Taking temperature: March 20 COVID-19 update

There are 77 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the provincial total to 340 — of which 200 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority region. Both municipal and provincial authorities have also ordered restaurants to suspend dine-in services and provide takeout and delivery services only.

The move comes in part in response to confusion among restaurant owners over the previous social distancing guidance issued by the province.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced that the city’s order of suspending dine-in services would take effect at midnight tonight. Restaurants not in compliance will be first served with a notice and then enforcement action if they continue to not comply.

Citizens can report non-compliant restaurants by calling 3-1-1.

City officials also urged other businesses to do their part to ensure that social distancing criteria are maintained, noting that violators will face enforcement measures.

General Manager, Arts, Culture and Community Services Sandra Singh provided an update on the city’s measures to support Vancouver’s vulnerable populations like residents of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) and people experiencing homelessness. These include planning in the event more people without stable housing need to self-isolate, the deployment of peer workers to distribute health information and the creation of 11 hand-washing stations in the DTES.

Stewart also requested more provincial support for front-line workers working with vulnerable populations in Vancouver and those in need of rent relief, in addition to a province-wide eviction ban.

At all levels of government today, the response to questions about whether shelter in place orders are needed in Canadian jurisdictions was that at this time they are unnecessary, but that nothing is being taken off the table.

In today’s provincial press conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry directed much of her remarks at health care workers in the province. She acknowledged the unprecedented challenges they are facing, assuring them the province will do everything it can to maintain the supply of critical protective equipment.

Henry also called on everyone to do what they can to limit the burden on health workers.

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In response to a question about observing groups of young people gathering on beaches to enjoy the sun and watch sunsets in recent days, Henry again emphasized that young people are not immune to the virus — and it is their obligation to their communities to not gather in groups, even outdoors.

Minister of Health Adrian Dix echoed Henry’s message about supporting health workers, emphasizing that limiting the spread of the virus now will reduce the strain on the health system in the coming weeks.

“Starting now there’s no longer any room for almost or pretty good or nearly enough,” he said. “We need to give [health workers] the flattened curve they need to provide the continued service and the continued care that will help everyone in the province.”

Stay up to date on UBC information related to COVID-19 by visiting ubyssey.ca/covid-19, the websites of the BCCDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada or the World Health Organization. The province has set up a dedicated COVID-19 phone line at 1-888-COVID19 or text at 1-888-268-4319. For updates on UBC’s response to COVID-19, visit ubc.ca/campus-notifications/