B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced four new COVID-19-related deaths and a three-day average of 122 new tested COVID-19 cases in the province over the weekend.
Across the province, 60 people are hospitalized, including 21 people in ICU. Henry announced a new outbreak at Yaletown House long-term care facility but also the end of an outbreak at Queen’s Park facility. A dozen nursing homes still have ongoing outbreaks.
The 366 new cases between Friday and Sunday bring the total active cases up to 1,987 and the province’s death toll now sits at 227, on the same day Premier John Horgan called an unscheduled election for October 24.
“I have worked with Elections BC to make sure we have safe guidelines for elections,” said Henry, adding she and Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman will brief the public Tuesday on voting protocols.
“Elections BC has taken a number of measures that can be done safely,” including in northern communities and long-term care homes. She said she expects mail-in ballots will play a more significant role than in the past.
Henry said there was no discussion with Horgan about calling an election. She noted Minister of Health Adrian Dix will no longer attend daily press conferences.
Henry addressed many specifics surrounding COVID-19 and schools, which has been controversial, with the B.C. Teachers Federation filing a complaint with the labour relations board last week given the lack of physical distancing standards in place, as opposed to prior stated standards.
Henry suggested physical distancing standards of two metres could be lessened in controlled environments.
In schools, “distance does not need to be so great as long as your interactions are limited,” said Henry.
But, “if your job requires you to be around a lot of people you want to slide up the distance scale.”
“We must stress the layers of protection we have in the school system”
Henry said it should be reassuring no schools have experienced outbreaks.
“I do want to thank teachers and staff for the amazing things they’ve done. I have heard many things about the happiness found in classrooms. It’s been challenging, I know,” said Henry.
Henry said if a student attends school with COVID-19, public health workers (contact tracers) will determine close contacts of a student. She said it would be “highly unlikely” many classmates would get the disease. She stressed close contacts would be those who are in close proximity to an infected student or school worker.
It is not clear how officials would determine close contacts, particularly if students are moving around in a classroom during the course of their day.