VICTORIA — British Columbia's health minister is urging residents not to attend private parties and gatherings if they don't have the details after a recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said during a briefing on Tuesday that many of the latest cases stem from such events and the numbers serve as a reminder that people must adhere to public health rules.
"If you're being invited to a private party and you don't know who's there, and you don't know the guest list, and you don't know the numbers, (it's) something I strongly urge you not to attend," he said. "This is the time to keep numbers small."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported that 146 new cases of COVID-19 have been detected since Friday as active cases climbed to 319.
The latest cases share many common factors, Henry noted, including talking, laughing and sharing drinks and food, especially in close, indoor settings, as well as spending time in crowded areas.
The contacts of the vast majority of the new cases are being traced, she said, adding that's possible because transmission remains low and residents must work to ensure it stays that way.
"We are able to find out where you've been exposed and we know that many of those (exposures) are overlapping social circles, where private parties, over the period of the last few weeks, have led to people passing it to their friends and their family."
Henry encouraged people to remember where they have been and to monitor for any symptoms.
"The immediate days following a long weekend are when people can also unknowingly spread the virus to others," she said.
"We also need to pay attention to where these exposure events (happened), and if need be, we need to immediately limit our time with others if we were at one of the events."
In response to a petition that is picking up steam in opposition to school reopening, Henry said she understands there is anxiety about the start of the school year.
"We know that some children will fall behind and will never catch up and this will affect them for the rest of their lives. It is that important for us to be able to have school, manage school, despite having a pandemic," she said, adding physical distancing measures will be in place.
"It is finding that balance of making sure we're doing everything we can to reduce the risk, knowing that this virus is going to be with us, and we need to find a way to live with it and still have those absolutely critical learning opportunities for children."
Dix echoed Henry, saying schools should be prioritized among all the sectors, businesses and organizations that have reopened as part of the province's restart plan.
The B.C. government also extended its state of emergency on Tuesday through to Aug. 18.
There have been no additional deaths linked to COVID-19 in B.C., leaving the province's death toll at 195, while 3,273 people have recovered from the illness.
Henry said there are now 74 cases linked with an outbreak a fruit packing facility near Abbotsford.
One staff member at Maple Ridge Seniors Village has tested positive, she said, while another health-care outbreak in Mission has been declared over, leaving three ongoing outbreaks at long-term care or assisted-living facilities in the province.
— By Brenna Owen in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2020.