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COVID-19 deaths spike, Kelowna business has outbreak

B.C. has had five deaths since yesterday bringing death total to 24
Public health officer Bonnie Henry | BC Government

B.C. has had a spike in deaths from COVID-19, and a plant nursery in Kelowna has been shut down after an outbreak among temporary foreign farm workers.

The five deaths since Monday is the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the outbreak. It brings the total death rate in B.C. to 24. All but one of the people who have died from the virus have been residents of long-term care homes, and most were in their 70s or 80s, said public health officer Bonnie Henry.

There have been 43 additional COVID-19 cases since Monday, bringing the total to 1,013. Of that number, 128 are in hospital, 61 in intensive care and 570 recovered.

Public health officer Bonnie Henry said Interior Health is investigating "our first large community outbreak which involves a group of temporary foreign workers in housing at a West Kelowna agricultural business.

The business is Bylands Nursery.

"This business has been closed to customers," Henry said.

Henry did not say how many of the temporary foreign workers have tested positive for the virus.

Exceeding 1,000 cases is an important milestone. Infections spread exponentially. How long it takes to go from one case to 10, 10 cases to 100, and 100 to 1,000 indicates how well a given jurisdiction is doing on things containing the virus's spread.

"It took us 15 days to go from 100 cases to 1,000," said Jason Goto, CEO of AnalysisWorks, a heath data analytics company that has been comparing how the virus has spread in various countries.

"That’s longer than other countries (or) regions who have gone before us. Our daily new cases are still going up and down, which is obviously better than getting larger every single day, but not as good as the new cases decreasing every single day."

Asked how long it may be before some of the restrictions on work, travel and socializing might be lifted, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said there was "zero" chance that it will be before the end of April and "little to none in May."

"I think we're into this for a long time," Dix said. 

"For right now we need people to be 100% committed -- all in," he said. "And it's going to take a while and people are going to have to be patient."

And even if there is a reprieve by summertime, Henry said restrictions might have to go back into place in the fall, if there is a second wave in the pandemic.

Here are the numbers for Tuesday, March 31, with numbers for the last 48-hour reporting period (March 29 and 30) in brackets:

New -  43 (86)

Total – 1,013 (970)

Total deaths – 24 (19)

Hospitalized – 128 (106)

In intensive care – 61 (60)

Recovered – 570 (396)

To read an update on the COVID-19 outbreak at seniors' care homes in B.C., click here.

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