Northern B.C. is COVID-19 free, for now

The last confirmed COVID-19 patient in northern B.C. has recovered, according to data released by the B.C Centre for Disease Control on Thursday.

All 64 people in the Northern Health region who have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic are now listed as recovered. Northern B.C. is also the only health region in the province to have had no deaths linked to the pandemic to date.

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Vancouver Island Health and Interior Health also have no active cases of the disease remaining, as of Thursday.

The milestone was reached the same day provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix unveiled new data about the nature of the pandemic in B.C., including a breakdown of cases by health service area – subsections of the province's five large health authority areas.

"I know it's not as granular as many people would like. We will have that more granular data coming publicly in the coming weeks," Henry said. "(But) there have been no communities that have not been impacted by COVID-19. It does tell us the Lower Mainland was disproportionately impacted by COVID-19."

The report released by Henry on Thursday shows the northern interior region of Northern Health, which includes Prince George, had 36 of the 64 COVID-19 reported in the North. The northwest and northeast regions of Northern Health each had 14 cases of the disease.

All of the most recent cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region were in the northern interior, the report showed. Between May 18 and May 31, there were four new cases of COVID-19 in the northern interior, and no new cases in the northeast and northwest areas of the health authority.

Across B.C. there were only five new test-positive cases on Thursday. In addition, four people who previously had the disease, but hadn't been tested at the time, were added to the provincial total.

A total of 2,632 people in B.C. have had COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak. Of those 166 have died and 2,265 have fully recovered, leaving only 201 active cases in B.C.

Of those, 26 were in hospital, Henry said, including six in intensive care.

"As we can see, the number of cases has dropped dramatically," Henry said. "We are very hopeful we will be able to move into our next phase (of the B.C. Restart Plan) in the middle of June, into July."

Henry warned B.C. residents not to get complacent about social distancing, hand washing, staying home when sick and other preventative public health measures.

"We are doing okay right now, and the numbers show that. But we are in the middle of a global outbreak," she said. "We are not immune to people bringing it in to British Columbia."

Dix said that during the two-week period at the end of May, B.C. had 144 new cases. But  Quebec, Ontario, Washington state and other jurisdictions of the U.S. had thousands of new cases. A single large outbreak could rekindle the spread of the disease in B.C. he said, especially if people stop following preventative measures.

"The decisions people have made as individuals have had an impact," Dix said. "There are steps we can take to stop the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing, that saves lives. Staying home when sick, that saves lives. Washing our hands, that saves lives."

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