998 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.; premier warns of tougher measures if numbers don't drop

The province will return to lockdown-like restrictions if the number of new COVID-19 cases does not go down, Premier John Horgan said Monday. “That’s the end result if we don’t start to see these numbers come down.”

B.C. has seen a “dangerous increase” in new COVID-19 cases, he said. On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 998 new cases, including 12 on the Island, and five new deaths over two days. The majority of the new cases, 947, were in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions.

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There are now 4,891 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. including 39 on Vancouver Island — 18 in the south, 13 in central and eight in the north.

There are 133 people in hospital, 43 of them in intensive or critical care. No one on the Island is in hospital with COVID or has recently died from the disease.

“We need to make sure that we keep essential services functioning — surgeries, schools, and others operating as safely as possible,” said Horgan. “All of this is in jeopardy if we don’t continue to focus on working together … to bring the case numbers down.” He stressed the need for people to adhere to provincial orders, including region-specific ones announced Saturday.

The Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health authorities have new orders mandating no social gatherings of any size, limiting travel in and out of the Lower Mainland to essential purposes only, and suspending all travel for sports for two weeks.

Indoor group physical activities in the regions are suspended and workplaces must review safety plans, screen workers, and encourage working from home. If a business cannot comply with safety plans, it may be forced to close for two weeks.

The measures will be in effect until Nov. 23. Henry said the restrictions are on things where public health officials are seeing rapid transmission — indoor social gatherings in homes and indoor vigorous physical activities such as spin classes and contact sports. COVID-19 has also been spreading in workplaces, Henry said.

Horgan and Henry said the province is trying to immediately drive down the rate of transmissions while keeping as much of the economy open as possible. “But it’s going to require people to get with the program and there’s a whole bunch of people that are not abiding by those minimalist rules we had in place,” Horgan said.

More bylaw officers and inspectors will be transferred to public health, Horgan said.

The vigilance that British Columbians exercised in the beginning of the pandemic to “buck the trend” of soaring transmissions in Canada and around the world needs to be reapplied now, he said. “If we’re going to get back to our envied position at the start of this pandemic, we need to ensure that we’re all working on this together.

Asked about confusion around the newest rules and orders, Horgan conceded it’s challenging. “I ask for people to be patient with each other, and patient with governments as well, as we put in place what I believe will be the best outcomes possible for British Columbia.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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