Officials announce 3 more COVID-19 deaths in B.C., including first in Interior
VANCOUVER -- Three more people have died from COVID-19 in British Columbia, health officials announced Wednesday.
They also announced 44 new cases of the coronavirus have been identified through testing, bringing the provincial total to 1,561.
A total of 75 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C., with the majority of them being patients at long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland.
One of the three most-recent deaths does not fit that pattern. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that person was a man in his 60s in the Interior Health region who was recovering from the virus at home. The death marks the first one recorded in the B.C. Interior, Henry said.
The other two deaths in the last 24 hours happened in the Lower Mainland, one in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and one in the Fraser Health region, according to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. The minister did not provide any additional details about those two individuals.
Officials said there had been no new outbreaks at long-term-care facilities in the last 24 hours, meaning the total number of such institutions with outbreaks remains at 21. There are 265 COVID-19 cases associated with those facilities, Henry said.
There are 131 people in hospital with the virus in B.C., including 59 in critical care.
The provincial health officer dedicated a substantial portion of her remarks Wednesday to addressing concerns about going to hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic for health issues other than the virus itself.
She encouraged British Columbians not to be afraid to seek medical help when they need it, saying the provincial health system has measures in place to safely care for non-coronavirus patients.
"It is safe to go to the hospital," Henry said. "It is safe to call 911 if you need that urgent medical care … Do not hesitate to call for help if you need it."
Henry also addressed the many changes to society that have been made in response to the pandemic, saying the "new normal" of physical distancing and self-isolation will continue - in some form - for months.
She emphasized the need to be kind to others and support each other through the crisis, noting that the province is still "in the midst of it."
"We are not at the point yet where we can let up and we know that is very challenging for people," Henry said. "We've heard some anecdotes, mostly of people getting frustrated and angry, and I think we have to realize that this is often a manifestation of anxiety and fear that we have: of not knowing about the future, not knowing what's going to happen with our jobs, not knowing what's going to happen with our families."
"This is a time where we really need to stand together, to support each other, to respond to anger with kindness, to make sure that we can support each other as we go through the coming weeks and months because we are all in this together," she continued. "What we do today and what we do every day through this really matters. We are all making a difference and we are getting through this."
Some 955 people who tested positive for the virus in B.C. are now considered fully recovered, meaning there are 531 active cases across the province.
Of the 1,561 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C., the vast majority have been in the Lower Mainland, where there are 670 cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 623 cases in the Fraser Health region.
Elsewhere in the province, there have been 146 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Interior Health region, 92 in Island Health and 30 in Northern Health.
Henry and Dix will not be holding a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday. New numbers on coronavirus infections will instead be provided in a written release.
On Friday, health officials are scheduled to provide an update on the province's modelling of the pandemic at 11 a.m.
The health minister said the update does not reflect a "turning point" in the pandemic in B.C., but rather an opportunity to share projections and reinforce the necessity of maintaining efforts to thwart the virus.
"We want everyone to understand and see what we're seeing," Dix said. "And what we see is people around British Columbia who are taking part, who are participating, who are all in, who are helping to bend the curve."
He thanked all British Columbians practicing physical distancing and working to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"When we do models and we present what the circumstances are in B.C., we see your effort, your commitment, your work, and - yes - your sacrifice," Dix said.
Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.