British Columbia’s provincial health officer is threatening more possible restrictions on gatherings after B.C. saw a second straight day of record COVID-19 cases.
Health officials are pointing to social gatherings like weddings as fuelling a surge in COVID-19 cases in the province.
According to Dr. Bonnie Henry, she said people are meeting in large numbers and with different groups over a number of days at some events and those returning to other parts of the province or the country are taking the virus with them.
“Weddings and other celebrations are proving to be high risk for all of us,” Henry said Thursday as she announced a one-day record of 274 cases, up from a high of 203 on Wednesday.
“These events have caused clusters and outbreaks that have now spilled over into our health-care system,” she said, adding community spread of the virus over the last two weeks has included the province’s first outbreak at a school.
Henry said further restrictions aimed at preventing the transmission of COVID-19 may have to be imposed, including conditions on wedding licences.
“As much as I am hesitant to do so, and we’ve seen this before, if there is a major source of transmission, additional measures can and will be put in place, if they’re needed,” she said during Thursday’s press conference.
“We will use all the tools that are available, whether that is conditions tied to wedding license, restrictions on numbers and indoor gatherings, or other measures that we know will be effective in trying to break these large transmission events. The reality is that, right now, everywhere in B.C., weddings, funerals, and other life occasions need to be as small as possible.”
The province has had a total of 12,331 cases, while 10,114 of those infections are considered recovered.
Henry points out that restrictions on social measures helped bring an uptick in summer cases – due to spread from vacation rentals and parties in the Okanagan – under control. BC’s top doctor said the same can be accomplished again.
She suggested people getting married opt for civil ceremonies with a small number of guests and save the large party for next year.
“As hosts of the celebrations, I ask you not to invite others to your gathering right now and not to take offence if people choose not to come because they are concerned about their own safety or about the risk that they may be bringing with them,” Henry said.
“As a guest, support your loved ones by choosing not to attend and by showing your support in other ways. The risk is too high for all of us and we have seen that in other jurisdictions both here in Canada, in the United States and around the world.”
Henry was quick to point out the possible complications that flu season may bring as well.
“This is a critical time as we’re heading into our influenza season, as we are focusing on the priorities in our communities, of keeping our businesses, our schools open for the health and well-being of all of our communities. Now is a time where we need to control and manage our social gatherings, to keep this virus in check, and prevent it from spreading to those in our family and our community who are going to be most affected by it.”
B.C. currently has 1,920 active cases across the province with 71 people in hospital, 24 of which are in intensive care.
There are also currently 15 active cases in Island Health: five in southern Vancouver Island, seven in central Vancouver Island and three in northern Vancouver Island. There is also currently an exposure warning at Wood Elementary School in Port Alberni.
In addition, 4,425 people are under active public health monitoring after being exposed to the coronavirus.
With files to Canadian Press