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Henry warns against 'missteps' as B.C. prepares to begin reopening

VICTORIA — Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging continued vigilance even as British Columbia prepares to begin loosening restrictions in response to COVID-19 next week.

VICTORIA — Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging continued vigilance even as British Columbia prepares to begin loosening restrictions in response to COVID-19 next week.

The province confirmed a new outbreak Saturday at Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry, where three workers have tested positive. There are now 52 cases linked to Superior Poultry and 35 with United Poultry, Henry said.

"It is far too easy to tip the scales against us and undo the hard work and sacrifice that everybody here in B.C. has made," she said during a public briefing Saturday.

"We cannot afford any missteps as we look to ease our restrictions in the coming days and weeks."

Officials are also concerned about workers returning to B.C. from the Kearl Lake project in Alberta, as the number of cases linked to that outbreak continues to grow, she said.

It's "vitally important" that anyone returning from Kearl Lake self-isolate for 14 days and that their families practise physical distancing, she said.

British Columbia recorded 26 new cases Saturday, bringing the provincial total to 2,171.

Two more people have died and 1,376 have fully recovered.

The provincial government will release dynamic modelling for infections on Monday, including information about who is getting infected and where. It will also reveal what reopening plans will look like in the province next week.

The timing is in line with Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, Henry said, although she noted that restrictions have been different in each province.

"If we look at what we have put in place and the orders and restrictions in B.C., they have not been as draconian, you might say, as some other places," she said.

British Columbia also can't mimic jurisdictions like Sweden, where a focus has been on building so called community or "herd immunity," nor New Zealand, which has received global praise for its response.

Those countries do not share a border with a country hard hit by the virus, she noted.

"We are very close to a very large country that is having itself a very large outbreak. As we know, early on, Washington state had a dramatic increase in cases that affected us quite dramatically here in B.C.," Henry said.

"So it's a balance, we all have our own approach."

Testing will be a vital part of entering the next stage of pandemic response, especially identifying any cases that don't have identifiable links to existing outbreaks or clusters, she said. Public health is also putting resources toward contact tracing and ensuring testing is available for anyone who shows any symptoms, she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2020.

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had different case numbers at two poultry plants based on incorrect information provided during a briefing.