VICTORIA — There have been three more deaths from COVID-19 in British Columbia, all stemming from a long-term care home in North Vancouver where the first death in Canada was reported.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that 30 more people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C., which now has 103 cases.
There has been a cluster of cases at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, where a man in his 80s with pre-existing health conditions died on March 8.
Henry said at least four of the latest cases are connected to a dental conference that was held in Vancouver on March 6 and 7, and that anyone from around the world who attended the event must self-isolate.
“They should not be at work,” she told a news conference. “They should not be at school. They should not be around others. This is the critical time where we’re starting to see people turning up with illness related to the conference.”
She said letters were sent last week to people who attended the Pacific Dental Conference advising them to self-isolate and monitor their health. Henry said about 15,000 people attended the conference.
Henry also announced increased measures to fight the novel coronavirus, including directing the attorney general to close casinos. Henry said events and gatherings are now restricted to 50 people or less, which followed her 250-person limit last week.
She said hospitals will cancel elective surgeries and only emergency and urgent procedures will be performed in order to increase available acute care beds.
“This is a very challenging time for all of us,” said Henry. ``This is what we need to do now.″
Henry said she is urging everyone to “come together as a community” and stay connected with seniors, many of whom are isolated in their own homes.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the cancellation of thousands of scheduled and elective surgeries at B.C.’s hospitals represents a fundamental shift to increase available acute care beds and prepare for a “changing situation.”
He also said despite the federal government’s decision to continue to allow U.S. citizens to enter Canada without restrictions, the province would prefer they stay home.
“It’s our strong view and our strong message that visitors from the United States not come to B.C.,” said Dix. “Don’t come, because at this moment that is the wrong thing to do.”
Dix said he expects an announcement Tuesday on extending the current spring break at B.C. schools.
Major cities in B.C. began closing facilities on Monday as well.
Vancouver and Surrey announced the closing of public recreation centres and libraries.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart also encouraged Vancouver’s bars and restaurants to limit their capacity if they cannot ensure at least one metre of distance between people, while suggesting residents order take out or delivery to continue supporting those businesses.
Fire Chief Darrell Reid said Monday that the Vancouver department is looking at changing its service model so that firefighters only respond to the most critical medical calls, which may include COVID-19 cases in the future.
He said the idea is to triage calls to ensure the department can still respond to major fires and other emergencies. Under a triage system, emergency calls would be prioritized using a scoring system based on their severity.
With files from Amy Smart in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2020.