Friday COVID-19 roundup: Next two weeks a critical time, says provincial health officer

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B.C.’s provincial health officer is cautiously optimistic that the physical distancing and other measures being taken are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

But rather than suggest any current restrictions should be eased, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday that people need to continue heeding strict directives on self-isolation whether sick or returning from travelling, social/physical distancing for others and stellar hand hygiene for all.  

The present rate of COVID-19 infection in B.C. is estimated at 130 people per million. Without restrictions in place that number could be 215 per million, the government says.

“I hope this is motivation for people to double-down on what we are doing,” she said at the regular media briefing. “If we do this . . . this is what is going to save us. The next two weeks in particular are our critical time . . . .”

The event also included modelling data and other information that shows B.C.’s trajectory at the moment shows us closer to South Korea’s experience than northern Italy’s. The latter would be the worst-case scenario.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said that 17 hospitals in the province have been designated primary COVID-19 care sites. In the Island Health region those are Royal Jubilee and Nanaimo General hospitals. Dix and Henry said their staff are trying hard to obtain more personal protective equipment for health-care workers and other needed supplies.

As Lady Minto Hospital chief of staff Holly Slakov reconfirmed with the Driftwood last week, no Salt Spring residents requiring ventilation due to COVID-19 would be treated at Lady Minto Hospital. The local hospital has the capacity to ventilate a patient for a short time only while waiting for a transfer to an intensive care unit off-island.

With School District 64 students completing their spring break period today, district superintendent Scott Benwell issued a letter to parents today confirming that while schools will not open on Monday as per the provincial government’s March 17 directive, “our staff will be finding ways to connect with students and families remotely. We are going to need some time to set this up and to find innovative ways to keep students engaged and inspired. As usual, our dedicated teachers, principals and vice-principals will be the primary contact for students and families.”

Updates will be posted on the www.sd64.bc.ca website.

The B.C. government has also created a Keep Learning BC website for parents.

On Friday the federal government announced further additions to its Economic Response Plan to help bolster the economy due to the devastating impacts of COVID-19. Those included upping wage subsidies for qualifying businesses to 75 per cent from the initial 10 per cent announced last week, providing loans of up to $40,000 to some businesses and allowing deferment of sales-tax remittances and import duties, among other measures.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz also announced an interest rate cut to 0.25 per cent, described as “its effective lower bound” in order to “provide support to the Canadian financial system and the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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