, bringing B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll to 262. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said the person who died was a woman in her 80s who attended a small birthday party in a home with fewer than 10 people. Henry said the majority of people who attended the birthday party later tested positive for COVID-19.
B.C. has now had a total of 14,109 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 256 in the Island Health region (three more than Oct. 28), 4,588 in Vancouver Coastal Health (43 more than Oct. 28), 8,036 in Fraser Health (173 more than Oct. 28), 734 in Interior Health (seven more than Oct. 28), 406 in Northern Health (seven more than Oct. 28) and 89 among people who normally reside outside of Canada (one more than Oct. 28).
There are 2,344 active cases (28 more than Oct. 28). Eighty-six people are in hospital with COVID-19 (one fewer than Oct. 28), with 24 in intensive care (one fewer than Oct. 28).
There are 5,714 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases (356 more than Oct. 28) and a total of 11,048 people have recovered.
There are five new health-care facility outbreaks: The Gateway Assisted Living for Seniors, Mayfair Terrace Retirement Residence, Lakeview Care Centre, Louis Brier Home and Hospital, and Yaletown House. The outbreak at Zion Park Manor has been declared over. In total, 25 long-term care or assisted-living facilities and one acute-care facility have active outbreaks.
There are no new community outbreaks but Henry said the virus continues to circulate, “and we continue to see cases associated with businesses, with gyms, with other settings across the province.”
Henry, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health, provided Thursday’s updates.
Lee is asking anyone in the health authority to reconsider social gatherings at their homes, which is in addition to the new public health order announced on Monday, which states household gatherings should be limited to immediate members of a household, plus their “safe six.”
Henry said many new cases, especially in the Lower Mainland, are related to small gatherings, which later lead to community spread.
According to Henry, COVID-19 is “disproportionately” affecting people in the Fraser Health authority.
Henry said there is a possibility of adding regional specific orders but most people are following the recommendations. She added the Fraser Health authority has been working with different communities in the region.
“We know that there are many people in the communities here that live in large, multi-generational homes where transmission of this virus could be especially challenging,” Henry said.
“So we are asking people to pay attention to that, to understand the risk that is in your community and to take those measures that best protect you and your family and everyone in the community.”
Island Health has 10 active cases of COVID-19: four on southern Vancouver Island, four on central Vancouver Island and two on northern Vancouver Island.
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.
Earlier this week, Henry said 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.
On Thursday, she addressed the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s (UFCW) request that she make masks mandatory in all grocery stores and retail outlets.
She said the masks are part of important measures, like physical distancing, all work together to limit the spread of COVID-19. She said she is paying particular attention to masks now because B.C. is seeing increased transmission of the virus.
Henry also noted grocery stores and other retail locations have COVID-19 safety plans and WorkSafeBC has guidelines.
“There’s no evidence that I’ve seen that making it mandatory is going to change the mind of those very small number of people who have a mindset against wearing a mask. So that’s not an approach that we’re taking,” she said.
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, 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 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 44.8 million.
Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Dr. Victoria Lee on Oct. 29, 2020
With files from CBC and The Canadian Press