B.C. limits size of gatherings in private homes, sets weekend record with 817 COVID-19 cases

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in B.C. the hot spot in the province right now appears to be the Fraser Health Region. Ashley Burr looks at some possible causes and hears what Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has to say about the increase in cases.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. is limiting the size of gatherings in private homes after setting a three-day record with 817 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend.

The new order limits gatherings in private homes to members of your immediate household, plus six others in your social bubble.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the immediate focus will be on the Fraser Health region, where most new cases are occurring.

She also announced a new expectation for people to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

“It is concerning to us that we continue to see growth, particularly in the Lower Mainland and in the Fraser Health region,” Henry said. “As a result, today I am putting in a new provincial health order. This order limits gatherings in private homes to no more than your immediate household, plus your safe six — six additional others.”

She added, for large families living together, six additional guests may be too many.

“This is going to be a challenge more for some people than others, but this is something we need to do together as a community so that we can get through the coming respiratory season and best protect each and every one of our families and our communities,” Henry said.

COVID-19 transmits more easily in the winter months, she added.

“I understand that this restriction is the opposite of many of our cultural, religious, and social expectations. But as we all know, this is not an ordinary year.”

Henry said enforcement of the new order will be similar to previous ones, such as for vacation or rental properties. These orders are enforceable by bylaw, police, and environmental health officers.

“Orders, as we know, are a last resort. But it does reflect how seriously we need to take this now. Social gatherings are where we are seeing significant transmission of COVID-19 in B.C., and it is not slowing down.”

Of the new cases, a single-day record 317 were recorded from Saturday to Sunday, followed by 293 over the next 24 hours, and 207 more for the period ending Monday.

“This is the largest number of cases that we’ve had in a three-day period. And it is concerning to us that we continue to see growth, particularly in the Lower Mainland and in the Fraser Health region, to be specific.”

Of the 207 most recent cases, 178 are in Fraser Health, while 27 are in Vancouver Coastal.


Henry also announced three more deaths, all in long-term care homes in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions — as well as outbreaks at two more care homes and two more schools

One of the latter is in the Fraser region, while the other is in the Interior.

“As a result of exposures affecting large numbers of staff and teachers, two schools have been closed for the duration of the incubation period,” she said.

“We knew this would be a possibility, especially in some of the smaller schools where the potential of exposure impacts a larger proportion of the school population. And while the numbers of people with COVID-19 are small, the requirement for those in contact to be in self-isolation has meant that the school can no longer safely operate.”

Henry said many of the new cases are linked to Thanksgiving and other large gatherings.

“These are important celebrations, but we are in the middle of a pandemic. And we need to take safety precautions to make sure that we’re not passing the virus on to people that we care about people that were closest to.”

Regarding masks, Henry said the expectation is now for people to wear one in indoor public spaces, although the rules around schools have not changed. Masks are not mandatory in classrooms.

“It’s not an order, because this is something that I know we support, as part of our mutual responsibilities to protect ourselves and to protect each other,” she added. “As part of this, I’m asking businesses to review your COVID-19 safety plans. With this in mind, if your employees are in high traffic areas, are amongst many people outside of your household while at work, a mask can help protect you and those around you and we need to wear them as we are going into this season.”

Henry also asked businesses to ensure that appropriate protocols are in place in lunchrooms and other spots where people normally gather.

Cases in B.C. now total 13,371.

Of 2,325 active cases in B.C., 77 people are in hospital, including 26 in intensive care.

Another 5,077 people now under active public health monitoring after being exposed to the virus.

The province conducted 28,125 tests over the past three days, with a positivity rate of about 2.9 per cent, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

There have been 259 deaths in B.C. related to COVID-19.

A community outbreak has been declared at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre. Queens Park Care Centre in New Westminster and Banfield Pavilion in Vancouver are the care homes with new outbreaks.

Earlier in the day, Fraser Health announced outbreaks at the Amenida Seniors Community in Surrey and the Agassiz Seniors Community.

Outbreaks at Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence, Thornebridge Gardens and Point Grey Hospital have been declared over, as has the one at the FedEx Office at Kelowna International Airport.

In total, 19 long-term care or assisted-living facilities and two acute-care units have active outbreaks.

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