71 more COVID-19 cases, 3 new deaths confirmed in a 24-hour period in B.C.
VANCOUVER -- Health officials have announced another three deaths from COVID-19 in British Columbia, plus 71 more test-positive cases.
Wednesday's announcement from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry represents B.C.'s biggest jump in new cases in almost four weeks. The last time officials reported more than 70 infections was on March 28, when there were 92 new test-positive cases in the province.
The numbers bring the province's death toll to 90 and the total confirmed cases identified since late January to 1,795.
Henry said the three people who have succumbed to the virus since Tuesday's update were all residents of long-term care homes.
"Our hearts go out to the families and the caregivers," she said.
A number of troubling new outbreaks contributed to the jump in cases, including the one at United Poultry Ltd. in East Vancouver where 28 workers have caught the novel coronavirus.
Earlier on Wednesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan revealed that some employees at United came to work despite being ill, prompting urgent new calls for people to self-isolate if they experience even mild symptoms.
"Let me be 100 per cent clear: Right now, If you are ill, whether you feel it’s a cold, whether you feel it's allergies, whether you're concerned you may have COVID-19, stay home, stay away from others and immediately contact us and we can help you get tested if that's appropriate," Henry said.
Businesses are also responsible for making sure none of their employees are working while sick, and for ensuring people can stay at least two metres apart in the workplace.
Henry also stressed that companies must not "penalize employees for staying home if they are ill during this pandemic."
There is no evidence that United Poultry Ltd. put pressure on any of its employees to stay on the job.
Health officials also announced there have also been three more outbreaks at long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland. Eden Care Centre in Chilliwack, Guildford Seniors Village in Surrey and New Vista Care Home in Burnaby have each seen a single case of COVID-19.
But outbreaks at four other care homes have been declared over, and the number of hospitalizations from the virus, which the government has described as the most accurate measure of the seriousness of the pandemic in B.C., reached its lowest point since March.
There are now 103 patients in hospital, including 46 who are in intensive care. B.C.'s hospitalizations peaked at 159 on April 2, when there were 68 people in ICU.
By comparison, there are 1,278 people in hospital in Quebec, including 199 in ICU. In Ontario, there are 878 people hospitalized, with 243 in ICU.
B.C. also reported another 38 people have recovered from the virus, bringing the total number of patients who have beaten COVID-19 to 1,079. That leaves 626 active test-positive cases.
Keeping hospitalizations low is key to avoid overwhelming the province's health care system.
Health officials have indicated they could relax some of the restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 as early as next month, including the ban on elective surgeries that has already delayed some 13,988 operations.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix urged people whose care plans have been affected by the pandemic to stay strong, and promised the government's "commitment to patients has not waivered."
"You are not forgotten," he added. "I want everybody to know who's waiting for surgery that they are in our hearts and in our thoughts."
Dr. Henry, who went to medical school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, also took a moment during Wednesday's briefing to offer condolences to those affected by the weekend's mass shooting in Nova Scotia.
"I just want to say to my Nova Scotia family, wherever you are, and to my RCMP family: Know that I'm heaving a sigh and wish for thee, and will mourn you from afar," she said, referencing the folk song Farewell to Nova Scotia.
Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.