Dr. Bonnie Henry stood alone at the podium this afternoon (Sept. 21) announcing that B.C. COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Health Minister Adrian Dix will no longer attend her updates after Premier John Horgan called a snap-election earlier today, which will see B.C. voters go to the polls on Oct. 24 instead of October 2021, amid a pandemic.
The province saw 366 new cases since Friday (Sept. 18), bringing the provincial total to 8,208.
Eleven of those belong to Northern Health, which now sits at 255 total recorded cases.
Sadly, our region reported its second death and Northern Health tells PrinceGeorgeMatters it was a 60-year-old woman that passed away in hospital.
The latest three-day COVID-19 counts are as follows:
- 121 = Friday to Saturday
- 117 = Saturday to Sunday
- 128 = Sunday to Monday
Over that period, there were four new deaths, which brings the fatality total in the province to 227 since the pandemic struck B.C.
A total of 1,987 cases are active throughout B.C. including 60 in hospital and 21 of those are in ICU.
There are also two schools in northern B.C. that involve exposure of COVID-19:
- School District 28 = Quesnel Junior Secondary School (Sept. 10-11)
- School District 59 = Ecole Frank Ross Elementary (Sept. 10-11)
Henry addressed many specifics surrounding COVID-19 and schools, which has been controversial, with the B.C. Teachers Federation filing a complaint with the labour relations board last week given the lack of physical distancing standards in place, as opposed to prior stated standards.
Henry suggested physical distancing standards of two metres could be lessened in controlled environments.
In schools, “distance does not need to be so great as long as your interactions are limited,” said Henry.
But, “if your job requires you to be around a lot of people you want to slide up the distance scale.”
“We must stress the layers of protection we have in the school system.”
Henry said it should be reassuring no schools have experienced outbreaks.
“I do want to thank teachers and staff for the amazing things they’ve done. I have heard many things about the happiness found in classrooms. It’s been challenging, I know,” said Henry.
Henry said if a student attends school with COVID-19, public health workers (contact tracers) will determine close contacts of a student.
She said it would be “highly unlikely” many classmates would get the disease. She stressed close contacts would be those who are in close proximity to an infected student or school worker.
It is not clear how officials would determine close contacts, particularly if students are moving around in a classroom during the course of their day.
With the writ dropped today, Henry assured British Columbians she, as well as Elections BC, will have protocols in place for voting.
“I have worked with Elections BC to make sure we have safe guidelines for elections,” said Henry, adding she and Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman will brief the public Tuesday on voting protocols.
“Elections BC has taken a number of measures that can be done safely,” including in northern communities and long-term care homes. She said she expects mail-in ballots will play a more significant role than in the past.
Henry said there was no discussion with Horgan about calling an election nor did she expect him to do so.
- with files from Graeme Wood, Glacier Media