B.C.’s top doctor issues warning to refrain from large social gatherings, including at drive-ins - InfoNews

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B.C.’s top doctor issues warning to refrain from large social gatherings, including at drive-ins

Chief provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on COVID-19 on April 2, 2020.
Image Credit: Province of British Columbia
May 23, 2020 - 1:18 PM

B.C.’s provincial health officer says there have been two COVID-19 related deaths since yesterday in the Fraser Health Region and is warning that gatherings of any kind pose a risk right now.

Dr. Bonnie Henry held a live-streamed news conference Saturday afternoon for an update on the novel coronavirus in B.C. (COVID-19), as part of her regular daily updates.

The total number of cases reported in B.C. has reached 2,517 with 10 new cases reported since yesterday. The province currently has 303 active cases, with 39 are in the hospital and eight in intensive care, she said during the press conference.

A total of 157 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C. including the two additional deaths reported today in a Fraser Health long-term care home.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's order has restricted mass gatherings to no more than 50 individuals and yesterday the order was extended to outdoor drive-in events.

It now has been amended to also include no more than 50 vehicles for outdoor drive-in events, with a restriction on the sale of refreshments.

Outbreaks continue in 14 assisted living communities and in two acute care facilities. There are no new outbreaks in healthcare facilities, but a new outbreak at Nature's Touch, an Abbotsford frozen food processing plant, has been reported since yesterday's update, she said. Five of the new cases that were reported today are associated with the plant. An additional case was also reported at Mountain Institution, a federal prison in Agassiz.

"We need to remember, and these outbreaks remind us, that gatherings of any kind increase the risk of transmission," she said.

Speaking to drive-ins, she said "this is the time where we need to careful and even though 50 cars may seem like a small amount and it is less risky environment, we know that if we get people together, there will be several people in a vehicle, the chances of more contact meaning spread of this virus is very real right now."

As businesses open, they need to do so in small numbers and they must be vigilant to prevent transmission, she said.

“Gatherings of any kind is a risk right now and a concern,” Henry said. “The impacts won’t be seen until early next week.”

Henry said if things continue to go well in B.C., she will be encouraging residents to vacation at home in the province. As as long as Okanagan winery shops have their plans for reopening posted and are following physical distancing measures, she can see them being able to reopen as well.

Her only concern is for small communities, especially First Nations communities who have a greater degree of risk and loss that could happen if the virus was introduced, she said. It's up to the communities to determine when it is appropriate to have visitors this summer, she said.

Enderby's Starlight Drive-In currently has a limit of 100 cars, which is less than 50 per cent of normal capacity. It's unknown at this time how it might affect the Pleasant Valley Secondary School graduation set for the drive-in June 17.

The Starlight Drive-In was not immediately available for comment.

This story was updated at 2:50 p.m. to include additional details.

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