B.C. confirmed 66 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, for a total of 725, as Health Minister Adrian Dix warned the coming days and weeks would be a 'difficult time' for British Columbians and urged people to continue to follow social distancing measures.
Thursday's cases include four more residents and three health care workers at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, and two residents and one staff member at Haro Park Centre in Vancouver, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
There are no new deaths, and 186 people have now recovered from their illness.
In total, nine long-term care facilities in B.C. have outbreaks of COVID-19.
Across the province, there are now 359 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 241 cases in Fraser Health, 52 in Island Health, 62 in Interior Health and 11 in Northern Health.
Sixty-six people are in hospital, 26 of whom are in ICU, said Henry.
Henry said she is "really pleased" with the measures implemented by B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth earlier Thursday, which have defined what essenial services are in the province.
There are now new prescriber guidelines, said Henry, to support people in places like Vancouver's Downtown East Side who may have substance abuse or addiction issues.
"These guidelines are to enable us to provide a safe supply for people and assure that they're able to comply with our public health advice around isolation," she said.
The province will also be working with the federal government to align its enforcement of the mandatory quarantine, if needed, said Henry, although it was already an order for British Columbians to self-isolate after returning from travel.
"We have had good compliance with this order," said Henry, "although there were a couple of occasions we needed to enforce it."
Henry again stressed the importance that British Columbians do their part, not gather in groups and stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
"We can all make a difference but we need everyone to be 100-per-cent committed to doing this," she said. "We need to take care of each other right now. We need to be kind and we need everybody to do their part."
'The action we take today matters'
There will be difficult times ahead for British Columbians, said Dix, and people need to follow the health guidelines put in place to help flatten the curve of coronavirus cases.
"This will be a difficult time, as difficult as we've ever seen as a province, but we know that if we do what we're asked to do, we can take the steps we need to bend the curve to ensure that all of us have the resources to deal with this, really, unprecedented in our lifetime, public health emergency," said Dix.
Dix said there is currently a huge international demand for personal protective equipement (PPE), some of which is due to supply chain disruptions from the coronavirus.
"Our primary focus is to protect healthcare workers," he said. "It's our determination to continue to do so."
The province is currently conserving and micromanaging its existing PPE inventory, said Dix, while also taking steps to ensure that the right equipment is in place and prepared, and can be moved around quickly depending on the needs of healthcare workers.
Dix said B.C. has, and is, receiving some supply from the federal government's National Bank, as is working on sourcing more equipment from other sources.
The province has also cleared 3,903 acute care beds in hospitals and 371 critical care beds to ensure there's space for COVID-19 patients.
He also said the decision to cancel all non-elective surgeries was one of the most difficult choices B.C. had to make.
It's also critical to protect people in care homes, which is why Henry issued the order barring long-term care workers from working in multiple facilities, said Dix.
He also stressed the importance of following social distancing measures, which help protect healthcare workers and loved ones. .
"The action we take today matters," said Dix. "These (actions) will help us, help save the ones we love tomorrow. Today, and all the days and weeks ahead, we have to work as a whole society...All of us have to be all-in to do what we can to defeat (the coronavirus)."
On Friday, health officials will be presenting modelled scenarios, or projections, of the progression of COVID-19 in B.C., said Dix.