VANCOUVER -- Like physical distancing, ventilators are an essential defence against COVID-19 fatalities. 

Equally important are those in charge of operating them.

Shayla Sallis, a registered respiratory therapist in Kamloops said her work day “is now definitely more intense than it normally is.”

“We have uncertainty about how many patients we need to take care of during the peak of all of this,” Sallis said.

On Saturday, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are currently 81 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 52 of those are in intensive care.

Sallis is echoing calls from health officials to the public, urging people to practice physical distancing and slow the outbreak.

“If people are getting COVID-19 virus we’re going to take care of them to best of our ability,” she said. “The only thing that will make it easier is if we don’t get lot of patients all at once because it is hard to do your best work when you have so many people to look after.”

On Saturday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 28 doctors and 309 registered nurses had come out of retirement to help with the province’s coronavirus response.

According to Dix, the province currently has 1,272 ventilators available across its hospitals.

“The vacant beds across the health care system is 4,295 to prepare for what we expect to be more cases in the coming weeks,” Dix said during a government briefing Friday.

Meanwhile, the public show of support from people in the community has not gone unnoticed by health workers.

“I think it is keeping all of our spirits lifted and inspiring all of us to work hard,” Sallis said.