B.C. extends provincial state of emergency for another 2 weeks
VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government has extended its provincial state of emergency for another 14 days as the local death toll from COVID-19 continues to grow.
Speaking in a live address Wednesday afternoon, Premier John Horgan said officials are counting on British Columbians to "stay the course" and continue respecting the restrictions and guidelines that have dramatically altered the daily lives of millions of people across the province.
Doing so means "protecting ourselves, protecting our families, protecting our communities from this scourge of a virus and the pandemic that has seized the entire world," Horgan said.
States of emergency, which can only be declared for two weeks at a time, give the province extraordinary powers during a crisis, including the ability to restrict travel, order evacuations, issue directives to local governments and set prices for essential goods such as food and medical supplies.
Officials have not signalled any intention to implement some of the most extreme measures.
Horgan said there are encouraging signs that the strategy employed so far is working, something he suggested will become clearer when provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix share updated virus modelling on Friday.
"I believe that people have cause for genuine celebration and a pat on the back collectively – and virtually, I should say – for the work we've done together in flattening the curve," Horgan added.
Preliminary discussions are also underway about what it would take to relax some of the current restrictions, including potentially sending kids back to school and allowing elective surgeries, though the premier stressed his government will not be setting "arbitrary dates" for when that might happen.
While B.C. has seen some success in bending its curve, health officials have stressed the province's progress is delicate.
And as the battle against COVID-19 continues, more and more local governments are sounding the alarm about the state of their finances. Cities, which are not allowed to run deficits, are seeing revenues plummet while they incur steep new costs in their efforts to manage the crisis.
Horgan said Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson is in regular contact with local governments and that the province is "working on proposals" to help address those budgetary problems.
"Municipalities across British Columbia are seeing a decline in their revenues to meet the services that they deliver, or to provide the services that people expect right across the province," he said.
"We are still trying to figure out where we go as a province, where our regions need support, what we can ask from the federal government."
Horgan also teased there could be some relief coming for drivers in the form of "modest savings" from ICBC. He said the government would be making an announcement on Thursday.
As of Wednesday's virus update from Dr. Henry, there are 503 active and test-positive cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 134 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. There have been 72 deaths, including seven that were recorded in a single day on April 13.
American Sign Language translations of today's provincial news conferences will be available on the government's YouTube page.