FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry listens during a news conference regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19, in Vancouver, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Celebrate Easter in a ‘safe way,’ Dr. Henry urges as B.C records 6 new COVID-19 deaths

Top doctor urges British Columbians to halt non-essential travel within the province

B.C. has recorded six new deaths due to COVID-19, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday (April 2).

The provincial health officer said three of them were at a Vancouver Coastal Health care home, one was in Fraser Health and two were on Vancouver Island.

In a followup email, the health ministry said the Fraser Health and Vancouver Island deaths were in hospital, and the Island Health patients were both in their 80s or 90s.

Henry said the province has also seen its first community outbreak at a prison, the Okanagan Correctional Centre.

That outbreak was “something we were concerned about and planning for,” she said.

READ MORE: Inmate at Okanagan Correctional Centre tests positive for COVID-19

Henry said there were 55 new cases across the province, leading the total number of cases to 1,121. Of those total cases, 641 have recovered – a rate of 57 per cent. The province now stands at 31 deaths and 449 active cases, with 44,639 tests completed. There are 21 care facilities with outbreaks. Henry said the hospitalization rate in B.C. is between 16 and 20 per cent for novel coronavirus cases.

There are currently 149 people hospitalized with COVID-19 , 68 of them in intensive or critical care. Of those hospitalizations, 65 are in Fraser Health, 61 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 10 in Interior Health, eight in Island Health and five in Northern Health. There are currently 4,273 empty hospital beds across the province.

The province’s top doctor struck a cautiously optimistic tone as she discussed the province’s situation, citing an early implementation of “stringent restrictions.”

“This is the flattening of our curve and we are hopeful that will continue,” she said.

But she warned British Columbians this success could be fleeting if physical distancing and self-isolation measures slow down.

“We’re in that phase where we need to be incredibly careful about what we’re doing,” Henry said.

The provincial health officer reiterated her message that next two weeks are critical in B.C.’s fight against COVID-19.

Henry urged British Columbians to halt non-essential travel within the province, especially to smaller communities that may not be able to cope with a COVID-19 outbreak.

Citing the holiday weekend coming in just over a week, she asked people to celebrate Easter in a “safe way” so the holiday doesn’t lead to more outbreaks.

“We need to think about what we can do to support people in practicing their faith without having to have in-person gatherings,” Henry said, noting she was heartened that many faith groups have already stopped face-to-face gatherings to keep their seniors safe.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said he was enthused by the federal government’s orders of personal protective equipment. He said B.C. is making a “significant effort” to secure its own, as well.

Henry said B.C. has been working on submitting data to the federal government so they can create the COVID-19 pandemic prediction Prime Minister Justin was pressed to provide earlier on Thursday.

“The modelling is only as good as the data we have,” she explained, noting that “our pandemic is going to be quite different from Ontario’s pandemic, or Prince Edward Island’s pandemic.”

B.C.’s total cases, by health authority: 525 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 386 in Fraser Health, 72 in Island Health, 121 in Interior Health and 17 in Northern Health.

B.C.’s deaths, by health authority: 24 in Vancouver Coastal Health, seven in Fraser Health and two on Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: COVID-19 predictions coming ‘soon’, but results will depend on how Canadians act

READ MORE: ‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

READ MORE: Donald Trump says Canadians on two stranded cruise ships will be heading home

@katslepian

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