COVID-19: Health officials confirm 7 new cases, bringing B.C. total to 46

Health officials in B.C. confirmed seven more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including the first case on Vancouver Island.

It brings the total cases in the province to 46, up from 39 on Wednesday, when health officials announced the same number of new cases.

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, urged British Columbians to come together in this fight …  by keeping their distance from one another.

We must all step up our social distancing,” she said at her daily briefing. “This is not forever. This is for the coming weeks … where we know we have to do everything we can to protect those people who are more likely to have severe illness, and particularly our seniors and elders.”

A day after she noted that health officials were seeing more cases coming from Egypt, the epidemiologist confirmed three new cases among travellers who had been in Egypt.

One, a man in his 60s in the Island Health region, is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island.

“I want to assure all Victoria residents and visitors that we are taking this issue seriously and are in communication with provincial health officials regarding standards and protocols,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, in a statement.

Another new case, a man in his 70s in Coastal Health region, returned to B.C. from Egypt with the same travel group. Henry said he is also related to the infected traveller reported on Tuesday.

The third travel-related case is a person in his 70s who lives in Egypt and is visiting family in the Fraser Health region. His family is also in quarantine.

“Egypt is clearly something we’ve been watching,” Henry said at her daily briefing. “Were hearing that from around the world, that Egypt is now a source of exported cases.”

Two are health care workers at the Lynn Valley Care Centre — a male in his 20s who lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and a woman in her 50 in the Fraser Health region. Both are recovering in isolation at home. That brings the total to six sick care workers from the home.

There are no new cases among seniors at the care home, however. One person remains ill, while the other became B.C.’s first COVID-19 fatality, on Sunday.

“Things have settled and are still being monitored very closely at the care centre,” said Henry.

Henry also announced two new cases of suspected community transmission in the Fraser Health region: A woman in her 60s who has been hospitalized, and a man in his 60s, who is now in isolation at home.

Two individuals receiving acute care have been discharged from hospital — a man in his 90s and a woman in her 60s who contracted the virus on the Grand Princess cruise. This brings the total of recovered cases in B.C. to four.

Henry pushed back against a fatalistic approach to the spread of the disease.

“It’s not inevitable that everybody is going to be infected with this,” she said. “It’s not inevitable that our systems will be overwhelmed. We do not have to be in that position.”

Asked about closures at several schools in Metro Vancouver and in Greater Victoria, Henry said those schools made these decisions on their own.

“There has been no school that has been closed based on public health advice.”

With more than 100,000 people sickened around the world, including more than 100 in Canada and the expectation of more, the World Health Organization called on countries to mitigate the social and economic impacts while minimizing the disruption to everyday life.

But this is easier said than done. On Wednesday, disruption to everyday life continued apace.

In Italy, where COVID-19 cases has exceeded 12,000 and deaths are approaching 900, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte heightened containment efforts by ordering all businesses except grocery stores and pharmacies to close nationwide.

In nearby Washington, where the Department of Health has confirmed 330 cases, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in Seattle and its surrounding areas.

“This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can’t wait until we’re in the middle of it to slow it down,” Inslee said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”

Henry stopped short of calling for a similar ban on mass gatherings in Vancouver.

“We are obviously very mindful of the community transmission, both here and in Washington state,” she said. “We’re still taking the risk assessment approach for some of these events. But that may change.”

Mass gatherings and spectator events all over the world have been cancelled or postponed in recent days, from the TED conference in Vancouver to major music festivals like Coachella and SXSW.

The Overwatch League, which draws esports players from around the world, has cancelled all matches through March and April.

In Canada, the World Figure Skating Championships set for next week in Montreal were cancelled, just days after the Women’s World Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia were called off.

The women’s world curling championship, set to begin Saturday in Prince George, will go ahead as planned.

Other spectator events have merely cancelled spectators.

The Columbus Blue Jackets became the first NHL to announce that home games will be played without fans, heeding the advice of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Other teams are expected to do the same.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that the March Madness tournament will be played without fans, and even American TV talk shows like Live With Kelly and Ryan and The View filmed Wednesday without studio audiences.

with files from The Canadian Press

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