2 more deaths, 15 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C.
VANCOUVER -- Two more people have died from COVID-19 in British Columbia, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Saturday.
Both of those who died were residents of long-term care homes, Henry said. Their deaths bring the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in B.C. to 129.
Henry also announced 15 new confirmed cases of the virus in the province, bringing the total number of positive tests since the pandemic began to 2,330.
Of those, 69 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in B.C., including 21 people who are in critical care.
Many of those cases have been associated with outbreaks at long-term care homes and hospital acute care facilities.
On Saturday, Henry said no new outbreaks in such facilities had been identified over the last 24 hours, meaning there are still 21 active outbreaks in this category in B.C. Of those, 16 are in long-term care and five are in acute care.
There are currently 467 cases of COVID-19 associated with those outbreaks, Henry said, including 285 residents and patients who have tested positive for the virus and 182 facility staff members.
Additionally, 19 long-term and acute care facilities that have had outbreaks in the past are now considered cleared.
As she has been doing all week, the provincial health officer reminded British Columbians that the province is still in "phase one" of its pandemic response, even as officials discuss plans for easing some of the restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the virus after next weekend.
This weekend, as B.C. residents celebrate Mother's Day, Henry said it's important to continue to maintain physical distance from those who don't live in one's immediate household. That includes your mother, if she doesn't live with you, Henry said.
"This is a great weekend to spend time with her outdoors, keeping your safe distance," she said.
As British Columbians prepare for "phase two" of the pandemic, in which some businesses are expected to reopen and people are advised to consider expanding their social connections slightly, Henry was asked what sorts of warning signs might signal the need to clamp down on such connections again.
The provincial health officer said an increase in new cases of the virus that aren't connected to known outbreaks would be the key indicator that B.C.'s reopening has caused a resurgence of COVID-19.
"If we start to see unlinked cases increase in communities geographically spread out around the province, then those are warning signs that there's more transmission than we've been detecting," Henry said, adding that the provincial reopening plan depends on residents continuing to maintain safe distances when outside the home, stay home when sick and wash hands frequently.
"If we continue to see the progression that we're seeing in the reduction of numbers of cases in our community, then we can look forward to expanding our circles," she said.
A total of 69 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in B.C., including 21 people who are in critical care.
Henry said 1,659 people who have tested positive for the virus in British Columbia are now considered fully recovered. That's 71 per cent of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province, she said.
The new recovery total includes 80 more people than were considered recovered when the province provided its last update on Friday. Those recoveries, as well as the two additional deaths, bring the number of active cases in B.C. to 542.
Henry said most of the new cases announced this week have been connected to known outbreaks - either at long-term care homes or in the community, where three poultry processing plants and a prison in the Lower Mainland have active outbreaks.
That said, some of the new infections are still being traced, and may not be connected to known outbreaks, Henry said. She described this as a reminder that B.C. still has ongoing transmission of the virus, and that it's therefore important to continue following all the rules put in place to minimize its spread.
The vast majority of B.C.'s cases of the virus have been located in the Lower Mainland, either in the Vancouver Coastal Health region - where 871 people have tested positive for COVID-19 - or in the Fraser Health region, where 1,098 people have tested positive.
Elsewhere in the province, there have been 180 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health, 125 in Island Health and 56 in Northern Health.
Henry concluded her press conference Saturday by referencing an important milestone in her field, and connecting it to the present struggle.
"Yesterday was the anniversary of the eradication of smallpox, and in my world, that's a huge thing," she said. "This was a disease that caused so much devastation around the world on an ongoing basis, but we can overcome these challenges and we can get our society back."
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.