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British Columbia in ‘danger zone’ on COVID-19, province’s top doctor says

However, health officials do not have plans to impose a lockdown as other jurisdictions have done

October 30, 2020  The Canadian Press

SURREY, B.C. — British Columbia is at another key moment in the COVID-19 pandemic and people need to take steps to curb the spread of the virus, the province’s top doctor said on Oct. 29.

But Dr. Bonnie Henry said health officials do not have plans to impose a lockdown as other jurisdictions have done.

“We are in the danger zone and we need to take the action to make it OK,” she told a news conference on Thursday in Surrey.

Henry said the latest COVID-19 death is a reminder that the virus doesn’t differentiate in the size of gatherings, which makes it even more important to limit get-togethers as the number of cases rise.

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She used the death of a woman in her 80s from the Fraser Valley to illustrate the dangers of COVID-19, explaining that the woman attended a birthday party at a home with fewer than 10 people. But someone unknowingly had COVID-19 and a majority of people at the party got infected.

“It reminds us that this virus can’t tell the difference, and even a small gathering when this virus is circulating can be dangerous,” she said.

On Monday, Henry announced that gatherings are now limited to people in an immediate household, plus their so-called “safe six” guests.

The province reported 234 new cases on Oct. 29 for a total of 14,109 since the pandemic began. The total number of people who have died stands at 262.

There are 2,344 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and another 5,714 people are under public health monitoring after being exposed to a known case.

The increase in cases is related to Thanksgiving, she said, adding it is important that people keep gatherings small at Halloween.

A number of the new cases are directly linked to gatherings in homes and parties resulting in community transmission across the province, and particularly in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Health region, Henry said. Fraser Health has reported 8,036 cases.

The virus has disproportionately affected communities in the Fraser Valley, she said.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum made a public appeal for people to take responsibility to bend the curve back down again, which means there is a “strong expectation” that masks will be worn at all indoor public spaces.

“As we all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, we know that our best defence is keeping a distance from those outside our households,” he said in a statement.

Health officials have learned over the last 10 months that COVID-19 is mostly spread between people in small clusters, Henry said.

“It doesn’t spread in the same way that we see with influenza, where it sort of goes through a whole population and everybody gets sick at once. It’s really about clusters of cases.”

While some people don’t pass it on to anyone, others “unwittingly” pass it on a lot more, she said.

— By Hina Alam in Vancouver.