What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 19, 2020


  • Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will give her daily update at 3 p.m. PT.
  • B.C. has confirmed a total of 231 cases of COVID-19.
  • 7 people have died of the disease, 13 are in hospital and five have fully recovered.
  • The B.C. government has declared a provincial state of emergency.
  • Some cities are planning to declare local states of emergency.
  • The U.S.-Canada border is closing to non-essential visitors.
  • British Columbians overseas are struggling to get home to Canada.

​​​​​​What you need to know today

B.C. declared a provincial state of emergency Wednesday, giving the government broad and sweeping power to compel action while preserving supply chains of groceries and other essential items in the face of COVID-19.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who is also the minister in charge of emergency management, said the “all hands on deck approach” will also allow for the delivery of federal, provincial and local resources in a co-ordinated way, and complement the declaration of a public health emergency in B.C. announced Tuesday.

Haro Park Centre care facility in Vancouver on Wednesday. One person inside the facility has contracted the novel coronavirus, marking the third infection at a long-term care home in Metro Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The province announced 45 new cases on Wednesday, including a man who lives at the Haro Park Centre in Vancouver, marking the spread of the virus to a third long-term care facility in the province.

Thirteen people have been hospitalized, including seven in intensive care. The total number of confirmed cases in B.C. stands at 231.

Emergency funds should come within weeks: minister

Early Thursday, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Canadians worried about having enough money to pay for food, rent and medication can expect emergency funds in two to three weeks. The aid, announced Wednesday, will be delivered to applicants by direct deposit, rather than cheques in the mail.

In a news conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is “considering using any measures necessary” to ensure the country has the medical equipment it needs to manage COVID-19. He said Canada might use its military procurement policy to get devices such as ventilators.

A camera operator monitors his camera as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a statement about the measures the government is putting in place to fight the COVID-19 virus in Ottawa on March 18, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Trudeau said Ottawa is looking to “expedite access to lab test kits” needed to diagnosis the illness. The prime minister said 50,000 Canadians have been tested for the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began, with 25,000 of those tests administered in the last week alone.

“The need for these test kits is growing,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the government is also “fine-tuning” the deal with the United States to close the shared border to non-essential visitors. He said he expects the border will be formally shut to travellers like tourists and shoppers between Friday and Saturday.

People like international students, workers with visas and temporary foreign workers will still be allowed across. Truck freight will be permitted.

Social distancing still crucial

Health Minister Adrian Dix urged all British Columbians to do their part to help contain the virus by avoiding crowds, working from home when possible and practising social distancing. 

Minister Dix described the importance of social distancing:

Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed that people in B.C. must immediately begin social distancing and self-isolating to help curb the spread of coronavirus. 0:46

“To those who have been reluctant … I want to say that your friends and your neighbours and your family are counting on you,” he said.

Trudeau said health officials’ advice to the government is that social distancing requirements could last “weeks or months.”

A number of B.C. municipalities, including Vancouver and Delta, have said they plan to declare local states of emergency as well.

The B.C. government also announced the postponement of byelections in Victoria, Rossland and Lytton that were scheduled to take place in April, as well as a referendum that was planned for Kamloops.

Henry and Dix are set to provide another update on the situation at 3 p.m. PT on Thursday.

Details on federal aid

The federal government pledged up to $82 billion on Wednesday to support the Canadian economy, businesses and workers. The plan includes a new Emergency Care Benefit to provide income support to workers who have to stay home but don’t have access to paid sick leave.

British Columbians abroad try to head home

As the reality of the new restrictions on daily life sink in, British Columbians working and travelling in countries around the world are trying to heed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s advice to come home to Canada.

But they’re finding flight cancellations and closed borders make that very difficult, and they’re having trouble getting help from Canadian embassy and consulate officials.

Once back home in B.C., everyone returning from any international travel has been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. 

B.C.’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people remains in effect. All bars and nightclubs have been ordered to close, and other businesses have been told to implement social-distancing measures to keep people one or two metres apart.

Recent days have seen a steady stream of public facilities, businesses and stores shutting down to meet the recommendations of the provincial health officer.

Important reminders:

B.C.’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the risk of contracting coronavirus in B.C. communities remains low.

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

In Canada, public health officials have reported 727 confirmed or presumptive cases. 

  • British Columbia: 231 confirmed, including seven deaths and five resolved cases.
  • Ontario: 214 confirmed, including one death and five resolved cases.
  • Alberta: 119 confirmed.
  • Quebec: 94 confirmed, including one death.
  • Manitoba: 13 confirmed, four presumptive.
  • Saskatchewan: two confirmed, 14 presumptive.
  • Nova Scotia: three confirmed, nine presumptive.
  • New Brunswick: two confirmed, nine presumptive
  • Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: nine confirmed
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: three presumptive.
  • Prince Edward Island: one confirmed.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Unless you’re already infected, masks won’t help you.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca. 

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