Saturday March 7, 2020 ~ BC
by Mary Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR ~ West Shore Voice News
Six new cases of COVID-19 in BC were announced today Saturday March 7 by BC Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in BC to 27.
All 27 confirmed cases are in the Lower Mainland. Among the six new cases today, two are related to travel from Iran. Two were on the Grand Princess cruise ship (still sitting in international waters beyond California) but are back in BC in the Fraser Health area. The remaining two are residents of a long term care facility in North Vancouver.
Both Dr Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix reminded people about staying home if you’re sick. That includes staying home from large and smaller close-contact gatherings, especially where personal contact is expected.
Dr Henry’s concern is deeply felt — evidenced by some emotional moments at today’s news conference — which Dix says is a strength in a provincial health officer. “Every single case she profoundly cares about,” said Dix. Dr Henry’s career includes direct involvement with SARS, Ebola and H1N1 outbreaks where she saw how individuals and families were affected.
This weekend (March 7 & 8) there is a large 2-day indoor Rugby Sevens event at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver where thousands of people will be in the same space to watch 16 of the world’s top men’s sevens teams. But Dr Henry says a younger crowd there is less vulnerable to COVID-19 which is now known to affect older people (particularly over 60).
In that context she is more worried about people in close contact at family gatherings and churches or religious events where hugging and embracing is often the norm.
“Refrain from our usual greetings,” said Minister Dix. “Put distance between us,” he said, including “no shaking hands, hugging or kissing”.
As evidenced by the two cases at the Lynn Valley Care Centre long-term care centre in North Vancouver, BC is now experiencing ‘community spread’ of COVID-19.
“The elderly are at high risk of severe disease. We need to protect our seniors and keep them safe,” said Dr Henry. Dix was clear that there is no mortality among children from this disease.
The risks for travelling on cruise ships “cannot be fully calculated”, said Dix. So far, the cruise season hasn’t started in BC for this year, and there will be discussions for next year, said Dix. Meanwhile, he said that even if someone has purchased tickets they should “very seriously consider going…. if you want my advice, don’t go”.
Minister Dix says that starting Monday March 9 there will be daily updates to media about the COVID-19 situation. As Dr Henry said, “We are nowhere near the near the end of this.”
Dix emphasized the reality of co-existing in a global community where travel by others affects people here at home in BC.
“We’ve had community spread, it has affected a long term care home, it’s affecting our communities now here at home,” said Dr Henry. She explained that public health work is “so we can protect our health are system and those most vulnerable in our communities, our seniors and elders”.
“We are are using the extraordinary powers of the Public Health Act and other powers of government right now. Our comprehensive response is a full on effort,” said Dr Henry today.
To achieve relatively good containment (i.e. prevent spread) in BC there has been a high level of testing (including if someone just presents for influenza) and a strong degree of messaging about strident self hygiene (i.e. frequent hand washing, not coughing/sneezing near people, using tissues for coughs or sneezes) and self-isolating (i.e. staying home from work, school or gatherings and community events) ‘to a low threshold’ of having any symptoms, so as to avoid possibly spreading the disease to others.
There are about 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 now around the world, with about 85% of the current tally in China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 6.
Pandemic Plan is in place in BC, says Premier (article about 2-hour BC Health media announcement on March 6, 2020)
COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and planning materials: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics/pandemic-influenza.
Recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-(novel)
For more information and latest updates on COVID-19, follow the BC Centre for Disease Control on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit http://www.bccdc.ca/