Surrey Memorial Hospital. (File photo)

Health Minister says 21 cases have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

Eight new cases within the last day, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says

A news tip received by the Surrey Now-Leader from someone who identified themselves only as “Not Losingmyjob” claiming there have been five confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Surrey Memorial Hospital – one Wednesday and four Thursday – was put to Minister of Health Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in a teleconference call.

Asked if this unverified claim is correct, this is what they said Thursday.

“We have given the information about all of the cases that we have given – what am I trying to say?” Henry replied.

Dix then said “the 21 cases that we have are the 21 cases that have tested positive in British Columbia. We can’t comment on the news tip but what we can tell you is, and they are listed here and will be listed on our statement, the 21 cases that we’ve detailed meticulously, day after day, are the 21 positive tests we have.

“Obviously our testing program continues and the purpose of our testing program, in large measure, is to find positive cases so that we can contain more effectively the virus. So, that’s what I can tell you, those are the tests, and the place that they’re tested is central, so we know about the cases and these are the 21 cases we have now and there are no other cases that we’re aware of in the health system.”

Henry added, “I’ll also say we have told you all along when people have been hospitalized and we only have one of our cases who’s in hospital,” at which point the Now-Leader’s connection to the teleconference call went dead.

READ ALSO: Eight new B.C. coronavirus cases, one with no travel link

This is the text of that anonymous tip:

“There have been 5 confirmed cases of Covid 19 at SMH. 1 yesterday, 34 year old woman, who has been to at least 2 gathering events, and shopping. She also spent time in emergency yesterday. 4 more cases confirmed today. I do not know details of these cases or if they are as a result of the 34 year old woman. I do NOT like that they are not reporting these cases.”

Asked earlier in the day about this unverified claim, a Fraser Health Authority communications officer responded that the BC Centre for Disease Control is handling inquiries about COVID-19 cases. A communications officer at the BCCDC then told the Now-Leader “we don’t comment directly on rumours” and said there would be the aforementioned teleconference call later Thursday afternoon. Asked is she’s saying this tip is a “rumour,” she replied, “I don’t know if it’s a rumour. Basically there’s a process for announcing confirmed cases. So if there’s a confirmed case they’ll be announced in the same fashion they have been in the past, and beyond that I wouldn’t be able to provide comment.”

Henry said in Thursday’s teleconference call B.C. has eight new cases “within the last day,” but added that wasn’t surprising to authorities.

“The first four of these cases are actually household contacts of a case that we announced last week and they have been under observation and monitoring and they developed their symptoms while in isolation, so that’s not unexpected for us. We knew that these were close contacts.”

“So four of these close contacts of a man in his 60s we announced recently who had travelled from Iran,” Henry said. “They are a man in his 20s, and a man in his 30s, a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 60s.”

Henry said the other four cases have no connection to any previous cases. Two were people who returned from Iran – a woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s, from the same household.

“The other two are different for us,” she said. “One of them is a resident of Seattle who is up here visiting family in the Fraser Health region and was tested positive on her visit here, so clearly that is of concern with us and we are working with our neighbours to the south in Washington state, to try and determine where her exposure might have been.

“And the last case is one that was picked up with our ongoing surveillance that we are doing with influenza surveillance,” she said. “This is a community case and we are doing a detailed investigation right now to try and determine where her source of infection was. She has not recently travelled and has no known contact with any of our known cases of COVID-19 so that is something we are paying a lot of attention to, of course. She is in the Vancouver Coast Health region.”

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