What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 25, 2020

THE LATEST:

  • Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says 42 new cases of COVID-19 detected for province total of 659
  • One new death at North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre.
  • Fourteen people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. to date.
  • 64 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized. Twenty-six are in intensive care
  • The B.C. government has announced a moratorium on evictions while the province is in a state of emergency and is offering up to $500 for tenants struggling to make rent.
  • The prime minister has revealed more details about who is eligible for federal financial aid.
  • All travellers coming into Canada will have to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine as of midnight ET.
  • 183 people in B.C. have recovered and are cleared to stop isolating.
  • 3,866 hospital beds have been freed up for coronavirus patients.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in British Columbia has risen to 659, according to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

In her daily briefing, Henry also confirmed another death at North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre, bringing the total number of deaths from the novel coronavirus at the long term care facility to 11. Fourteen people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. to date.

The new numbers came as the federal government announced details around federal financial help for people who have lost income due to COVID-19. The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will provide $2,000 a month for four months for people who have lost their income because of COVID-19.

The CERB combines two previously announced benefits to simplify the application process.

Canadians eligible for the benefit include, but are not limited to:

  • Canadians who have lost their job.
  • Canadians who are sick with COVID-19, or taking care of someone who is sick.
  • Canadians who are quarantined.
  • Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for sick children, sick elderly people, or children who are at home due to school closures.
  • Canadians who have a job, but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work.
  • Self-employed individuals who are otherwise not eligible for employment insurance (EI).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said an online application portal is expected to launch by April 6. He said applicants should receive their money within 10 days of signing up, which would be mid-April.

Impact on long term care

In B.C., officials are preparing for the number of COVID-19 patients to rise significantly in the next few weeks by freeing up hospital beds to be ready in case a rush of new patients arrives.

Henry said the virus had also spread to another long term care home where a health care worker has been detected with COVID-19. The Broadway Pentecostal Lodge is in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

Six of the other long term care facilities identified with the virus have reported no new cases, but Henry said the infections at Haro Park in Vancouver's West End now include 28 residents and 27 staff.

"It does draw attention again to the fragility of our long term care facilities and the risks that we put the residents of long term care," Henry said.

Henry said the province is developing an order to ensure that health care workers are able to limit their employment to one facility only and to add measures around personal protection and restriction of visitors in the outbreak facilities.

Preparing for a 'difficult situation'

A total of 64 British Columbians are in hospital with the virus, 26 of them in intensive care.

Health Minister Adrian Dix has signalled officials are expecting many more hospitalizations in coming weeks.

"We are preparing for a much more difficult situation and … a much more difficult situation is pretty much inevitable," he told reporters Tuesday.

More than 3,860 hospital beds are now available for COVID-19 patients in B.C., after the province ordered non-urgent elective surgeries to be cancelled. Dix has said the hospital system is running at around 68 per cent of its capacity, compared to the usual 103 per cent.

Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry both said they are optimistic B.C. isn't following the same path as countries like Italy, which have seen healthcare systems overwhelmed by steep spikes in hospitalizations and deaths.

Henry said she expects to unveil detailed modelling later this week to help put B.C.'s potential trajectory into perspective.

Keeping parks open

In contrast to other regions closing down a wide range of amentities, Metro Vancouver is making "every effort" to keep most of its parks open. The region acknowledged how much green space can help the public's physical and mental health during the outbreak.

"However, if the situation changes, if the park rangers report that people are flouting the directions of the health officers, we will have no choice but to shut down our parks," said Jerry Dobrovolny, Metro Vancouver's chief administrative officer. 

Canadians have been told repeatedly to stay home as much as possible, avoid groups and keep two metres away from the next person while outdoors and visiting businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies.

Given that the incubation period for the coronavirus can be up to two weeks, cases will likely continue to rise in coming days even though British Columbians have been living under new restrictions to slow the spread. The rise in cases does not mean social distancing is not working; a number of cases confirmed now would have been transmitted before social distancing began.

B.C. officials have said people can go outside for fresh air and exercise, but only in the company of members of the same household and at a distance from everyone else.

Mike McArthur/CBC

Transmission within the community

Nearly half of all COVID-19 cases in Canada are now linked to transmission within the community, rather than travel, which means it's much more difficult to monitor how it's spreading.

"You don't know where the virus is at any particular moment in time, and now what you have is basically the potential for that person to pass it on to a much larger group of people," said Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the University of Manitoba.

Important reminders:

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

On Wednesday, Trudeau announced that Canada has accelerated its testing to 10,000 people per day and is ramping up production of emergency medical equipment and medication. More efforts — such as enforcing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for international travellers, which begins Wednesday at midnight — are also on their way as cases of COVID-19 increase.

As of 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, there were more than 3,400 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 36 deaths and 197 cases listed by provinces as recovered or resolved. (Not all provinces are listing details about people who have recovered.) 

There has also been one COVID-19-related death of a Canadian reported abroad. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's top public health officer, said a passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship died in Japan.

For a look at what's happening in other provinces and the territories, check the CBC interactive case tracker.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep at least two metres away from people who are sick.
  • When outside the home, keep two metres away from other people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Unless you're already infected, masks won't help you.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

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