There have been no new community outbreaks since last Friday
The U.S.-Canada border in B.C. will likely stay closed to non-essential travel beyond the one-month extension agreed to Tuesday by the federal governments, says Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Dix said the comparatively worse COVID-19 situation in the U.S. meant reopening the border to travellers was risky.
He expected the border to remain closed for significantly longer than a month, pointing out U.S. states were not working together as well as Canadian provinces.
“Alberta is enacting many of the measures we are,” Dix said. “They’re working with us closely every day to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our country and in our province. We know exactly what they’re doing.… I think it’s fair to say that that is not the case in the United States.”
The U.S. accounts for 42 per cent of the world’s active COVID-19 cases, with a death toll over 91,000.
“The situation is much less clear there,” Dix said. “I’m not convinced there’s a chance that it will clear sufficiently in the next month to change at least in my mind whether we should open the border. I think it’s going to be significantly longer than that for visitors.”
Dix said B.C. Premier John Horgan was in regular contact with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, while the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has weekly meetings with state health officers from Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
Henry said she would recommend allowing cross-border family reunions, subject to a two-week quarantine for border crossers.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. DON CRAIG / BC GOVERNMENT
B.C. has 325 active COVID-19 cases, with two new cases and three deaths reported between noon Monday and noon Tuesday. Henry said 45 people were in hospital, including 12 in intensive care.
The recent deaths were from long-term care homes, including one person from the Langley Lodge outbreak that has left eight dead with 42 active cases.
A total of 146 people have died from COVID-19 in B.C. in the past 70 days, mostly from long-term care homes. There has been 5,912 deaths in Canada
Henry said there were active outbreaks in 14 long-term and assisted living homes – and five in hospital acute care settings. There has been no new community outbreaks since last Friday’s report of two cases from a Coquitlam food processing facility.
Dix called Tuesday’s new case number “positive news.”
He said the Health Ministry’s essential visits policy had been amended to allow someone designated by a person with disabilities to enter a hospital or other health facility and provide support. That includes emotional support, help with decision making and communications assistance for people with hearing, visual, speech, cognitive, intellectual or memory impairments.Henry said people with lung disease who cannot wear a mask should not take public transit.
“It may not be appropriate for an elderly person with lung disease who can’t wear a mask to take public transit for the next while,” she said. “I may need to forgo having my hair done if I’m not able to wear a mask.”
She said masks were useful on transit, in small spaces with other people, or in close contact with someone.
“A small store where it’s difficult to keep that distance from people for the short period of time that we’re there, and for places like hair salons where you’re going to be closer to somebody. But it does not take away from the fact that you still need to minimize that time,” Henry said.“That’s why I say being outside is safer than being inside, and walking by somebody is not a situation that puts you at risk of breathing in their droplets.
“So if somebody is running by you, that few seconds that they go by you. It’s spending time in that circle. So that’s where a mask can be helpful.”
With files from Canadian Press
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