Health-care employees have been ordered to work in only one facility to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 across B.C.
Rotation by nurses, care aides and other health workers — both those employed by government and by private firms — through different long-term care homes has been identified as a factor in the spread of the disease.
“This is one of the things that have facilitated outbreaks at a number of facilities, unfortunately,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.
“It’s critical to protect people in care, and it’s critical to ensure people are not working in multiple care homes,” Health Minister Adrian Dix added.
There are now 62 people with COVID-19 in the Interior Health region, which includes the Okanagan, up from 46 on Wednesday. The increase of 16 patients was the largest single-day jump since such counts began.
Provincewide, the number of cases has risen to 725 from 659. The total increase of 66 COVID-19 patients was in line with the daily increase seen over the past week. Sixty-four people are being treated in hospital, up two from Wednesday.
The lack so far of a dramatic jump in the total number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. should not be taken as a sign the spread of the disease is slowing, Henry said.
“I don’t dare hope at this point,” she said. “We are still very much in the incubation period.”
Since people don’t develop symptoms for up to 14 days after contracting COVID-19, the next week will be critical in assessing whether measures taken to restrict transmission of the disease, such as banning public gatherings, closing many businesses and telling people to stay two metres apart from one another, have had the desired effect, Henry said.
“We are not going to see a dramatic change for another five to six days,” Henry said.
This morning, the government will present forecasts for how the disease might spread in B.C. based on current case numbers and computer modelling of transmission probabilities.
Dix said the estimates will include both worst-case scenarios as well as more temperate forecasts of the likely spread of the disease. Regardless of what trajectory the coronavirus pandemic assumes in B.C., Dix warned, however, that significant challenges lie ahead for British Columbians.
“This will be a difficult time, as difficult as we’ve ever seen as a province,” he said.
The provincial death toll from COVID-19 remained Thursday at 14, with 11 of those who’ve died having been residents of a long-term care facility in the Lower Mainland.
Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported at nine long-term care facilities, none of which are in the Okanagan or the larger region served by Interior Health.
The Okanagan has a significantly higher percentage of seniors than other communities in Canada. In Kelowna, according to the 2016 census, 22% of the population is 65 or over.
Comparable figures for other Valley municipalities are 25% in Vernon, 29% in Penticton, 32% in Peachland and 41% in Osoyoos.
Nationally, 17% of Canadians are over 65.
The new order for health-care employees to work at only one facility during the current pandemic includes long-term care homes, assisted-living complexes, and all extended and acute care facilities. There are dozens of such facilities in the Okanagan.