British Columbia’s top doctor is ordering all personal service establishments – such as salons and spas – in the province to close.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the change at the province’s daily briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic Saturday. Henry also announced 76 new positive tests for the novel coronavirus in the province, and one additional death.
There are now 424 people in British Columbia who have tested positive for the virus, and 10 people have died. Nine of the ten people who have died from the virus in B.C. were residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors’ care home in North Vancouver.
On Friday, B.C. announced a moratorium on dining inside restaurants in B.C., ordering all restaurants to switch to a take-out and delivery only model.
Henry said Saturday that she was aware many personal service businesses and restaurants had already closed before she issued her orders saying they should close. The reason for issuing the orders, she said, is that she has been made aware of some organizations that were continuing to operate.
Both Henry and B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix reiterated the necessity of maintaining physical distance from others, staying home from school and work and washing hands frequently.
They also responded to calls from doctors in the Fraser Health region to introduce a province-wide “lockdown,” making the measures that have been put in place over the last few weeks even stricter.
Henry said she agrees with the sentiment those doctors have been expressing. Both she and Dix said the orders that have been put in place so far amount to what those doctors are asking for, but they require 100 per cent participation from the public in order to be effective.
“I believe that the measures that we’re doing equate to what they’re asking,” Henry said.
Dix cited California’s recent lockdown as a point of comparison. The health minister said 16 separate economic sectors are exempt from the governor’s shelter-in-place order there, because they are considered necessary for the functioning of society.
Likewise, people in California are allowed to leave their homes, but must maintain physical distance from each other when doing so, Dix said.
With some people in B.C. failing to comply with the province’s requirements around staying home and maintaining physical distance, Dix said the provincial government has the ability to call in peace officers to enforce the provincial health officer’s orders, if necessary.
Earlier Saturday morning, B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, held a separate press conference to talk about the steps the province is taking to help homeless and vulnerable people who may become infected with COVID-19.
The province stopped short of a B.C.-wide ban on evictions during the pandemic, however. Renters and tenant advocates have been calling for such a ban as measures to contain COVID-19 increasingly impact residents’ wages.
Of British Columbia’s 424 positive tests, 230 have been located in the Vancouver Coastal Health region that spans the coast from Richmond to Whistler. Another 126 positive tests have been recorded in the Fraser Health region that stretches from Burnaby to Hope.
There have been 37 positive tests on Vancouver Island, 27 in the province’s Interior and four in the province’s north.
A total of 27 people who have tested positive are in hospital, with 12 of them in intensive care. Six people who have tested positive for the virus in B.C. have since recovered, Henry said Saturday.
Henry also spent a significant portion of her remarks Saturday discussing the province’s testing strategy and the significance of the numbers presented at the province’s daily briefings.
“What we have been talking about here, for the most part, is the number of people who have tested positive on a given day,” Henry said, gesturing to a graph showing two curves: one indicating the number of individuals who have tested positive and the other showing when they began to display symptoms.
Henry said the second curve is the one that health officials often talk about “flattening” through isolation of the close contacts of those who test positive or display symptoms, physical distancing and the other measures that have been implemented.
“When we talk about ‘flattening the curve,’ it’s not necessarily the tests per day that is important, it’s the number of people getting infected and making sure that we can look back and isolate people before they can transmit it to others,” Henry said.
Closing restaurants and businesses, banning large gatherings, requiring people to stay home from school or work and maintain physical distance from others when outside their homes all help to slow the spread of the disease, Henry said. These measures make it harder for people who have the virus but don’t know it yet – or haven’t been tested yet – to infect others.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Jen St. Denis