A resident and a worker at a retirement home in West Vancouver have both tested positive for COVID-19, marking the spread of the novel coronavirus to a second care home in British Columbia.
The new cases come as several major events were cancelled across British Columbia, while local officials and service providers say they have preparedness plans in place even as the risk of transmission remains low.
Dr. Rhonda Collins, chief medical officer for owner-operator Revera Living, says the cases were confirmed at the Hollyburn House today.
Collins says in a statement the resident of the care unit has been isolated and is receiving treatment, while the employee is now at home in self-isolation.
She says Revera has implemented full pandemic protocols across its Canadian operations and began active screening at its British Columbia locations this past weekend.
The two new cases bring the provincial total to at least 48 and follow a provincial announcement on Wednesday of enhanced screening at long-term facilities across after six health-care workers and two residents at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver were diagnosed with the virus.
“We remain vigilant in our efforts and are doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our residents, families, employees, volunteers, suppliers, service providers and all other visitors,” Collins says in the statement.
Canada has recorded a single death – an elderly Lynn Valley resident – among more than 140 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, which mostly produces mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. Public health authorities warn that for people aged 65 and over or with compromised immune systems, the illness can be more severe.
A domino of event cancellations across the country also hit British Columbia on Thursday. The world women’s curling championship in Prince George won’t begin this weekend as scheduled and organizers of the Surrey Vaisakhi parade, which draws more than 500,000 people each year, says they are cancelling the April 25 event.
Others emphasized preparedness. The city of Vancouver says the risk of transmitting COVID-19 locally remains low but it is adjusting the response based on updated advice from public health officials.
City manager Sadhu Johnston says no restrictions are being placed at this time on public events at municipal facilities or in the community, but it is monitoring the situation.
City officials have also activated the Emergency Operations Centre and are making plans to ensure they can maintain core services, such as water, sewers, police and fire.
A group that feeds and shelters some of Metro Vancouver’s most vulnerable residents also says there’s no sign of the novel coronavirus in the homeless community, but it’s still launching a preparedness plan.
A statement from the Union Gospel Mission says its clients would be among the “hardest hit” if a widespread outbreak happens in Metro Vancouver.
Spokesman Jeremy Hunka says the organization’s six-phase pandemic plan was created in 2009 as a response to the H1N1 flu outbreak.
He says some measures have been put in place, including the creation of an emergency management team and stepping up sanitation and education.
Tours of organization’s facilities are also to be stopped and further steps could include suspending or changing some non-essential services, such as offering hot meals to go rather than serving them in a cafeteria.
The Union Gospel Mission, which has seven locations in Metro Vancouver and Mission, provides everything from emergency shelters to meals, counselling, addiction recovery and career development.
Hunka says the organization wants to be ready to help those already at risk.
“While there are more cases locally and a pandemic has now been declared, B.C. numbers (of COVID-19) are still quite low in Metro Vancouver compared to other parts of the world,” Hunka says in the statement Thursday.
“We want to be responsive and prepared in case of an emergency, and also wise and impactful.”
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