Dr. Bonnie Henry says it’s too early to relax as COVID-19 continues to circulate

Health officials have confirmed another 20 cases of COVID-19 in B.C., but no new deaths have been recorded in the last 24 hours, according to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The province has seen a total of 3,028 cases of the novel coronavirus to date, of which 186 people have died and 175 cases remain active.

As of Thursday, 17 people are in hospital with the virus, including four in intensive care.

Henry reminded British Columbians that it’s far too early to fully relax and return to normal as the virus continues to circulate in the community and around the world.

“Things can quickly escalate once again if we let our guard down,” she said.

Until there is an effective treatment or a vaccine for the disease, Henry said, everyone should keep up with measures to prevent transmission — things like physical distancing and wearing masks when that isn’t possible.

There are currently two active outbreaks in long-term care homes, and one in the acute care unit of a hospital.

As the number of outbreaks in long-term care continues to fall, Health Minister Adrian Dix says 61 facilities now have safety plans in place to allow some designated, non-essential visitors.

Meanwhile, Henry said the province is still working on identifying a reliable antibody test to determine how many people have been infected and recovered without ever testing positive for COVID-19.

But she said that when tests have been performed on anonymous samples taken from donated blood, it appears the infection rate is still quite low across B.C.’s population.

Community exposures prompt warnings

There are no active outbreaks in the community, but recent public exposure events have officials urging British Columbians to be careful about expanding their social circles.

After cases in the No5 Orange strip club, Brandi’s Exotic Show Lounge, and a downtown nightclub, the Hotel Belmont, all in Vancouver, health officials are looking into whether the rules for nightclubs are being followed or if they need changing.

On a national level, a group of health experts is advocating for government to shift to minimizing COVID-19 while allowing society to resume functioning, saying containing every case is not sustainable at this stage in the pandemic.

“We need to accept that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and to find ways to deal with it,” the 18 experts wrote.