COVID-19 restrictions will be in place for April, possibly into May

Sounder News

Wednesday, April 8 2020

Plan to be in the ‘current’ state of affairs for all of April. That according to both Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for BC, and Adrian Dix, BC Minister of Health.

Over the past week, the two have continued to give daily updates (except on Sundays) to the people of British Columbia on the COVID-19 situation. 

As of Monday, April 6, there were 1,266 positive test cases of COVID-19 in BC, 79 of them in Island Health. 140 people were in hospital, with 72 people requiring intensive care. There have been a total of 39 deaths in BC from COVID-19. 783 people who tested positive have recovered. 

Dr. Henry was asked when people could expect there to be a loosening up of the isolation restrictions currently in place.

She said, “realistically, we are going to be in some form of having to monitor and prevent transmission of this until we have a vaccine, or until enough of the population is immune. A vaccine is something we need to push for.”

She explained BC is still in the first wave of COVID-19.

Health officials are watching what is happening in China, and in Europe, to see how populations react after the first wave is passed.

Dr. Henry said, “When we get through this wave, in a few weeks, we need to ask what it starts to look like. Are we starting to see clusters and transmission? I think it’s more and more less likely that we’ll get back to full normal life before the summer, and then we need to prepare for the potential of a second wave in the fall. In the meantime, we need to put every possible effort into a vaccine.”

Minister Dix echoed her saying there would be zero chance of any of the orders being lifted by the end of April. He said, “what it looks like for May, June, and July depends on if people are committed to responding with a 100% effort to bend the curve. But this will be a challenge for a long time. Days, weeks, months. I’d say zero chance by end of April, little to none for May. I think we’re into this for a long time.”

“Right now we need people to be 100% committed. We’re in April tomorrow. These next couple weeks are some of the most important weeks. It will be incredible. I know everyone in health care is committed.

Dr. Henry said, “I haven’t given up entirely that we would get a reprieve in the summer, as we do with other respiratory viruses.”

Dr. Henry once again reiterated that gatherings, especially indoor ones, are not advised.

“We know that it is the indoor, intimate meetings that [the virus] is more likely to be transmitted.”

She said the number 50 was where they set the number to give the provincial order prohibiting groups larger than that for gathering.

“There is no number that is ok or safe. I won’t change the order.

“Right now, across the province, any gathering, particularly a gathering indoors that isn’t your close family shouldn’t be happening now.”

Minister Dix said there are still over 4,000 empty beds across the province to be used for acute care of COVID-19 patients. He acknowledged those people who have had their elective surgeries put on hold during the COVID-19 crisis.

“While surgeries have been canceled, they have not been forgotten. Once we get through this, we will move with as much energy and passion and compassion to deal with their surgeries as we have with COVID-19.”

Two deaths from COVID-19
in Island Health Region

This past week, Dr. Henry announced two people in Island Health had died of COVID-19.

They are the first deaths from COVID-19 in the Island Health region, and the first two deaths outside of the Fraser and Coastal Health Regions.

Ministry staff later confirmed two patients in the Island Health region with COVID-19 died in hospital. One patient was in their 80s and the other was in their 90s.

On Monday, Dr. Henry confirmed a male in his 40s was the latest person in BC to die of COVID-19. 

“This person did pass away at home, and was a known positive case, so doubly tragic for us. We are concerned about the impact of this virus, even on young people. There was someone in their 20s who has died in Alberta over the last couple days. Young people are not immune. Most people who have died in BC have been from longterm care homes, most have been in their 70s or older (one was in his 60s.) This is tragic at any stage of life, but it does show us younger people aren’t immune to the effects of COVID-19.”

Dr. Henry added, “we continue to see clusters and outbreaks in our communities. These hotspots are concerning - they challenge our ability to respond and control. Our cases have been slowing and bending, that’s a testament to what everyone in BC has been doing. We must keep that firewall strong.”

Celebrate faith together,
by staying apart

Dr. Henry said she knows there is an important time coming up for people of many faiths. “Easter, Passover, Ramadan, there are many faith-based celebrations happening. I want people now to think about what we can do to support people practicing their faith without having direct contact.

“These are important religious ceremonies, and there is no more important time [than during a crisis] to do these types of important ceremonies, but in a safe way.”

She said she knows many of the faith leaders in BC have been preparing for doing this, and called on the rest of the province to find ways to support those around them.

Should families remove seniors from long-term care facilities?

There are over 20 long-term care facilities in the Lower Mainland with outbreaks of COVID-19. But Dr. Henry said while it is difficult and challenging for families to consider removing their loved ones from a facility, “for many families it is not an option -their loved one needs the care of a facility. Our focus has been to make the facilities as safe as possible, to reduce the introduction to long-term care. And having a low threshold on what brings a response to an outbreak. Right now is not the time to disrupt people’s lives in that way, for many it is not an option, our focus needs to be on protecting our elders and seniors in long term care.”

Is it safe for grandparents
to care for grandchildren?

She was asked if is it advisable to have grandparents look after young people right now. Dr. Henry said while older people are more susceptible to this virus, what matters is the number of connections people have. “So if your kids are only having connections with their grandparents, and not with multiple other families...then the risk is lower. We know there are many healthy grandparents out there who are perfectly fine and are able to take care of the kids. The important thing is making sure we’re protecting people who are more vulnerable, and making sure we don’t have the multiple connections to bring the virus into our family.”