Taking temperature: March 24 COVID-19 update

The province is reporting 145 new cases of COVID-19 in BC today, 67 of which were confirmed after yesterday’s press conference. In total, there are now 617 confirmed cases in the province, with 330 in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority region.

In today’s press conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix discussed the province’s testing strategy as well as its current health care capacity.

Responding to questions about how the spread of COVID-19 in BC compares to other places like Italy, Henry said she believes BC is better situated than Italy at present, despite the province’s relatively high case fatality rate. She attributed the high number of deaths in BC compared to other provinces to the fact that the Lynn Valley Care Centre — responsible for 10 deaths — has been particularly hard-hit.

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Henry also pointed to the fact that BC has taken measures to contain the spread of the virus at a different point in time in the virus’s trajectory than Italy, as well as the fact the province’s testing strategy has been informed by the experience of other countries.

She elaborated that after observing the impact of testing in other countries, provincial health authorities felt it was important to focus testing on cases transmitted in the community whose source is unknown. She also emphasized that people returning home from travel with mild symptoms did not need to be tested because the source of their infection was known and having them leave their homes could expose others to the virus.

“We are absolutely testing and contact tracing anybody for whom we don’t know the source of their infection,” she said.

According to Dix, the province now has over 3,000 intensive care unit beds available for more cases that might require hospitalization. But both he and Henry emphasized that physical distancing measures are crucial now to prevent a surge in demand from overwhelming the health care system in the coming weeks.

“The number of cases we’ve been seeing will continue to rise — it will,” said Dix. “The next few weeks will be very, very difficult. It will be some time before we see the change we are all working towards, but what happens today matters in that change.”

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/