First critical case of COVID-19 infection in B.C. announced

B.C. has a new case of the COVID-19 virus infection, and the first that has rendered its carrier in critical condition locally.

The latest case brings the total number of COVID-19 positives in B.C. to 13, although officials stressed four patients have recovered, and three others - while still technically in quarantine - are no longer showing symptoms.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said the newest case, a woman in her 80s, is now in critical condition and being treated at the ICU at Vancouver General Hospital. The woman, a resident within the Vancouver Coastal Health Region, has a "serious case" of the virus after travelling to India and Hong Kong, Henry said. The patient showed no symptom in India but expressed discomfort upon return to Vancouver.

The woman was "on a tour group in India" - returning middle of last week - and officials are now tracking all people in the same tour group, Henry added. "Currently, India has not reported a lot of cases, only some sporadic cases. But the numbers have increase in the last few days... Her [the newest case's] symptoms are likely to be more related to Hong Kong… but we are still investigating."

Officials said they have been preparing for the situation, and all precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus at VGH as it treats this latest case. Henry again urged people who travelled recently and are showing symptoms to call their physicians for how to get tested safely; in this latest case, the woman's family contacted doctors after her condition worsened and was transported to VGH by ambulance.

Henry said the patient - who has pre-existing medical conditions that would put her at additional risk to the coronavirus strand originating from Wuhan - had "minimal" contact with others since her return from abroad.

In the meantime, Henry urged people who are sick to exercise caution, avoiding travel, public appearances and especially exercising extreme diligence around elderly visits and personal contact with that demographic during this time.

"I want everybody to be very careful right now," she said. "Whether you have a cold, the flu or something else, please do not visit long-term care homes... because we've seen how devastating [COVID-19] is from the cases in Washington state."

Officials are not looking to more closely guard B.C.'s borders with Washington state, Henry added.

"The risk is changing day and day and we are monitoring constantly," she said. "The risk in B.C. remains very low, and the risk in Canada remains very low."

However, Henry added the province "may be at a place to recommend people to avoid large gatherings," even if it has not made the official recommendation to do so. "We do need to think twice, and if we do go, we need to take the proper precautions," she said.