British Columbia faces the prospect of another lockdown if British Columbians who flout guidelines for social gatherings don’t “get with the program,” Premier John Horgan warned Monday.
The daily case numbers and hospitalizations are approaching alarming levels in B.C., with the worst-hit region being Fraser Health. There are now 133 people in hospital and 43 in intensive care.
In a Saturday update, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry announced 567 new cases of COVID-19 in one day, since Friday. On Monday, she announced another 998 new cases and five deaths since Saturday.
There have been two new outbreaks at long term care homes: Harrison Point and Normanna Living. There are now 32 long term care and assited living facilities with at least one infection, and five acute care facilities.
The spike in new cases and hospitalizations has prompted Henry to announce new targeted restrictions, some of which the public has found confusing.
In one week, new restrictions on private gatherings in B.C. have gone from immediate family and a “safe six” to immediate family only.
That means that even wedding and funeral receptions are "not allowed right now."
She suggested anyone planning to get married in the next few weeks should postpone their receptions. Henry also encouraged people to observe Remembrance Day from home this year and not attend public ceremonies. She also urged all British Columbians not to travel outside their own regions except for essential purposes.
Group fitness classes, like yoga and spin classes, have been ordered closed, though gyms and fitness centres are still allowed to operate. Henry said that the safety protocols that were in place for group fitness classes have proven inadequate.
"We thought we had adequate protocols in place," Henry said, adding: "This is not a reflection of those businesses. It is a reflection that we are continuing to learn about this virus."
Outdoor sports are still allowed, but travelling to other communities for games is not.
While the daily new cases are troubling enough, it’s the number of people being hospitalized that is the most worrisome. There has been a rapid rise of people sick enough to require hospitalization over the past two weeks.
Henry described some of the new restrictions she has ordered as "a short-term pause on non-essential activities and travel to ensure that our essential activities, like school and work and health care can safely continue."
She said that where good safety protocols are in place, including schools and restaurants, the transmission remains low. It's in situations where there are fewer or no controls in place that are the problem.
"Most businesses can and should continue to stay open," she said.
She also urged those who can work from home to consider doing so again, for the next couple of weeks.
In a press conference Monday, prior to Henry’s press conference, Horgan said his government wants to keep schools and businesses open, while bending the COVID curve down again.
“We want to do that by keeping the economy open to the greatest extent possible, but it’s going to require people to get with the program,” he said. “And there’s a whole bunch of people that are not abiding by the minimalist rules we have in place.”
He warned that a return to a Stage 1 lockdown may be needed if British Columbians do not abide by restrictions on social gatherings.
“That’s the end result if we don’t start to see these numbers come down,” Horgan said.
Here are the case counts since Saturday:
New cases: 998
BC Total: 18,714
Active cases: 4,891
Intensive care: 43
Confirmed cases by region:
Vancouver Coastal Health: 210
Fraser Health: 737
Island Health: 12
Interior Health: 28
Northern Health: 11