What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 23, 2020

THE LATEST:

  • There are now 472 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Thirteen people have died.
  • Officials said 100 people in B.C. have recovered and have been cleared to stop isolating.
  • Premier John Horgan announced a $5-billion relief plan he and the finance minister said would support citizens and businesses.
  • MLAs pass legislation protecting jobs of workers who take leave because of COVID-19.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, using some of his strongest messaging since the outbreak began.
  • Municipalities across the Lower Mainland closed parks, trails and public outdoor facilities over the weekend after crowds did not listen to social distancing orders.
  • The City of Vancouver said it will fine businesses up to $50,000 if customers aren't kept at least two metres apart. Individuals could be fined up to $1,000.
  • Several small communities across B.C. have asked visitors to stay away.
  • B.C. health-care workers say they're grappling with conflicting messages amid the pandemic.
  • B.C. remains under a provincial state of emergency.

Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James announced a $5-billion relief plan for B.C. citizens and businesses grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

James said the plan focuses on protecting the health and safety of British Columbians and frontline health-care workers; support for people and businesses; and setting the stage for B.C.'s ongoing financial recovery.

"This plan is a first step, but a critical step," James said, adding it could change going forward.

It includes a one-time $1,000 tax-free payment to people whose ability to work has been hampered by the crisis. James said the plan also includes supports for seniors, renters and people with disabilities.

"No one will lose their apartment because of COVID-19," Horgan said.

Tax deferrals and supports for businesses, including tourism businesses are also in the plan. The deferrals would be looked at again in the fall.

Vancouver Park Board/Facebook

During an emergency sitting of the legislature on Monday afternoon, MLAs also approved amendments to the Employment Standards Act that prevent employers from firing workers who have to take unpaid leave because they are sick, need to self-isolate or have to care for a child who is ill.

The changes are retroactive to Jan. 27, the date the first presumptive case of COVID-19 was identified in B.C.

Distancing reinforced

Politicians and health officials both provincially and nationally have been stern in recent days about the seriousness of social, or physical, distancing: Stay home and stay away from others, or enforcement might become necessary.

Still, a warm, sunny weekend saw hordes of people across the South Coast leave home to enjoy the spring weather on the region's beaches, trails and parks, with many crowding together for picnics, hikes, parties games — despite public health orders to avoid groups to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Outrage over people who refused to stay home and at least two metres apart from others prompted several municipalities to shut down their outdoor facilities.

On Monday, the City of Vancouver unanimously passed a motion allowing the city to fine businesses up to $50,000 and individuals up to $1,000 for not following new distancing rules.

Canadians have been ordered to continue social distancing, or physical distancing, by staying home unless it's absolutely essential, keeping two metres away from the next person and avoiding groups — all to slow the spread of the virus and ease the burden on health-care workers.

'Enough is enough,' prime minister says

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to stay home, otherwise the federal government will use all measures available, including enforcement, to get people to listen.

"We've all seen the pictures online of the people who think they're invincible. You're not. Enough is enough. Go home and stay home," Trudeau said.

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

The prime minister said he has another call with premiers across the country Monday night to discuss distancing orders.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said people can go outside for fresh air, but only with members of the same household and while staying away from others.

Trudeau said the federal government is planning to invest $192 million to help create and produce vaccines for COVID-19 in Canada. He also announced $5 billion in additional lending capacity for farmers struggling through the outbreak, through Farm Credit Canada.

Vancouver looks to fine disobedient businesses

In Vancouver, officials closed parking lots at its most popular beaches and shuttered outdoor recreation facilities like basketball and tennis courts. 

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said councillors will meet virtually Monday to pass a bylaw to allow fines of up to $50,000 for businesses that don't comply with the province's health orders. 

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Other cities including Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and New Westminster implemented similar closures of their outdoor facilities. North Vancouver closed popular trails like Quarry Rock and the Lynn Valley suspension bridge after crowds swarmed the trails.

Meanwhile, some smaller B.C. communities like Squamish and Bowen Island are asking visitors to stay away altogether. Many of the Gulf Islands, popular destinations for weekends away, are also asking tourists not to come.

The City of Victoria is working with B.C. Housing and Island Health in order to rapidly shelter its homeless population and increase social distancing. 

"No one thinks it's a good idea for people to be living outside at any time, but particularly in a health emergency," said Mayor Lisa Helps.

For the time-being, the all-weather field in Beacon Hill and Topaz Park will be set up so people will have access to washrooms, washing facilities, meals, and the ability to shelter in a tent. Royal Athletic Park will be set up for the most vulnerable residents with additional support for mental health or addictions. 

BC Housing has been directed to use any of the city's facilities to find indoor sheltering opportunities. Any buildings the city owns — like community centres or gyms — and possibly school district buildings could be used to temporarily house homeless residents for the next four to six months, Helps says.

'Greatest fight of our time'

Over the weekend, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the effort to stop the novel coronavirus is "the greatest fight of our time."

He reminded British Columbians that self-isolation measures are orders, and are not optional.  

On Saturday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered personal service establishments like salons, spas, massage and tattoo parlours to close. 

472 cases in B.C.

On Monday the province confirmed another 48 cases of COVID-19, bringing B.C.'s total to 472.

Health officials said 13 people have now died of the disease, 10 of them connected to the outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where 37 residents and 19 workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Of B.C.'s confirmed cases, 33 people are in hospital, with 14 in intensive care, and 100 people are considered to be recovered. They have been cleared to stop isolating.

CBC

There are now five long-term care facilities in the region with cases of the illness diagnosed in residents or staff.

Meanwhile, some health-care workers say they're grappling with conflicting messages about whether they should be working if they've recently returned to Canada after travelling.

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

Canada had 2,049 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths as of 2 p.m. PT on Monday. Here's a breakdown at the number of cases, including deaths and recoveries, by province and territory.

  • British Columbia: 472 confirmed cases, including 100 resolved and 13 deaths.
  • Ontario: 503 confirmed cases, including eight resolved and six deaths.
  • Alberta: 259 confirmed cases, including three resolved and one death.
  • Quebec: 628 confirmed cases, including one resolved and four deaths.
  • Saskatchewan: 66 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Manitoba: 20 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • New Brunswick: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Nova Scotia: 41 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Prince Edward Island: Three confirmed cases.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 24 confirmed and presumptive cases.
  • Northwest Territories: One confirmed case.
  • Yukon: Two confirmed cases.
  • Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed cases.

Presumptive cases are individuals who have tested positive, but still await confirmation with the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Not all provinces are listing figures on those who have recovered. The recent COVID-19 related death of a Canadian in Japan is not currently included in the province-by-province tally of cases.

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.