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Health officials explain the increasing number of COVID-19 deaths
VANCOUVER -- The daily death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus – now officially called COVID-19 – is continuing to grow, but health officials say the Chinese government's measures to contain the outbreak appear to be working.
Monday marked the first time more than 100 deaths were blamed on COVID-19, bringing the total number of fatalities connected to the virus to 1,018.
While the increasing death toll might be concerning, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it's to be expected as thousands of people infected at the epicentre of the outbreak in China's Hubei province enter what she described as a "critical period" for the virus.
Patients with COVID-19 and other coronaviruses, including SARS, reach a point where their symptoms either begin to improve or worsen, Henry said, usually around the end of the first week or into the second. Given that upwards of 1,000 new cases have been discovered daily for weeks, many people are beginning to enter that critical period.
"People either start to recover or they can develop more severe disease and sometimes very quickly their condition can deteriorate," Henry told reporters Tuesday.
"That is why we're seeing more people with severe illness and more people dying, and that is likely to go on for some time because there are still so many people being identified."
Despite those numbers, Henry said the global outlook appears promising. The proportion of new cases coming from within Hubei is growing, according to health officials, while the number of cases confirmed elsewhere is levelling off.
"That is what we would like to see now, two weeks after some of the more restrictive measures were put in place around the epicentre," Henry said. "Some of the measures ... that are being taken in other parts of China are having a beneficial effect."
In addition, a team of disease experts from the World Health Organization has now been sent to China to help with the COVID-19 response. Henry said she hopes that will ease persistent concerns spreading on social media that China is downplaying or otherwise misrepresenting the state of the outbreak.
"We have no reason to believe we're not getting accurate information but we know there's a lot of misinformation and concern about how open the Chinese government is being with cases," Henry said. "So I think if nothing else it will be very helpful to have those experts from WHO on the ground."