What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 14, 2020

THE LATEST:

  • Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updated figures at noon, announcing nine new cases.
  • There are now 73 cases of COVID-19 in B.C.
  • Henry has made an order banning all public gatherings of more than 250 people.
  • She has also asked that people increase social distances.
  • Canada's top doctor has advised every Canadian to cancel all travel outside of the country, in line with provincial recommendations in B.C.
  • Canada's foreign affairs minister has advised all Canadians abroad to return home while commercial means remain available.
  • B.C. Ferries has reduced sailings on Sunday and Monday to meet current traffic demands.
  • Whistler Blackcomb will close the resort for one week to reassess its approach toward coronavirus.
  • Organizers have cancelled the annual BMO Vancouver Marathon.
  • Universities are making the move to online classes to prevent disease spread.
  • B.C. courts have cancelled all jury selections.

What you need to know today

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix provided an update on the novel coronavirus at noon, announcing nine new cases bumping the total number of cases in the province to 73. It also provided new details about B.C.'s testing measures and discouraged people from stockpiling supplies.

The province has a new testing strategy which will focus primarily on health-care workers, those who are already in hospital and people in long-term care homes.

Those returning to Canada from international travel will not be tested, even if they show mild symptoms. The Ministry of Health as directed anyone coming from outside the country to stay at home and self-isolate for 14-days.

Canadians have been advised to cancel all non-essential travel outside of the country, and on Saturday, Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne advised all Canadians currently abroad to return to Canada "via commercial means while they remain available." This is a step up from the previous directive which encouraged travellers to think about returning  and led to a scramble at airports around the world

Health-care officials have asked residents to start social distancing — not getting closer to other people, aside from what is necessary — to lessen the chance of the novel coronavirus spreading through large groups at once. On Friday, Dr. Henry took the additional step making an order banning all public gatherings of more than 250 people.

Vancouver Coastal Health announced that visitors to all its facilities would be restricted to family members.

On Saturday, BC Ferries cancelled a number of sailings departing Swartz bay and Tsawwassen "to meet current service demands." Two sailings are also cancelled on Monday. 

Also on Saturday, the owner of Whistler Blackcomb — Vail Resorts — announced it will close all 37 of its resorts around the world for eight days beginning Sunday to reassess its approach to guest and employee safety amid coronavirus.

But with Saturday marking the start of spring break for many B.C. families, there are still plenty of things to do in the age of social distancing. 

B.C.'s major universities are now making the switch to online classes for the rest of the term, and B.C. Supreme Court has cancelled all jury selections until the end of May.

Cases in B.C.

B.C. has now identified a total of 73 COVID-19 patients, including one man in his 80s who died. Four people have recovered fully and two have recovered from their symptoms and will undergo further testing.

Important reminders:

B.C.'s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the risk of contracting coronavirus in B.C. communities remains low.

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

In Canada, public health officials have reported at least 250 confirmed or presumptive cases. 

  • 103 confirmed cases in Ontario, including five people who have recovered.
  • 39 confirmed cases in Alberta.
  • 24 confirmed cases in Quebec.
  • 1 confirmed case and 1 presumptive case in New Brunswick.
  • 4 confirmed cases in Manitoba.
  • Two presumptive cases in Saskatchewan.
  • P.E.I. confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Saturday.
  • Newfoundland has one case.
  • Two confirmed cases among Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which has been assessing risk as the global outbreak progresses, has said the risk remains low in Canada.

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 about testing?

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) says testing is currently available for people who have a history of travel to regions affected by COVID-19 and symptoms typical of an infection.

Affected areas include Mainland China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

To find out if you can be tested, contact your health-care provider or call HealthLink BC at 811 to talk to a nurse and get advice. Stay away from others and do not visit a health-care provider without calling ahead. 

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • 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.