B.C. sees spike in COVID-19 cases as officials call on public to follow health orders

·3 min read

VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials are reporting a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, while they order a pause indoor physical activities. 

B.C. recorded 941 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 10 deaths.

There are 7,732 active COVID-19 cases in B.C., and 284 people are in hospital. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a joint statement that residents need to support B.C.'s health-care workers by slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

The latest peak in numbers comes as health officials ordered dance studios, yoga studios and other indoor physical activity spaces to suspend operations as new guidance is developed.

Henry and Dix urged the public to think of COVID-19 patients and the effect the virus is having on their family members.

Earlier Tuesday, the Fraser Health Authority announced that 55 patients and 40 staff at Burnaby General Hospital had tested positive for COVID-19 and most patient admissions to the hospital would be suspended.

The health authority also announced five deaths due to the virus.

Patients in the intensive care unit, maternity, and community palliative care will still be admitted.

The health authority says a fire in the hospital's emergency room last week contributed to the outbreak, as patients were moved to areas of the hospital they normally would not be.

Also on Tuesday, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth extended the province's state of emergency until Dec. 8 and laid out enforcement measures for wearing masks in B.C.

People 12 years and older are required to wear masks in indoor settings, ranging from malls to public transportation, and failure to do so can result in a $230 fine.

People who cannot wear a mask, or who cannot put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others, are exempt from the new order.

The detailed guidelines come as the union representing British Columbia teachers called on parents to support a "culture" of wearing masks as it continues to push for a mandatory mask policy in schools.

Teri Mooring, the head of the BC Teachers' Federation, said in an open letter to parents that the union is looking for help in implementing and following mask-wearing protocols.

The federation has repeatedly called on provincial health officials to make masks mandatory in schools.

Mooring said some schools have already taken the step to make mask wearing normal and expected and it helps everyone to make schools feel safer. 

Henry has said that schools have specific COVID-19 safety plans and are exempt from the new mandatory mask requirements set out last week. 

Henry told a news conference Monday that students are in schools with a group of people they see day-to-day, unlike businesses where people interact with others they don't know, necessitating wearing a mask.

She said she supports mask wearing in common areas and among adults at schools.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.

The Canadian Press