FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on the coronavirus in the province, during a news conference in Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

Five more people have died due to COVID-19 in B.C., Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday (March 31).

B.C.’s top doctor said the province’s total number of cases has risen by 43 to 1,013 in the past 24 hours. A total of 24 people have now died in B.C. Henry said the youngest death has been of a person in their 60s, while the rest have been in people in their 70s or older. Four of the five just-announced deaths were in Vancouver Coastal Health, while one was in Fraser Health.

Henry addressed young people especially, asking them to help the province flatten the curve as the province is hitting a “critical juncture” in the fight against the virus.

“Across the province, any gathering is a danger and none of them should be happening right now,” she said, aside from small groups of people from the same household.

“No one is immune to this virus but everyone can make a difference. If you’re younger, stay apart; that is our duty.”

Neither Henry nor Health Minister Adrian Dix were optimistic about life returning to normal in B.C. any time soon.

“Zero chance for the end of April, little to none in May, or in the immediate weeks after that,” Dix said about the possibility of provincial health orders lifting. The current orders include a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people and a shut-down of bars and sit-down restaurants as well as salons and other personal services. People are also expected to stay at least two metres away from non-household members.

But there was good news: the province continues to have a strong recovery rate. Of the 1,013 total cases, 507 have recovered, bringing the rate to 50 per cent.

Henry said she is still hoping the first wave of COVID-19 could lighten over the summer, as it does for influenza, but that the province would probably see a second wave in the fall.

“Realistically, we are going to be in some form of having to monitor prevent transmission of this virus until we have a vaccine,” she said. “A vaccine is something we really need to push for.”

As of Tuesday, there are 128 people in hospital and 61 in ICU. Dix said there were 55 hospital beds taken up by COVID-19 patients in Vancouver Coastal Health, 53 in Fraser Health, seven in Island Health, eight in Interior Health and five in Northern Health. Across B.C., there are 4,171 empty beds, many of those due to the cancellation of elective surgeries.

Henry said those 61 people in ICU Tuesday are likely different than the 60 in intensive care on Monday, as people are put on, and taken off, ventilators.

“We have a policy very early on for ventilating people early,” she said, thanking that decision for B.C.’s high recovery rate.

The province’s other policies came under fire Tuesday, as Henry defended the decision to identify new cases only by health authority.

“This is not something that is about protecting people privacy, necessarily, it’s about risk to the public… and the measures we all need to take in communities across the province,” Henry said, noting that community transmission of COVID-19 means everyone is at risk.

Interior Health recorded their first community outbreak at an agricultural facility. Temporary foreign workers at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna have been isolated, she said.

Across B.C., the total number of cases broken down by health authority: 476 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 348 in Fraser Health, 67 in Island Health, 107 in Interior Health and 15 in Northern Health.

READ MORE: B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

READ MORE: 10% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are 40 or younger: Canada’s top doctor

READ MORE: Outbreak of COVID-19 at West Kelowna garden centre


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