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No new COVID-19 deaths in B.C., 5 outbreaks declared over
VANCOUVER -- Health officials in British Columbia had no new COVID-19 deaths to report on Friday, and said five previously announced outbreaks have been declared over.
- Read more: B.C. shares latest modelling data
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry did announce an additional 43 test-positive cases of the novel coronavirus, however, and said a change in recovery criteria means the number of people considered fully healed has dropped from 983 to 966.
The new criteria includes "consideration for specific patient symptomology," officials said, and is believed to be more accurate.
Friday's announcement brings the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 discovered in B.C. since late January to 1,618, while the death toll remains at 78.
There are currently 574 active cases, with 119 patients in hospital, including 52 who are in intensive care. That represents the lowest number of severe coronavirus infections since March.
By comparison, Quebec announced 941 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, while Ontario announced 564 new cases and Alberta announced 239.
Henry has credited some of B.C.'s progress to the fortunate timing of its spring break, which came two weeks after Quebec's. After seeing families in that province return home from abroad carrying the virus, officials asked B.C. residents to avoid international travel just days before thousands of families were set to go on vacation.
The positive trajectory of the epidemic in B.C. is also very fragile, officials warn.
"We are in the eye of the storm in a Category 5 hurricane," Dix and Henry said in a joint statement. "We still have new cases, new outbreaks and, tragically, new deaths. We cannot afford a resurgence that will undo all of the effort and sacrifices we have made so far."
In addition to the five outbreaks that are now over, officials said one outbreak, at the Broadway Pentecostal Lodge in Vancouver, has been determined to have been the flu, and not related to COVID-19.
But there remain 20 ongoing outbreaks at long-term care homes and assisted living facilities, as well as one at an acute care unit at Ridge Meadows Hospital.
There are also a handful of community outbreaks, including at Mission Institution, the federal prison in B.C.'s Fraser Valley where there are currently 63 test-positive cases of COVID-19. One inmate has already died as a result of the virus.
Earlier in the day, health officials shared new modelling that indicated if numbers remain low and people continue to dutifully follow public health advice, some restrictions could be lifted as early as next month.
The modelling shows the province's epidemic curve to be well below earlier projections, which were based on how the virus spread throughout Italy and China's Hubei province, and that new cases have already "plateaued and started to decline."
But the easing of any restrictions would have to be done gradually, they cautioned, or B.C. could risk "explosive outbreaks" that could reverse all of the progress that's been credited to physical distancing and other measures.
"The modelling we released today clearly shows the resiliency and 100 per cent commitment of everyone in B.C. is having a positive impact. We are bending the curve," Dix and Henry said.
"People in B.C. have listened and done the right thing. We are grateful for what everyone has done."
Officials said they're hoping they might be able to allow elective surgeries to resume in mid-May, though most of the restrictions are expected to remain in place longer than that.