Zero guests: B.C.'s biggest health authority asks residents not to host anyone at home
VANCOUVER -- There's already a public health order restricting the size of gatherings in private homes in B.C., but the province's most populous health authority is taking things further.
Fraser Health, the region that has seen the most COVID-19 cases of all of B.C.'s health authorities, is recommending against gatherings of any kind if they involve people who don't live in the household.
Speaking at a news conference co-hosted by the provincial health officer on Thursday, Dr. Victoria Lee urged residents of the region to exercise caution.
"Wave one has taught us that when we're united in our efforts we can bend our curve. We need to work together again," the president and CEO of Fraser Health said.
"From what we are seeing even small gatherings can be risky right now. At this critical time we're asking people that reside in the Fraser Health region to take a pause and consider our social interactions outside of our households."
Lee said this request was in addition to a provincial order that limits the number of people in a residence to those who live in the household, plus a maximum of six guests.
"As much as possible, please socialize with people outside of your home, such as public outdoor spaces like parks or licenced COVID-19-safe businesses," Lee said.
Earlier this week, another Fraser Health doctor said many of the latest infections can be linked to clusters in households, or private parties including weddings.
Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin said the region has the highest density of multi-generational families living in one household, making it easier for the disease to spread – hence Fraser Health suggesting residents take things "one step further" past the provincial advisory.
The health authority, which represents 1.8 million people from Boston Bar to Burnaby, has seen a total of 8,036 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, as of Thursday's update.
Overall, 14,109 cases have been confirmed in B.C., meaning more than half have been in Fraser Health.
And the total in the region is nearly twice the number of cases recorded in the Vancouver Coastal Health area, B.C.'s second most impacted health authority.
Additionally, Lee advised that those adhering to the "safe six" bubble system advised by Dr. Bonnie Henry – meaning limiting the number of people a person has regular interactions with outside their household to six – ensure that list of people doesn't change.
"If you need to bring someone home, please ensure that they are part of your safe six, your same safe six."
Henry described the Fraser Valley and surrounding area as being "disproportionately" affected by COVID-19.
"And we know that many people in this community are our essential workers who have kept our province going over this pandemic, whether it's in health care, long-term care, schools, agriculture, (or our) processing plants."
Henry and Lee made the announcement from Surrey, the largest city in the region. A short time later, Mayor Doug McCallum issued a statement to residents asking them to comply with health officials' suggestions.
"Due to the rapid rise of cases in the Fraser Health region, it is imperative that social gatherings at home are limited to the members of your household," his statement said in part.
McCallum said there is also an expectation in Surrey that masks be worn in indoor public spaces, and that anyone who feels sick should stay home.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel and The Canadian Press