No new COVID 19 deaths in BC for second day in a row

bonnie henry may30

For the second consecutive 24-hour period, British Columbia has recorded no additional deaths from COVID-19, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Saturday.

Henry also announced 11 new cases of the coronavirus in the province, bringing the total number of people who have tested positive since the pandemic began to 2,573.

Of those, there are 228 active cases, including 35 people who are in hospital with the virus, five of whom are in intensive care.

B.C.'s death toll from the virus remains at 164, and Henry announced Saturday that an outbreak that led to 11 of those deaths has now been declared over.

It's been four weeks - two incubation periods for the coronavirus - since Haro Park centre in Vancouver's West End recorded a new case of the virus, meaning the outbreak there is over, Henry said Saturday.

She described Haro Park as one of the province's "first and most difficult" outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

"I know this has been a challenging time," Henry said, addressing residents and staff at the facility, as well as their families. "I just am extremely pleased that this outbreak is now over."

Outbreaks in long-term care and assisted-living homes have been one of the biggest challenges in B.C. during the pandemic. There are currently 13 ongoing outbreaks at such facilities, Henry said Saturday, adding that another outbreak - at Evergreen House in North Vancouver - has now concluded.

There is also one ongoing outbreak in a hospital acute-care unit in the province, the provincial health officer said.

With schools in B.C. set to reopen for in-classroom instruction on Monday, Henry also spent a significant portion of her press conference on Saturday discussing the reopening plan.

She said the reopening of schools was deliberately timed to happen two weeks after the province entered "phase two" of its broader restart plan.

"We purposely timed the reopening of schools to be sure that we had a period of time - of an incubation period - to see if we were going to start seeing increased numbers of cases in our communities once we started our restart program," Henry said. "If we had seen an increase, then we would have postponed or delayed the start of schools."

Students are not required to attend school in-person on Monday. It's up to parents to decide whether to send their children back for in-classroom instruction.

Henry said children tend to be less likely to contract COVID-19 and to have milder illness when they do. A total of 77 people under the age of 19 have tested positive for the coronavirus in B.C., despite thousands of tests, she said.

Asked about Quebec's experience with reopening its schools, which saw several students test positive for the coronavirus after two weeks, Henry said health officials in that province were prepared for the possibility that the virus would spread. She said "one or two cases" are possible in B.C. when schools reopen.

"That's OK," she said. "We know how to deal with this, we know that it is not easily spread, and we know we can prevent it by putting in place the measures that we have in our schools, and it's going to be a bit of a challenge."

She described the reopening of schools as exciting, but said she understands some parents may find it anxiety-inducing. The experience B.C. has reopening its schools in June will help the province learn more about how to handle full reopening in September, Henry said.

"I know for some people they are thinking about this with trepidation," she said. "And that is fine. We are ready for this, and we are reopening schools because we believe it is safe to do so."

Henry also announced a new provincial health order Saturday prohibiting the operation of overnight summer camps in the province.

"Such camps often have large numbers of children coming from many different areas - campers and counselors - and they often take place in more remote areas and physical distancing is very much a challenge in these situations," she said.

She added that she knew this order would be disappointing for many, and asked people to focus on day camp experiences this summer, instead.

The provincial health officer stressed that the pandemic is a unique situation that will make this summer different than usual, but added that restrictions will not be in place forever. 

 

- With files from CTV -