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B.C.’s top doctor says ‘pay attention now’ to higher COVID-19 cases

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 21st, 2020

British Columbia’s provincial health officer says a higher number of COVID-19 cases over the last three days means the province could experience a rapid rebound of infections after successfully “bending the curve.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that B.C. recorded 102 cases of the virus since Friday because people have increased their contacts to 20 or 30 people in some cases, from a low of three to four, so it’s time to “pay attention now.”

Henry said she’s concerned the province is at a “tipping point” and it’s more challenging for public health workers to do contact tracing when an infected person has socialized with a high number of people.

Gatherings should be limited to six people, mostly outdoors, and people should know who they’re connecting with as well as have a “contact keeper” in case someone in a group becomes ill, she said.

“There are hundreds of people exposed over the last few weeks,” she said of events mostly involving young people at private parties in Kelowna, where more than 60 cases have now been connected.

“We know the more people get ill the more chances, even young people, will have severe illness (and) will end up in hospital and unfortunately some people will die,” Henry said, adding it could include members of the community who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities to whom the virus is transmitted.

B.C. has recorded a total of 3,300 cases of COVID-19 and 189 deaths.

A survey of over 394,000 British Columbians indicates younger people between the ages of 18 to 29 are experiencing more mental health and financial concerns, Henry said.

Many are not working due to the pandemic in jobs including arts and entertainment, accommodation, food services and retail.

Overall, 62 per cent of respondents indicated they’re concerned about the health of a vulnerable family member.

The survey also suggests only 67 per cent of people stay home from work when they’re sick, and Henry said there’s a need to address the reasons behind that.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the 102 cases over three days, representing an average of 34 cases a day, may not be a lot compared with other jurisdictions in Canada but they’re enough to cause discomfort in a province that could reverse its positive trend on the pandemic.

“It is, I think, a sobering reminder of how fleeting success can be when we turn our backs on COVID-19,” he said, adding British Columbians need to recommit to measures such as physical distancing.

“There’s a place for common sense but right now there’s a need for COVID sense and to use it.”

By Camille Bains in Vancouver

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