Vancouver Island has its first presumptive case of COVID-19, a man in his 60s who recently travelled to Egypt, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday.
Henry said there were seven new confirmed cases in B.C., bringing the total in the province to 46.
Presumptive cases are ones with an initial positive test result that still has to be confirmed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
“This is a man in his 60s who was travelling in Egypt with some friends,” Henry said at a news conference.
Henry said the presumptive case announced Wednesday is not related to a person Glenlyon-Norfolk School said was being tested. “Not that I’m aware of,” Henry said. She would not specify where on the Island the man lives. Officials are still tracking down a few of the man’s close contacts.
On Tuesday, Glenlyon-Norfolk closed its two campuses, in Oak Bay and Victoria, saying a member of its community was being tested for COVID-19. The person had recently travelled, fell ill and on the advice of a physician was tested for COVID-19. The individual was in the school “for a significant period of time” last week, the school said in a letter to parents on Monday night.
The closing effectively let students out early for spring break.
Glenn Zederayko, Glenlyon’s head of school, said the results of testing have not come back. “We are optimistic that we will have results to share on Friday at the latest,” he wrote. “We continue to work with the B.C. Medical Health Officer to guide us in our actions, and we continue to hear that this does not appear to be a high-risk case.”
“We are very sorry that we cannot give you more information at this point and we know that this is very frustrating,” said Zederayko. “Please know we are continuing to do our best to keep the school a safe and healthy place for everyone while respecting privacy concerns.”
Henry said no schools in B.C. have been told to close. “Schools have made decisions to close based on their own reasons,” she said.
Henry said she has the power to order the closing of schools in B.C. under the Public Health Act, but so far she doesn’t believe that’s necessary, especially if people keep their distance from each other, wash their hands frequently and stay home if they’re sick.
“There’s a whole lot of pros and cons involved in closing schools, which we are continually evaluating,” she said. “It really is a matter of judging it as it comes.”
Henry said she can also order the cancellation of public events in B.C., including sporting events, but she has yet to use her powers.
Some organizers have postponed or cancelled events on their own, including the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, which has scrapped its annual convention in Prince George from April 1 to 3.
The province put more focus on enhancing prevention of the novel coronavirus at long-term care facilities to protect vulnerable elderly people and staff, Henry said.
More screening of employees and visitors will be done at the facilities, which will be off limits to groups of people visiting loved ones.
“One of the things that has become apparent to us is how fragile our long-term care system is and how we need to be doing more to enhance our prevention for people in long-term care and our assisted living facilities.”
She said visitors should stay away if they have any respiratory illness.
Previously, people were advised to phone long-term care homes ahead of time if they had a cold, for example.
“I won’t say we’re stopping visitors, but [there will be] restriction of visitors and making sure nobody comes in that has any respiratory infection,” Henry said. “We want to make sure we don’t do things like have group sessions where people are interacting with multiple people.”
She said visitors should take care to visit only their family member and then leave the premises.
“You make sure you take all the precautions that we know are important for preventing transmission of infection, like cleaning our hands and really, really, particularly, staying away if you are ill.”
Henry said the Lynn Valley Care Centre is the only long-term care facility in B.C. that has had a positive test for COVID-19.
Three of the new cases are linked to Egypt and include a visitor in his 70s whose relatives in the Fraser Valley are now also in isolation, she said.
Earlier Wednesday, Premier John Horgan held a conference call with faith leaders from different denominations to discuss the outbreak with Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Horgan said he wants faith leaders to be as up-to-date as possible about the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus because people often turn to them for comfort, aid and advice.
— With The Canadian Press