B.C. health officials have confirmed six new cases of of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 27, including two in a care home which is now being treated as an outbreak.
Outbreak protocols are underway at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver where two residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus after coming into contact with B.C.’s 21st COVID-19 case, a healthcare worker who is being treated as the first community transmission of the virus, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference in Vancouver Saturday.
The care centre is currently restricting visitors and staff are carefully monitoring the other seniors living there for symptoms, Henry said. Elderly people and those with underlying conditions are the most at-risk of having severe disease or complications if they contract the virus.
“We know that they are also at high risk from the other respiratory viruses that we see circulating right now,” Henry said.
“I’m calling on all of us in B.C. to do what we need to do to protect our seniors and elders in our community and to keep them safe.”
The other four people infected also live within the Fraser Health region, including two people who were aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship and two people who had travelled back to B.C. from Iran.
"Now is the time to put some distance between us to keep our germs to ourselves," Henry says. #COVIDー19— Ashley Wadhwani (@ashwadhwani) March 7, 2020
Health officials are urging people to stay home if they are feeling sick and be cautious with the elderly people in their life, including hosting “virtual gatherings” instead of in-person events.
“I’m very concerned about it,” Henry said of the virus. “I went through SARS, I have been through Ebola… and I just know how stressful it is for the healthcare system and healthcare workers and families.”
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam noted Friday that most of the cases in Canada have been mild, and the patients are self isolating at home. About seven people are in hospital, but she said that doesn’t necessarily mean they are severely ill, adding that Canada is well equipped to deal with the outbreak.
This includes a woman in her 80s who was taken to Vancouver General Hospital in critical condition, but has since stabilized.
“We’ve been having these plans, we’ve rehearsed them, we’ve been through a previous pandemic, we’ve been through co-ordination for Ebola response, for example. So each individual player in the federal and provincial system knows how those co-ordination mechanisms work,” Tam told a news conference.
Ottawa is increasing its funding for COVID-19 research by $20 million, Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced Friday, after concluding that the $7 million it had planned to spend isn’t enough.
Avoid cruise ships, health minister says
Health Minister Adrian Dix said that people can expect daily updates from the province moving forward in part “to calm fears but also state what the facts are.”
He also urged people to avoid travelling ahead of spring break.
“If you are asking my opinion, cancel that cruise,” he said.
Three of Canada’s 54 confirmed or presumptive cases of the virus are among passengers who were aboard the Grand Princess from Feb. 11 to 21 during a cruise that began and ended in San Francisco.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has since been trying to locate more than 260 Canadians who were on that cruise.
And another 237 Canadians have been forbidden from leaving the ship during a subsequent cruise, as they and the rest of the passengers and crew undergo testing for COVID-19.
- with files from The Canadian Press