B.C. announces 3 more COVID-19 deaths as province tops 1,500 cases
VANCOUVER -- Health officials have announced another three deaths from COVID-19 in British Columbia, as well as 27 new test-positive cases.
Speaking at her daily virus briefing on Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the three latest fatalities all took place at long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland.
"Our condolences and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the care providers for these people who have been affected by this virus," Henry said.
Tuesday's update brings the province's death toll to 72 and the overall number of cases confirmed since late January to 1,517. Of those, 942 have fully recovered.
There remain 134 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 58 who are in intensive care units. The number of hospitalizations has remained fairly static for more than a week, with severe cases decreasing gradually from a peak of 72 on April 6.
Officials also announced yet another outbreak at a seniors' home in the region, this time at the South Granville Park Lodge in Vancouver. So far, a total of 165 residents and 124 staff have been infected with the novel coronavirus at long-term care homes and assisted living facilities in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Meanwhile, a number of community outbreaks are continuing to spread, including the one at Mission Institution, a federal correctional facility that's already seen 47 confirmed cases.
Dr. Henry described that outbreak, the response to which has been criticized by the union representing prison staff, as "concerning."
"We've had an ongoing effort over this weekend to beef up the outbreak response, the infection prevention and control measures and the investigation of the outbreak," she added.
Part of the response has involved opening a dedicated unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital for people from Mission Institution who suffer severe infections.
According to the correctional officers' union, six of the COVID-19 cases have been among prison staff.
There has also been one additional infection confirmed at Bylands Nursery, an agricultural business in West Kelowna that suffered an outbreak among temporary foreign workers late last month.
Two ongoing crises
Dr. Henry also took time to address drug users in British Columbia, acknowledging that some more vulnerable members of the population have had trouble accessing even the most basic necessities during the pandemic – including food.
She noted it has been four years to the day since B.C. declared a public health emergency due to the ongoing opioid crisis, and stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has not overshadowed health officials' efforts to support people struggling with addiction.
"We want all of those who are living with substance use and addiction and other major health issues to know that you are not forgotten and we are continuing to ensure that we have those safety nets in place for you," Henry said.
Officials have already made some additional housing options available, Henry noted, as well as increased the availability of safe pharmaceutical alternatives to what she called "an incredibly and increasingly toxic street drug supply."
"As these crises continue I want to remind people to take care of yourself and take care of those around you," she added. "We all have a stake in this and we need to continue to look after ourselves and to look after our communities."
Of the cases confirmed in B.C. so far, 658 have been in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, followed by 601 in the Fraser Health region, 141 in the Interior Health region, 89 in the Island Health region and 28 in the Northern Health region.
On Friday, health officials are expected to release new modelling that might shed light on how far British Columbia has to go before it can begin easing some of the rigid restrictions that have dramatically altered the lives of its approximately five million residents.
Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.