43 new cases, five deaths in B.C.; premier addressing province at 6:15 p.m. tonight

Forty three new cases of COVID-19 have appeared over the past 24 hours, according to the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

This brings the total number of British Columbians who were confirmed to have the disease to 1,013. That new figure is a 4.4 per cent increase over the figure released on Monday and a 64 per cent jump over the number at the same time last week. Of those, 476 are in Vancouver Coastal Health, 348 in Fraser Health, 67 on Vancouver Island, 107 in Interior Health and 15 in Northern Health.

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Henry said there were five new deaths, bringing that total to 24. Those deaths were within the Vancouver Coastal Health (four) and Fraser Health regions (one). Most of the deaths were among people in their 70s, 80s and 90s who were living in care homes. Only one person has died at home, 64-year-old North Vancouver dentist Denis Vincent, who contracted the disease at the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver. He died March 22, but the death was only reported by the government on Monday.

There are now outbreaks in 19 long-term and assisted-living facilities in B.C. (all in either Vancouver Coastal Health or Fraser Health.)

“We know we have two particular outbreaks (Lynn Valley Care Centre and Haro Park Centre) that started early on and were full-blown outbreaks and unfortunately that is where we have had most of our deaths,” said Henry, adding most of the other care homes had one or two cases.

There are 128 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 61 in acute-care beds. Five hundred and seven people have recovered.

Henry said health officials were also dealing with a community outbreak among temporary farm workers at the Bylands Nursery in West Kelowna.

She said the workers were tested last weekend and are now in isolation in worker housing.

“This is out first large community outbreak and involves a group of temporary foreign workers in housing at West Kelowna,” she said.

Bylands Nursery is now closed and quarantined.

She said Interior Health officials became aware of a number of workers with respiratory illness. All workers are now staying in staff housing.

Henry said the workers came to B.C. prior to there being restrictions placed on people coming to Canada in early March.

“Some people were identified as being ill and were tested (last weekend) and they were investigated,” she said, adding the sick workers had not been in the general community but had mixed with other workers.”

The sick workers are now in isolation.

“It was caught relatively early we hope, but we will see over the next two weeks,” she said. “It will be two to four weeks before we understand the extent of this outbreak.”

Five hundred and seven people have recovered fully from COVID-19.

“This is our critical time across British Columbia, the next two weeks. Noone is immune to this virus. If you are older, please stay at home. If you are younger, stay apart,” Henry said.

When asked how long the current restrictions on business activity and travel would last, Henry said “realistically we are going to be in some form of having to monitor and prevent transmission of this virus until we have a vaccine, or until enough of the population is immune to it but we know that’s a very high number.”

Henry said B.C. is in its first wave of the disease.

She said one this first wave passes over the next three weeks, health officials had to then look out for the next wave.

“I haven’t given up entirely that we might get a reprieve in the summer, as we do with influenza. It’s less likely we are going to be back to full normal life until at least the summer and then we need to prepare for the potential of a second wave in the fall,” she said.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said restrictions would absolutely be in place until the end of April.

“What it looks like in May, or June or July is harder to say and a lot depends on whether people are committed to responding with a 100 per cent effort to bend the curve,” he said.

“I think we are in to this for a long time.”

Henry added that there may be some reprieve in the summer, but there would likely be a second wave in the fall.

Also today, Quebec (that is the most impacted province in Canada) reported 732 news cases to bring the total to 4,162.

Ontario reported 260 new cases to bring their total to 2,000.

Alberta reported 64 fresh cases of COVID-19 to bring their total to 754.

Across Canada there are 7,448, cases of COVID-19 and 90 deaths. Nine hundred and forty six people have recovered in Canada.

Premier John Horgan is scheduled to make speech to the province at 6:15 p.m. tonight; B.C. TV stations, including CHEK TV, will broadcast the speech.

— David Carrigg, Vancouver Sun

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