Health officials explain what will happen if there's a coronavirus outbreak in BC

Mar 6 2020, 12:47 pm

British Columbia health officials want to reassure citizens the province is prepared in case there ends up being a community outbreak of COVID-19 here.

At a media briefing Friday, Premier John Horgan and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained the province’s Pandemic Provincial Coordination Plan.

“Everything we can do is being done,” Horgan said.

He announced he’s appointing a deputy minister’s committee to deal with COVID-19, calling the global outbreak a “pandemic.”

The province has identified the following as priorities:

  • Protecting people
  • Protecting the province’s most vulnerable citizens who are more at risk of dying if they develop COVID-19
  • Protecting health care workers
  • Assessing the province’s health care capacity

The province will take an inventory of how much ventilator equipment it has in its intensive care units, and will make a plan outlining which institutions have the capacity to care for patients in severe respiratory distress.

They will also establish ways to isolate patients infected with the novel coronavirus from other hospital patients.

Key business sectors will also get provincial attention if there’s wider spread of the coronavirus. Officials will work with grocery chains to ensure there’s access to essential items, and to discourage panic-buying. Tourism is another area that will get attention, particularly as cruise season starts in Vancouver.

The government also wants to work with businesses, employers, and unions to allow workers time off if they’re sick or need to self-isolate.

So far, BC has tested 2,803 samples for the coronavirus. Health officials said they’re adding more sites and equipment to process an even greater volume of tests per day.

Health officials were clear there’s not yet a community outbreak in BC, as there is in countries such as Iran. But they want people to know there are plans in place in case there is.

Henry wants people to be aware that an outbreak “might happen in my community, and … We’ll be there to support you.”

“The tools are in the toolbox, should we need them.”

There have been 21 cases of COVID-19 in BC so far, and one woman remains in intensive care.

According to health officials, the illness has about a 1% mortality rate for patients with no pre-existing health conditions. But for people with heart conditions, diabetes, respiratory issues, hypertension, or cancer, it’s much more dangerous.

“We really do need to think about what would happen [if there was widespread community transmission BC], what would it look like, how would we respond,” Henry said.

More details are available in the province’s Pandemic Provincial Coordination Plan.