B.C.’s top doctor advises against travel as 15 new COVID-19 cases and 3 deaths announced

The highlights:

  • 15 more people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. 
  • 3 more people have died in the past 24 hours.
  • There have been a total of 2,392 cases and 135 people have died.
  • 1,885 people have recovered. 
  • 58 people are in hospital, 12 of them in the ICU.
  • No new community outbreaks.
  • No new outbreaks in long-term care homes.
  • 15 outbreaks continue in long-term care homes, 4 in acute care.
  • Superior Poultry Plant in Coquitlam reopens. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is asking British Columbians to avoid travelling during the long weekend as new cases of coronavirus continue to appear. 

The May long weekend may be the “unofficial” start to summer but this summer will be different, Henry said.

“This year, with the risk that we continue to have in our communities across this province, we need to look at plans on a much narrower frame,” she said.

“Let’s make this our summer of care and consideration for our families, our communities and our province. A summer for us all to remember to be kind, to be calm and to be safe.”

Although this would usually be the time of year to plan summer activities in advance, Henry said to think of the next couple weeks instead of months as COVID-19 continues to pose a threat.

Instead of travelling to other communities this weekend, she suggests hiking at a local park, visiting a farmers market or having a picnic.

On Thursday, B.C. Parks reopened facilities like front and backcountry trails, beaches, picnic areas, washroom facilities and boat launches for day use.

Campgrounds are set to reopen June 1. 

On Tuesday, the province will enter the second phase of its gradual reopening plan.

WorkSafeBC is working with the province to create guidelines for different sectors, as they prepare to reopen, to ensure staff and customers are safe.

Henry acknowledged that while some businesses and consumers are eager for the gradual reopening, hesitation remains. 

She said the province is “not going to get everything perfect” as it reopens, but that it’s doing everything it can and is learning from other parts of the world during this extraordinary circumstance.

“I think it’s going to be something we’re going to have to work through together,” Henry said. 

“We’re just going to have to take it slowly and err on the side of caution the best we can.”

Surgeries being rescheduled 

B.C. has the capacity to test 7,000 people a day and anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested. 

It’s still not known how the virus will behave in the future or how long immunity might last for those who have recovered, and B.C. does not have “herd immunity” to prevent transmission of the virus, Henry said.

B.C. has not had any cases of Kawasaki Syndrome that are related to COVID-19. The rare inflammatory illness can be an effect of the body’s reaction to viruses and other infections and has been linked to children’s deaths in the U.S.

Two serology tests have been approved for use in Canada and B.C. is currently validating which test it will want to use, Henry said. 

The province will be closely watching what happens in the next two weeks in terms of the virus spreading, she added. 

Until more questions can be answered through antibody testing or an eventual vaccine, measures like physical distancing will remain in place in some capacity in stores and on public transit, she said.

The number of people in hospital and critical care is coming down, said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

However, the occupancy rate in hospitals has gone up slightly — a sign, he said, that health care resources are being used for needs other than COVID-19.

The province is also working to reschedule 6,883 surgeries that were cancelled or postponed. People awaiting surgery will be contacted, Dix said. 

Several outbreaks over in Fraser Health 

On Thursday, Fraser Health provided updates on several COVID-19 outbreaks in the region.

The health authority rescinded the closure order it enforced on April 24 at Superior Poultry Processors in Coquitlam. An outbreak at the plant sickened more than 60 people, but it has met the requirements of the order and has reopened.

Plexiglass shields have been installed between workers, production has been slowed and PPE is being used, said Dr. Martin Lavoie, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health.

There remain two active cases at Mission Institution, where 120 inmates tested positive for coronavirus. There have been no new cases at the federal prison since May 1.

An outbreak at the Worthington Pavilion Rehabilitation Unit, an acute care site in Abbotsford, has been declared over. Outbreaks have also been declared over at Swedish Assisted Living Residence in Burnaby and Chartwell Cedarbrooke Retirement Residence in Mission.

In April, Fraser Health issued an order for gyms and fitness centres to close. Lavoie said the health authority is considering lifting that order “in the very near future,” but that details on how to reopen safely are still being worked out.

Fraser Health is also beginning to reschedule elective surgeries that were postponed. 

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca

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