'Envy of the country': B.C.'s plans for reopening to come; state of emergency extended
VANCOUVER -- Premier John Horgan announced B.C. has extended its state of emergency for an additional 14 days as the number of cases of the novel coronavirus continues to rise.
Horgan made the announcement during his weekly update on the province's COVID-19 response.
States of emergency can only be declared two weeks at a time and can give the province powers during a crisis, including the ability to restrict travel, order evacuations, and set prices for essential goods.
Horgan said plans for reopening the province will be announced next week and done with a "phased-in approach." Unlike other provinces, some businesses in B.C. were never ordered to close.
"It'll be different in British Columbia, because unlike other provinces, we resisted the call for a full lockdown of our economy and instead, adopted a different approach," said Horgan.
"The approach in British Columbia was to focus on how could we keep sectors operating safely, rather than shutting them down until such time as we could open them up again."
Horgan said as sectors open up, the province is looking to industry for input on best operation practices and noted that both consumers and workers need to feel confident and safe to go back to regular life again.
"In order for that to happen, we need to have a plan and we need to have full buy-in from all British Columbians," said Horgan, who described B.C.'s approach as being "slow and methodical."
Although several provinces have laid out timelines for when certain sectors will reopen, Horgan expressed some concern over providing specific dates at this point, as it could cause people to assume prematurely that restrictions have already been lifted.
"We are not there yet," he said. "Poll after poll and everybody I've talked to says, let's not give up the gains we've made."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is expected to release new modelling data this week, which Horgan said will be taken to cabinet to determine how the restart of B.C.'s economy can begin.
Horgan said B.C. is the "envy of the country" right now, and he emphasized that residents have put others' interests before their own during the pandemic, which he said must continue as the economy reopens.
"Critical to our success is everybody understanding, if you are not well, you are not going to the workplace," he said.
Horgan said he's been working with his team on many issues but a lot of the work during the pandemic has been "day by day."
"There was no protocol, there was no book in my drawer saying, 'In case of pandemic, break glass'," he said.
As of Wednesday, B.C. had recorded 109 deaths, as well as 2,087 cases of the virus since the province's first infection was confirmed in late January.
Earlier this week, the prime minister's office released a joint statement with Canada's premiers including a list of agreed upon principles for gradually restarting the economy.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione and Andrew Weichel