New health order limits number of guests allowed in private homes
VANCOUVER -- As British Columbia grapples with record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers, officials have imposed new restrictions on gatherings inside private homes.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a new order Monday barring people from having more than six guests over at once, at least for the time being.
"This order limits gatherings in private homes to no more than your immediate household, plus your safe six," Henry said. "This is going to be a challenge more for some people than others, but this is something we need to do together as a community so we can get through the coming respiratory season."
For large families who live together, Henry suggested six additional guests "may be too many," though she didn't provide a specific threshold.
The announcement came after officials revealed 817 cases of COVID-19 were identified across B.C. over the weekend, including 317 cases in a single day, which shattered the previous daily record of 274 that was set just days earlier.
The province is also dealing with a record 2,335 active cases, Henry said.
Much of the alarming surge has been blamed on gatherings such as weddings, funerals, gender-reveal parties and even smaller events, such as Thanksgiving dinners.
"We are now seeing some of the effects of family gatherings that happened on the Thanksgiving weekend," Henry said. "These are important celebrations but we are in the middle of a pandemic and we need to take safety precautions to make sure that we're not passing the virus on to people that we care about, people that we're closest to."
The provincial health officer compared her latest order to the one B.C. imposed over the summer regarding vacation homes, which was a response to COVID-19 transmission at parties.
Officials are now seeing people "getting together with larger numbers of people than can be accommodated safely within their homes," Henry said, a problem she said is being seen in every corner of the province.
She also noted that the order allows for government enforcement of the new rule, but said she hopes people will comply voluntarily.
"My hope is we will pay attention given what we are seeing in B.C. right now and that enforcement won't be needed – that we will do the right thing," Henry said.
"And for a small number of people who may choose to disregard the order, enforcement will be stepped up."
Henry also issued a new recommendation that people wear a non-medical mask in all indoor public spaces, such as shopping malls and businesses, but said the guidelines are not part of a public health order at this time.