Number of COVID-19 deaths in B.C. reaches 50

Number of COVID-19 deaths in B.C. reaches 50
Dr. Bonnie Henry listens to a reporter's question on April 9, 2020.

The number of fatalities due to COVID-19 in British Columbia has reached 50, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.

Henry also announced 34 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, bringing the total to 1,370.

The two new deaths were in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions. The COVID-19 death toll in the province is now at 50.

“We are not over the hump yet. We are going to have a bumpy ride for awhile,” Henry said, reminding people to keep physically distancing. “Going into this long weekend, it is more important than ever that we keep going.”

There are now 82 cases of COVID-19 in Island Health (one more than April 8, 2020). There are also 626 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 508 in Fraser Health, 130 in Interior Health and 24 in Northern Health.

One hundred and thirty-two people are in hospital. Sixty-eight are in critical care. And 858 people have recovered.

There are no new outbreaks at long-term care homes and one outbreak is now over. Twenty remaining facilities continue to have a total of 235 confirmed cases. That includes 143 residents and 92 staff.

Henry said outbreaks at long-term care homes are still a concern. The vast majority of deaths to date involve residents at long-term care homes.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said an order ensuring staff at long-term care homes only work at one facility takes effect today.

The order was announced in March but Dix said workers had to be co-ordinated in both public and private organizations.

“This involves 4,200 workers that will effectively have where they work change. It is an exceptional change,” Dix said.

An outbreak at the Mission Institution in the Fraser Valley has worsened with 24 inmates having now tested positive for COVID-19.

Federal projections say Canada could see the end of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic before autumn, but only if strong physical distancing measures are strictly maintained the whole time.

Even in that best-case scenario, the federal public health agency projects that 4,400 to 44,000 Canadians could die of COVID-19 in the coming months.

In the middle of that range, if 2.5 to five per cent of Canadians are infected in the course of the pandemic, the country would see 11,000 to 22,000 deaths.

The agency says if the containment measures Canadians are living under now are relaxed or abandoned, the death toll could be much higher.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate impact on British Columbia’s economy, resulting in 132,000 lost jobs last month and pushing the unemployment rate over seven per cent, Finance Minister Carole James said Thursday.

James said Statistics Canada Labour Force numbers for March reflect the start of the pandemic’s arrival in B.C. and she expects worse results for April.

B.C.’s jobless rate rose to 7.2 per cent from five per cent in March.

“These are early indicators. I do believe we’re going to see tougher numbers coming,” James said at a news conference.

She said the statistics cover the period from March 15 to March 21 when the pandemic started taking hold in B.C. and businesses began laying off workers or closing.

“This is a difficult time for our families, our province and our country,” said James. “All of us are seeing everyday the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is having and the serious impact it’s having on people and economies around the world. It’s no exception in B.C.”

Statistics Canada reported the COVID-19 crisis cost more than one million jobs across the country last month, pushing the unemployment rate to 7.8 per cent.

James said B.C.’s $5-billion action plan to help workers, families and businesses during the pandemic builds on the federal government’s business subsidies and loans.

The B.C. plan includes $1.5 billion to help recovery efforts, but it’s too early to forecast a rebound, she said.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” James said. “No one can really predict when we’re going to see that kind of turnaround. As I’ve said, our best efforts are to follow the public health advice that’s coming to make sure we’re doing everything we can.”

B.C. public health officials have said physical distancing, frequent hand washing and self-isolating if feeling sick are proven methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 prevention plan also requires travellers returning to B.C. from abroad to provide officials with a written plan on how they’ll self-isolate for 14 days or they will face quarantine.

Watch the April 9, 2020, news conference below:

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC 

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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