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Health officer updates BC’s weekend COVID-19 numbers solo

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 4:00 PDT, Mon September 21, 2020

After Premier John Horgan called an election this morning, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry delivered today’s COVID-19 update alone. Health Minister Adrian Dix will not participate in briefings for the duration of the election campaign, but Henry said he and other relevant ministers will remain involved behind the scenes.

Henry announced 366 new cases of COVID-19 in BC over the weekend, including seven that are epidemiologically linked. From Friday to Saturday there were 121 cases, from Saturday to Sunday an additional 117, and from Sunday to today a further 128 new cases.

This brings BC’s total case count to 8,208. A record 1,987 cases are active, an increase of nearly 200 from Friday’s number. Sixty people are in hospital, 21 of whom are in critical care.

Sadly, there were four additional deaths over the weekend that are linked to COVID-19. They include two people in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, one in the Fraser Health region and one in the Northern Health region. BC has now recorded 127 deaths associated with the virus since the pandemic began.

There are now 3,233 people under active public health monitoring as a result of exposure to a confirmed case. This represents another record high in the province.

There was one new healthcare outbreak announced, at Yaletown House longterm care facility in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. A single healthcare worker tested positive as part of this outbreak. The outbreak at Queens Park acute care unit has been declared over. Fifteen active healthcare outbreaks remain, 12 in longterm care or assisted living and three in acute care.

There were no new community outbreaks announced, but exposures continue to occur. School exposures are also being posted online, and while Henry says there have been some exposures they have mostly been very low risk. There have been no clusters, transmission risks, or outbreaks in schools at this point, she said.

Henry also responded to the many questions she says she’s received on what constitutes a safe physical distance. 

“Think about it this way: on one end of the spectrum is a person you’ve never met before and on the other end of the spectrum is your household bubble. Everyone else is in between,” she said.

With household contacts, it’s fine to have close physical contact including hugging and kissing, Henry said.

“For classmates and colleagues who you see most days in a more structured environment, the distance may not need to be as great as long as you keep those interactions in a managed way, so you’re always sitting next to the same person, you’re always making sure you’re part of that same small group, and that’s part of the same regular group that you’re together with in the classroom,” Henry said. “And no mixing between multiple groups.”

With your social group of a “safe six,” it’s appropriate to be in close contact but still important to avoid physical contact like hugging and kissing, Henry said. And when inside and unable to maintain a two metre distance from those outside your bubble, that’s when it’s most important to wear a mask. 

As BC prepares for respiratory season, Henry said it’s important to “stick with that same small group of friends, the same colleagues, the same classmates.”

During the lead-up to BC’s October election, Henry reassured people that the COVID-19 response will continue uninterrupted with written updates every weekday and an in-person briefing twice a week. Henry said she has also worked with Elections BC to establish a plan for a safe election, and will hold a briefing tomorrow with the chief electoral officer.

For a list of community exposure events, click here.

For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.

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