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3 more Canadian deaths connected to COVID-19 recorded in B.C.
VANCOUVER -- Three more deaths connected to the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 have been recorded in B.C., health officials announced Monday.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced 30 new cases at a news conference Monday. This brings the province's total up to 103. The new cases are recorded in the Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, Island Health and Interior Health regions.
Six of those people with the virus are in hospital, everyone else is in stable condition, recovering at home. All three deaths that were recorded over the weekend were connected to the Lynn Valley Care Centre.
Five people have fully recovered, Henry said.
"It's a very serious and sober report about the number of cases," Dix said. "Four people in total now have passed away and we are very, very sorry about that. This is a very sad situation and we pass on our condolences to their families."
New measures in B.C.
The province announced new measures on Monday as well. Last week the province announced that it was banning all gatherings of more than 250 people. Now, however, gatherings of over 50 people are being banned.
"In this challenging time, this is what we need to do now. This is what we need to do to keep people in our community safe, to keep our families safe and to stop this virus from having the impact that we've seen in many other countries around the world," Henry said.
New temporary changes are coming to B.C.'s health care system as well, particularly in acute care facilities, Dix announced.
"Hospitals will only undertake urgent and emergency procedures and will postpone all non-urgent scheduled surgeries," Dix said. "This will result in the cancellation of thousands of scheduled surgeries."
Dix said this will free up hundreds of hospital beds, saying that hospitals are "clearly going to see more cases."
North Vancouver's Lions Gate Hospital, however, will only accept emergency patients as it's recorded cases of COVID-19 amongst the hospital's administrative staff.
Changes are also coming to primary care throughout the province, Dix said.
"Today the College of Pharmacists has also been directed that pharmacists refill British Columbians' prescriptions without requiring an additional physician's note," he said.
"This will save time in doctors' offices and allow us both to protect people in the system and also to ensure that doctors can focus on more urgent matters."
Dix added that provincial health authorities are speaking with education stakeholders to discuss potential measures that could be taken after spring break.
"We do not underestimate the consequences of those changes," Dix said.
Henry said that "until very recently," B.C.'s testing lab had been up to date. After international travellers were asked to self-isolate, however, the number of requests for testing increased.
"There was dramatic increases in people requesting testing over the last few days so we are several days behind now," Henry said. "The lab is working at capacity but we are adding capacity as fast as we can."
Henry said the confirmed cases she reported Monday were from Sunday night's test results. Eventually, however, Henry said they should be able to report test results the same day.
"People are not out and about doing their business if they've had symptoms and they've been tested, they are in isolation awaiting results of the test," Henry said.
Over the weekend, however, Dix and Henry clarified the situations in which B.C. residents need testing for the virus, stressing that not everyone should be tested.
"For most people, you do not need a test," Henry said. "And we want to make sure that testing is available for all who do need it."
Health care workers and people who are in hospital or long-term care homes are another focus for the provincial testing regimen, she said.
"For everybody else, even if you have mild symptoms or you have no symptoms and you've returned from travel, you don't need testing," Henry said.
Last week, health officials also advised against all non-essential travel abroad.
Those who return from travel outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return, health officials have said, though this requirement is considered a social obligation, not something the provincial government will be enforcing legally.