A woman in her 80s who contracted COVID-19 at a birthday party is the latest person to die of the disease in B.C., a sobering reminder of the risk of small gatherings, as the province announced 234 more cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry highlighted the woman’s death as she urged British Columbians to get back on track, while cases — many tied to small gatherings in private homes — continue to climb.
“Somebody unknowingly brought COVID-19 and even though it was a small party in one person’s home, the majority of people who were in that home became infected with COVID-19,” Henry said of the Fraser Valley birthday party of fewer than 10 people.
“The tragedy of this death is one that I want to share with you because it is something that reminds us of how important the measures that we need to take right now can be in protecting lives.”
COVID-19 cases in the Fraser Health region are surging more than anywhere else in the province.
More than half of the identified cases in B.C. are in that region, despite only accounting for 39 per cent of the population.
The area encompasses 1.8 million people in diverse communities from Burnaby to the Fraser Canyon.
There are currently 2,344 active COVID-19 cases in B.C. with 86 people in hospital, 24 of whom are in intensive care.
Public health is actively monitoring 5,714 people across the province who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.
There have been 14,109 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began.
‘If we are doing trick-or-treating, it needs to be small’
A new outbreak has been declared at Good Samaritan Victoria Heights, an assisted living facility in New Westminster.
There are 25 active outbreaks in health-care facilities, with 24 of them in long-term care or assisted living facilities.
Earlier this week, B.C. introduced new restrictions on private gatherings in homes in an effort to curb transmission, after a record 817 new cases were announced over the weekend.
The new provincial health order from Henry restricts get-togethers in private homes to no more than immediate household members and an additional “safe six.”
Some of the new cases are directly linked to gatherings over the Thanksgiving weekend, particularly in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland areas, Henry said.
When getting together with your “safe six,” Henry clarified, it must be the same six people and recommended socializing outside or somewhere with a COVID-19 safety plan instead of inside a home, where there isn’t always space for physical distancing.
It can also be easy to lower your guard when gathering inside someone’s home, where there are likely no layers of protection like Plexiglass barriers and one-way pathways, Henry added.
The virus can be transmitted in home environments before anyone shows symptoms, which can lead to a large ripple effect, she said.
The provincial health officer also recommended British Columbians not hold Halloween parties this weekend and find new ways to celebrate with immediate household members.
“If we are doing trick-or-treating, it needs to be small.”
“It can be done safely outside with small groups, making sure that we give the others the space to stay safe and also importantly, to respect those homes that are choosing not to participate this year.”
Most British Columbians are doing the right thing, but Henry urged extra vigilance in the coming weeks.
“This is what we have to do now. These are the choices that we need to make today,” Henry said.
“We need to do our part and particularly these next few weeks so that we can bend that curve back down across this province.”