Three more cases of COVID-19 have been identified in B.C., bringing the total number of patients in the province to 12.
All three of the new cases are connected to the outbreak in Iran, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters Tuesday afternoon. It was her second news conference of the day concerning the coronavirus — another new case was announced in the morning.
The new cases involve three people who recently travelled to Iran: a man in his 60s, an adult woman living in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and a man in his 50s who lives in the Fraser Health region. The fourth patient is a woman in her 30s who contracted the coronavirus in the household of the eighth patient, a woman in her 60s who is visiting the Vancouver Coastal Health region from Iran.
All of the new patients are now in self-isolation at home, and their close contacts are being monitored, Henry said. None of the B.C. cases has become severely ill and four patients have recovered fully.
Henry said she believes the spike in cases reflects the fact that officials have urged people who’ve travelled to Iran to monitor themselves for symptoms.
“I think it’s … a reflection of awareness and the fact that more people are going for testing,” she said.
Seven of B.C.’s 12 cases are linked to Iran, and the other five are linked to China. As Nowruz — the Persian New Year — approaches, the province is asking those who are feeling ill to stay away from public celebrations.
“We still feel it’s very safe to have those types of events,” Henry said.
People who have recently returned from Iran and China have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in B.C.
Public health care ‘a huge advantage’
More than 1,000 people in the province have been tested so far for the virus, and Henry said health officials have the results of each test within 24 hours.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said he didn’t yet have an estimate for how much the tests are costing the province.
“We’re spending what we need to spend. The costs of not spending, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, is very high,” Dix said.
He said it will take a collective effort to contain the spread of the virus in B.C., including good personal hygiene, understanding between employers and their employees, and hard work from health-care workers.
“Our public health-care system, our generosity as a society, is a huge advantage in this,” Dix said.
Henry said besides frequent hand washing and using hand sanitizer, people should “keep their germs to themselves” by foregoing normal greeting behaviour such as hand shakes, kisses and hugs.
Given that COVID-19 is a global problem, Henry said people and employers need to start thinking about steps they can take in the event of wider transmission of the disease:
- Have supplies to last two weeks of isolation, including prescription drugs, should the need arise.
- Stay home from work and away from others if sick.
- Work from home if possible.
- Hold virtual work meetings instead of traveling, especially internationally.
- Elderly and those with an underlying condition such as diabetes or heart disease may want to avoid travel.
- People who have recently traveled from hotspots such as Iran or Hubei province in China should self-isolate at home and not go out in crowds.
On Tuesday, health officials south of the border in Washington state announced three more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state total to nine.
Henry said there were no plans to increase controls already in place at land border crossings.
Researchers believe the virus may have been circulating in Washington state for weeks undetected, and believe more cases will likely come to light.
Another two cases were confirmed Tuesday in Ontario bringing that province’s total to 20. One case has been detected in Quebec. No COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in Canada.