Three new outbreaks in long-term care homes in the Fraser Health region have helped fuel a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C. over the last 24 hours.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday that 71 new cases of the disease have been recorded, for a total of 1,795 to date. Three more residents of long-term care homes have died, bringing the province’s toll to 90.

“We continue to experience new community outbreaks. This of course is very, very concerning,” Henry told reporters. 

She said Wednesday’s spike in new cases, the largest that B.C. has seen in weeks, should be a reminder that British Columbians need to continuing committing to breaking the chains of transmission by staying home and maintaining distances from other people.

“One of the most important things we all need to do is stay home if we’re not feeling well,” Henry said.

She stressed that employers should not penalize workers who need to stay home because they’re feeling ill. Outbreaks at businesses affect everyone, Henry said, and they will also affect the owners’ bottom lines.

As of Wednesday, there were 103 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals, including 46 in intensive care. At total of 1,079 people have fully recovered from the disease.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C.’s critical care wards are about 46 per cent occupied right now. As the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 patients remains low, Dix said he looks forward to eventually being able to resume scheduled elective surgeries that were cancelled in March.

“They are in our hearts, in our thoughts,” Dix said of patients who are still waiting for their surgeries.

The outbreak at Mission Institution continues to spread, with one more case confirmed for a total of 77, Henry said. There are currently five inmates in hospital.

The prison outbreak is the second largest in the province, Henry said, and it’s created numerous challenges for health officials. One of those is released inmates bringing the virus home with them.

“There’s a number of issues in many regions around Indigenous people being released and going home to their communities and yes, we are monitoring this,” she said.

No new cases have been recorded in connection with an outbreak of the virus at an East Vancouver poultry processing plant — 28 employees have tested positive for the virus so far. The outbreak is currently under investigation by Vancouver Coastal Health.

Henry and Dix both acknowledged that there is still more work to be done to implement the public health order stipulating that health-care workers can only work in a single long-term care home. There are currently at least 20 active outbreaks at the facilities in B.C.

“I think it’s been an extraordinary effort to date and it’s our expectation that it will be completed soon,” Dix said.

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $9-billion Canada Emergency Student Benefit to help post-secondary students who won’t be able to work this summer, and don’t qualify for the CERB. Students will be eligible for $1,250 monthly from May to August.

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