B.C. health officials announce 9 new COVID-19 cases, clarify testing procedures
VANCOUVER -- Health officials in British Columbia announced nine new cases of the novel coronavirus in their province Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 73.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix also clarified the situations in which B.C. residents need testing for the virus, stressing that not everyone should be tested.
Seven of the new cases are located in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, one is in the Fraser Health region, and one is in the province's Interior Health region, according to Henry.
She said most of the new cases are related to ongoing outbreaks in the province, which have been identified at two seniors' care homes and a hospital in Metro Vancouver.
A total of 16 cases of COVID-19 in the province are now considered related to the outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where Canada's first death from the virus was recorded earlier this month.
That outbreak includes four residents of the seniors' care home and 12 staff members, according to Henry.
While officials did not say whether all of the new cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region Saturday were linked to the Lynn Valley Care Centre, they did note that the number of cases at Hollyburn House - another seniors' care home in West Vancouver - and at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, were unchanged.
"We continue, of course, to be extremely concerned about the situation at the Lynn Valley care home," Dix said, adding that people who have friends or relatives in such facilities around the province should refrain from visiting if they're not feeling well.
Just one of the new cases announced Saturday was related to travel. The person who tested positive in the Interior recently returned from travel to several places in Europe, Henry said.
The provincial health officer stressed that not everyone who has symptoms or has returned from travel abroad needs to be tested for COVID-19. She said provincial health officials are focused on testing those most at risk, including people who have been in contact with ongoing outbreaks and elderly people who are showing symptoms.
"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.
Earlier in the week, the province announced that it was banning all gatherings of more than 250 people and recommending 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.
Henry said people who are returning from abroad and are self-isolating do not need to be tested for COVID-19 unless they have symptoms significant enough to require medical attention.
"Not everyone needs to get tested," Henry said.
Since the province announced its limits on gatherings and travel Thursday, grocery stores across B.C. have seen a surge in "panic buying," with empty shelves and long checkout lines becoming the norm in some places.
The provincial health officer addressed this behaviour during her remarks Saturday.
"I want to ask everybody in British Columbia to be measured in their purchase of groceries and other basic necessities," Henry said.
While she said she understands anxiety-induced stockpiling is a "natural" response to an uncertain situation, Henry stressed that retailers in the province have communicated with health officials and stressed that supply chains are strong and shelves will be restocked. British Columbia does not expect to have shortages, Henry said.
"I want to assure everybody that the supply is there and we need to be measured in our approach and get what we need, but not to hoard and not to have anxiety-provoked purchasing," she said. "There's no need for that right now."