Coronavirus Canada updates: B.C. records 21 new cases of COVID-19 as province braces for gradual reopening

Coronavirus Canada updates: B.C. records 21 new cases of COVID-19 as province braces for gradual reopening
Coronavirus Canada updates: B.C. records 21 new cases of COVID-19 as province braces for gradual reopening

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 21 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. on Saturday, bringing the total to 2,428.

One additional person has died, bringing the total number of deaths to 141.

There is an ongoing outbreak at Oppenheimer Group, a fruit and vegetable processing plant in Coquitlam, where there are three cases. There is also an ongoing outbreak in the intensive care unit of Abbotsford Regional Hospital, where six staff and two patients have tested positive.

But Henry said there is no concern that health care workers in that facility are lacking proper personal protective equipment.

“That’s not an issue that has been associated with this outbreak. This outbreak reminds us of how pernicious this virus is and how difficult it is to manage it because we know that people may have very mild illness and may not recognize it in themselves,” she said.

Bracing for Phase 2

B.C. is set to begin Phase 2 of its response on May 19, allowing for increased social interactions, and the gradual reopening of many businesses and service providers, as well as schools and medical offices.

Henry said the ability to recognize a person who has symptoms — whether they be staff or a patron of a business — is among the most important actions for preventing new outbreaks.

“There can be no flexibility on that piece,” she said.

Henry’s revised orders for Phase 2, which come into effect on Tuesday, are now posted online. WorkSafeBC has also posted guidelines to help businesses develop a safe reopening plan.

Those include protocols like installing Plexiglas barriers, limiting the number of people who can be seated inside a restaurant, and maintaining one-way aisles at grocery stores to reduce risk.

Henry says she recognizes that not all businesses will be able to reopen under the new guidelines, and that some measures may seem overly restrictive — but that is intentional.

“We know that managing this virus is the best thing we can do to manage our economy,” she said.

“We may not be 100 per cent right, right off the bat, but we’ll work things out.”

Monitoring for Phase 3

Henry has said it could take up to 28 days to know whether B.C. can move into Phase 3 and continue reopening, or scale back.

“I’m hoping that our approach will not take us there,” she said.

Henry said the province will be monitoring the number of people in hospital, and the number of new cases not linked to any known outbreak.

The province will also be ramping up its capacity to conduct contact tracing within 24 to 48 hours when a new case is identified.

She said that B.C. is not testing at full capacity — which would be 7,000 people per day — because there are not that many people in the community who currently need to be tested.

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