There have been 31 new cases of COVID-19 reported in B.C. since Friday and six more people in the province have died from the respiratory illness, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday.
Henry said all six of the deaths were residents of long-term care facilities, four in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and two in the Fraser Health region.
“To lose six people, all in long term care, over the last three days is a source of enormous grief for the families involved and for the caregivers involved,” said Adrian Dix, B.C.’s health minister.
One of the Fraser Health deaths actually occurred in June at the Langley Lodge, but the cause of death has only recently been attributed to COVID-19.
Last week, the B.C. government announced it would be easing visiting restrictions at long-term care facilities, which have been at the centre of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the province.
Despite the deaths, Henry said it is still safe to partly open up the facilities and allow the province’s 32,000 long-term care residents to reunite with friends and family.
“From the very beginning, we knew that once this virus got into a long-term care home, the potential for people to die … goes dramatically up,” said Henry.
“I think the good news is that we have reduced the amount of transmission in our community so much so that we have very few people in hospital and we have very few people who are transmitting in our community. And that’s why we feel we’re at that balance where we need to allow more people to go into long term care.”
Just three long-term-care outbreaks — Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver, Maple Hill in Langley and Tabor Home in Abbotsford — remain active in British Columbia.
The 31 new cases, recorded over three reporting periods from Friday to Monday, raises the provincial total to 2,978 with 156 cases still active.
There are 16 people in hospital with four in critical care.
Henry said a number of the new cases were people who had either travelled to U.S. or who had been in contact with somebody who had recently crossed the border.
Henry also said Monday that she has not seen an increase in infections connected with the recent anti-racism demonstrations held in B.C.
“Currently, we do not have any cases that have been associated with the protests that took place,” said Henry, who pointed out that the outside nature of the protests, along with masks being worn by most participants, would have helped keep the virus in check.
“So it’s something inherently different about what you’re doing with a group of people partying on a beach versus what we’re seeing with some of these protests,” she said.
Transmission at parties and other gatherings could be attributed to close contact over a continuous period in a closed environment, Henry said.
“It’s when you’re spending time with people, sharing foods and drinks with people, when you’re partying, dancing, laughing, kissing, hugging … those are the situations you are much more likely to spread droplets between people.”
— With files from The Canadian Press