Taking temperature: March 23 COVID-19 update

There have been 48 new cases of COVID-19 in BC since Saturday, for a new provincial total of 472 — with 248 in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority region. Since Saturday, there have also been three new deaths in the province related to COVID-19.

The update comes after City of Vancouver officials announced new measures on Sunday to encourage and enforce physical distancing amidst reports that many city residents were not taking distancing seriously.

“Vancouver, stop taking unnecessary risks and help us save lives,” said Darrell Reid, chief of Vancouver’s COVID-19 task force, in a press conference yesterday. “We’ve seen people having picnics in parks, holding house parties and organizing barbecues on the beach. Vancouver, this can’t continue.”

At that same press conference, Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley announced that outdoor public recreation facilities and parking lots in high-traffic parks are being closed to discourage the public gatherings that have still been occurring over the past week. The park board is also removing logs from public beaches.

City officials also announced plans to pass bylaw changes to enhance their power to enforce physical distancing measures. The new measures, which were passed by the city council today, allow the city to fine businesses in violation of distancing orders up to $50,000.

The province today announced a $5-billion aid package that includes measures like rent relief, support for people unable to work because of the pandemic and a freeze on provincial student loan payment until September 30.

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In a press conference today, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that despite the three new deaths over the weekend, there is some good news to report. The province has nearly cleared its testing backlog, while 100 people have recovered from the virus and can be released from isolation.

Despite those silver linings, however, Henry was emphatic that people cannot let up when it comes to social distancing measures. Because of the province’s highly focused approach to testing, she confirmed that there are undoubtedly people who have the virus but are not reflected in the confirmed case statistics.

“It’s very challenging with something that you can’t see and that many people have mild symptoms, to reflect the challenges and the difficulties with this disease,” Henry said.

“So it is spreading in our communities. We know that — we know it’s spreading in communities around the province — and that’s why it’s so important for all of us to take these measures.”

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/