The province has seen its first community death as a result of COVID-19, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday (March 30).
B.C.’s top doctor said the death was one of two that have been recorded since Saturday. In that 48 hours, the province confirmed 86 new cases for a total of 970, with around 3,000 people tested each day.
“This was a person who died in their home and it was as a result of COVID-19,” she said of the community death, noting she would not comment further on the case. The BC Coroners Service confirmed the man died in the Vancouver Coastal Health area. The additional deaths bring B.C.’s total to 19 as a result of the virus.
Henry said 469 people have recovered, for a total of 48 per cent of cases, and more than 70 of those recovered patients had been hospitalized at some point during their treatment.
As of Monday, COVID-19 cases have been found in 13 care homes, she said.
Henry said there are currently 106 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 60 of those in critical care units. They remain primarily older, she noted, although one child briefly hospitalized.
“This is the critical time for us,” she said, but warned that physical distancing and self-isolation remain key to slow a potential “surge” in COVID-19 cases to a “trickle.”
“We have not reached the peak,” Henry warned.
“[But] most people are absolutely doing what we need them to do.”
B.C. is in its second incubation period of COVID-19 infections and Henry said the next two weeks would determine how many new cases emerged.
The cases, broken down by health authority: 472 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 323 in Fraser Health, 67 in Island Health, 94 in Interior Health and 14 in Northern Health.
“Every community needs to know they are not immune,” Henry said, noting the province has been working with industrial camps in northern B.C.
“You can’t just abandon a large mine or industrial site,” she said. “That’s not safe for the environment, that’s not safe for the community.”
Henry’s words came after the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs sent an open letter to federal and provincial officials, asking them to pause work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Henry said patients waiting for a spot in an alternate level of care facility are being moved to longterm care. Additional off-site treatment areas are being set up at the Vancouver Convention Centre and in a new tower at Royal Columbia Hospital, but no one will be moved into either facility this week.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are 4,233 empty hospital beds in B.C., leading to an occupancy rate of 60.6 per cent for hospital beds and 53.7 per cent for critical care beds. The province has cancelled elective surgeries and moved or discharged patients to make space for coronavirus cases.
Treatment still up in the air
Henry said health officials are watching developments on hydroxychloroquine use to treat COVID-19. The drug, which has made headlines recently as a potential treatment, is already approved in Canada.
“The jury is still out on whether it has benefit or not,” she said.
“It has been used in some limited protocols in our longterm care facility outbreaks. But we don’t have enough data and time yet to know whether it’s been effective.”
The province is looking into the drug as both a preventative treatment for people who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and as a way to treat the disease.