11 new cases of COVID-19 detected in B.C., bringing total to 64

11 new cases of COVID-19 detected in B.C., bringing total to 64

B.C. has detected 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 64, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Friday.

That includes an outbreak at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, where three administrative staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

"They are not people who had patient contact and measures have been taken at LGH to make sure that everything can be done as safely as possible there," Henry told a news conference.

Henry also said that a previous recommendation to cancel gatherings of more than 250 people has been upgraded to a mandatory order. But she pointed out that the virus doesn't seem to transmit as readily outdoors, so people don't need to stay holed up inside.

"Go outside and play with your family. Go up to our ski hills. Go up to Whistler," Henry said.

Watch: Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about order banning gatherings of more than 250 people

She also clarified her recommendation to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada, stating that travel will be considered essential for those who are involved in the movement of goods and people across borders.

"We're not talking about shutting down society here," Henry said.

She said people like airline crews and truckers should check themselves daily for symptoms. Anyone who travels abroad is asked to self-isolate for 14 days when they return to B.C.

'We are going to be tested'

Five of the new cases announced Friday are related to travel to Iran, Egypt, the Philippines and Mexico and one has been linked to the ongoing outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. All of the 11 new cases are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

Right now, two of B.C.'s COVID-19 patients are being treated in acute care in hospital. Six patients have recovered, and one has died.

Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic is a major challenge for B.C. 

"We are going to be tested in the coming days," he said. "The challenges in the next four weeks dwarf the challenges of the past four weeks"

In the last three days, B.C.'s free health helpline 811 has received more than 10,000 calls. To date, the province has tested 6,326 people for the virus.

Dix said that all British Columbians will have to play their part to reduce the spread of the disease.

"When we ask people not to travel outside of Canada, that's playing our part. When we ask people to stay home when they're sick, that's playing our part, when we ask people to wash their hands, that's playing our part," he said.

Outbreak at hospital

An investigation is underway to determine how the Lions Gate Hospital worker were exposed to the virus. Vancouver Coastal Health said the affected employees are recovering in self-isolation at home.

VCH said health officials are still investigating the source of the transmission and following up with other staff who may have been in contact with the affected colleagues.

"As of today, out of an abundance of caution, Lions Gate Hospital is restricting visitor access to family members only and will be posting signs to notify staff, patients and visitors to the hospital," the statement read.

"We are not restricting patient access to Lions Gate Hospital. Ambulatory patients will be contacted ahead of their appointments for symptom screening."

The hospital serves more than 270,000 residents from the North Shore, the Sea-to-Sky region, the Sunshine Coast and Powell River, according to VCH.

It is a recognized trauma centre with 268 beds, seven operating rooms and a range of diagnostic equipment. It is one of only five neurosurgery centres in B.C.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.