B.C. saw 16 new COVID-19 cases over the Saturday and Sunday of the Victoria-Day long weekend, with two additional deaths also reported.
In addition, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix confirmed that - even with the “Phase Two” reopening of B.C.’s economy starting on Tuesday, measures like social distancing and more rigorous hygiene habits are here to stay for the foreseeable future - since officials remain concerned about a second-wave of COVID-19 flaring up.
“For many, the transition brings anticipation,” Henry said. “But it also for many brings further apprehension and anxiety as schools and businesses look to reopen once again… I would just say, take it slow.”
Henry added that provincial officials are confident about the Phase Two opening because COVID testing is now available to everyone living in B.C., in addition to the province’s contact-tracing resources being “ready to go.” But she emphasized that each individual person must also continue to assess how much they open their own personal bubbles - given factors such as whether any closed relatives are at high-risk to developing serious complications from the virus.
That may mean people who have to take transit will need to don a face mask, Henry said.
“With the easing of restriction and added social interaction, the potential for new cases and flare-ups does go up,” she noted. “We’ve seen that in places around the world, and us in public health will be watching very carefully. We will ensure we have the ability to manage new cases that we see, but we all have to move carefully and stay alert… So pause and think about how you will keep those around you safe.”
Dix noted that data such as BC Ferries ridership statistics appears to indicate people are taking the advice on limiting travel during Victoria Day long weekend. According to Dix, for the Thursday-Sunday period in 2018, there were 163,578 passengers on all major routes; that number for this year has fallen to 32,921.
Similar drops can be seen across all areas of ferry service, he added, including Horseshoe Bay-Langdale (23,586 to 7,649) and the Southern Gulf Islands (15,424 to 4,065).
“I think this indicates that, while obviously there is travel going on across the province, people have been mindful of the guidance they’ve received,” Dix said. “… I think it’s important to acknowledge all that’s gone on. In general, during the long weekend - and it’s just an observation - but I think we’ve mostly stayed close [to home], stayed apart and stayed safe.”
He added that - with currently hospitalized COVID cases in B.C. at 47, only about a third of the province’s peak numbers earlier - officials are quietly encouraged to see B.C. successfully flattening the first-wave curve and giving medical professionals a chance at better fighting the outbreak. But Dix added now is not the time to relax - even withe Phase Two opening coming.
“Let’s be clear: Despite the changes we will start seeing tomorrow, what we won’t see is the most important fact, and that is COVID-19 is still with us in every health region,” Dix said. “… What does not change - and will not change for months - is that, for us to travel safely through the recovery phases, we must continue to carry our passports-to-safety at all times. That means the skills we’ve been taught to stop the spread of COVID-19 stay with us every step of the way.”
Henry also said that people should use their judgements on outdoor actives like games of basketball, sticking to guidelines of small groups of close friends. She added that while 260,000 British Columbians have already taken the survey about their COVID experiences, more replies are still needed - especially from seniors and those in cultural minority communities.