Friday, 03 April, 2020

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55 health-care workers at long-term care homes infected, as COVID-19 cases in B.C. rise to 659 | CBC News

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. has confirmed 42 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 659 to date. That total includes 55 health-care workers who have tested positive in connection with outbreaks at long-term care centres.

One more person has died in the outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, Henry told reporters Wednesday, but no new cases have been identified at the long-term care home. There have now been 14 deaths from the disease in B.C. — all people over the age of 70.

However, the outbreak at Haro Park Centre in Vancouver is worsening. Henry said 28 residents and 27 staff members have now tested positive. Officials have also detected one case in a new long-term care home — a health-care worker at Broadway Pentecostal Lodge in Vancouver.

Henry said that while B.C. is not seeing big jumps in new cases detected on a daily basis, that's not necessarily a sign the outbreak is slowing down. She pointed out that cases being confirmed today actually reflect exposures that happened two to 14 days ago.

"I'm certainly not pleased with any trajectory that's above zero," she said.

A graph shows the trajectory of COVID-19 cases and deaths in British Columbia as of March 25, 2020. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

She said that the numbers of cases will continue to rise, and B.C. won't be able to measure the impact of the province's "draconian measures" limiting social contact until next week.

"Even if you think you have a little bit of a cold, you need to stay away from others. It's a bit of dance right now," Henry said. "With all of our measures plus our testing strategy, I want to see these numbers down."

As of Wednesday, 64 COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospital, including 26 in intensive care. Henry said most of those hospitalized have been over the age of 50, although one child under the age of 10 has had to be treated in hospital.

A total of 183 patients have now recovered from their illness.

A graph shows the location of confirmed COVID-19 cases by health authority in B.C. as of March 25, 2020. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Provincial officials are preparing for the number to rise significantly in the next few weeks, even freeing up hospital beds in case a rush of new patients arrives.

Henry said the province is monitoring the supply of personal protective equipment for health-care workers as more COVID-19 patients arrive in hospital, because "the burn rate is much higher than we expected."

Meanwhile, the coroner continues to investigate the death of a dentist who had tested positive for COVID-19, but Henry said it's still not clear whether his death is connected to the virus.

Questions about testing

CBC has heard from several readers and listeners who have questioned B.C.'s strategy for testing people who believe they may have COVID-19, and Henry offered some clarification on Wednesday.

"It depends a little bit on the community. We're focusing on where it makes the most difference to the health system. We're focusing on health-care workers, those in care homes, and those who are vulnerable," she said.

Henry called on all British Columbians to stop gathering together, both inside and outside, and that includes groups as small as two or three people who don't live together. She asked particularly for faith leaders to move to online services.

"We need to connect virtually and we need to have a safe space between us," she said.

Concern for the Downtown Eastside

Henry also said she continues to be concerned about the impact of the outbreak on residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, many of whom don't have reliable homes.

"The people who are living in the area often have underlying health conditions. There is a specific working group developing plans how to deal with it," she said.

"There are plans in place for how to help people isolate should they become ill, and how to care for them if they become ill."

Watch: Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about the Downtown Eastside.

B.C.'s provincial health officer says DTES residents with underlying health conditions and no reliable home are more susceptible to COVID-19. 0:42

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced sweeping measures to halt evictions across the province for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, as well as freezing rent and providing cash relief for tenants struggling to make ends meet.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

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