Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 21 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one additional death from the virus in British Columbia Saturday.
There have now been 2,428 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the province, and 141 people have died.
Currently, there are 355 active cases of the virus in the province, Henry said, adding that 49 people are in hospital and 11 are in intensive care.
Saturday’s update comes one day after WorkSafeBC introduced its guidelines for specific industries under the provincial government’s reopening plan.
Much of the discussion at Henry’s press conference focused on those guidelines and the broader reopening plan, which moves to phase two on Tuesday.
“No matter what your business is or where you may be operating, it’s very important to remember the most effective ways to reduce the potential for transmission of COVID-19,” Henry said. “Those are: making sure we have safe physical distancing, never allowing anyone with symptoms to come into your place of work, and this applies to you, your employees and customers.”
She described this second measure – staying home when sick and providing appropriate support to those who are doing so – as “the most important thing that we as a community need to do” in order to open up.
“We have to make a pact with each other that we are going to keep our germs to ourselves and stay away from others if we’re feeling unwell,” Henry said.
She also described several principles that guided the creation of the guidelines, noting that they include both engineering and administrative controls.
Engineering controls include Plexiglass shields between workers and customers, she said. Administrative controls are things that reduce the number of people in a place at a given time and promote distancing, such as one-way aisles in grocery stores and capacity limits for businesses.
In addition to these measures, Henry said, people are urged to wear non-medical, cloth masks to prevent the transmission of their own droplets during the limited amounts of time when they are in close proximity to others.
That said, Henry warned that masks are the “least effective” of the measures recommended to prevent transmission of the virus. She said they should not be considered a substitute for physical distancing or other engineering and administrative controls.
Asked for her response to restaurants who say the burden of purchasing extra equipment and limiting customer capacity to comply with new guidelines will make it impossible for them to make money, Henry was sympathetic. She called the guidelines restrictive and challenging, but said they’re necessary at this time.
“We know that managing this virus is the best thing that we can do to manage our economy,” Henry said. “We are not yet at the place where it is safe to have many people gathering in an indoor environment, sharing food.”
The provincial health officer said there have been no new outbreaks of COVID-19 since health officials provided their last update on the virus Friday afternoon.
However, the two new outbreaks announced Friday – one at an intensive care unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and one at the Oppenheimer Group vegetable processing plant in Coquitlam – highlight the lingering risk posed by the virus in B.C., Henry said.
She said six staff members and two patients at the Abbotsford unit have tested positive for the coronavirus, while there are three cases associated with the Oppenheimer Group outbreak.
There are 15 active outbreaks at long-term care and assisted-living facilities in B.C., as well as five in hospital acute care units, Henry said.
The vast majority of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases have been detected in the Lower Mainland, where 1,184 people have tested positive for the virus in the Fraser Health region and 878 have tested positive in Vancouver Coastal Health.
Elsewhere in the province, there have been 181 cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health, 126 in Island Health and 59 in Northern Health.
Of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C., 1,932 are now considered recovered. That figure represents nearly 80 per cent of all cases recorded in the province since the pandemic began.