B.C.’s total number of COVID-19 cases jumped to 186 Tuesday, as 83 cases were added to the public health database and three more people died after contracting the novel coronavirus.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday she has declared a public health emergency as a result of the rising number of cases. Her first order with the new power was to order pubs and night clubs to close and restaurants to move to take-out service to reduce exposure.
The public health emergency declaration allows for provincial health officer to make verbal mandates, and Health Minister to amend regulations without consent from the B.C. Legislature.
Two of the deaths were at the North Vancouver where four other people have died since an outbreak began in B.C., and an 80-year-old man died in hospital in the Fraser Health region on Monday.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) March 17, 2020
Of the 186 total cases identified by testing, 116 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 47 in Fraser Health, 12 in Vancouver Island Health, seven in Interior Health and four in Northern Health. Henry said three of the northern cases were tested while they were in Vancouver Coastal Health and have since gone to isolation at home.
“We’ve been actively trying to protect the north in many ways,” Henry said, because of the smaller, more remote communities there.
The number of cases has risen sharply as B.C. has opened assessment centres in each health region, and stepped up testing of people who are identified as having the key symptoms of fever, cough and sore throat.
Henry said the numbers have risen partly because of a catch-up in processing test results, particularly in Vancouver Coastal region where an urgent care centre has been doing tests to check on outbreaks such as the Lynn Valley Care Centre where most deaths have occurred.
The tests have ramped up to “thousands a day” and they were being confirmed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control until additional medical labs were set up to work independently, Henry said. The backlog is “probably in the hundreds” as of Tuesday.