A year ago today, a respiratory disease now part of everyday repertoire officially landed in B.C. in the form of a presumptive case in a man who had recently travelled to Wuhan, China.
In December 2019, the outbreak of a new coronavirus was first identified in China’s Hubei province. On Jan. 25, the first case to arrive in Canada was announced by federal officials.
For many, the past year’s unprecedented global health emergency is difficult to sum up in words – and this pandemic is not behind us.
Health officials, from Dr. Bonnie Henry to Dr. Theresa Tam, researchers and government leaders have been working hard to contain the spread of the infectious virus, as well as its impacts on all facets of society.
Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus:
Jan. 28, 2020 – First case confirmed in B.C.
The province confirms that a Vancouver man who travelled from Wuhan, China, has tested positive for a novel coronavirus sweeping parts of China and other countries.
Feb. 11 – Novel coronavirus gets its name
The World Health Organization announces the novel coronavirus has been named COVID-19, to curb mounting concerns the virus is being associated to China.
March 5 – First case at a care home in B.C.
A woman at Lynn Valley Care Centre tests positive for COVID-19, sparking one of the first and largest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in B.C.
March 6 – Dental professionals attend conference in Vancouver
Dentists and others from around the world gather in Vancouver for an annual Pacific Dental Conference at the Convention Centre, where a person later tests positive for COVID-19.
March 11 – WHO declares a global pandemic
With the backdrop of growing cases in all corners of the world, the World Health Organization declares the novel coronavirus an official pandemic.
March 12 – Large gatherings cancelled
Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix become a staple on afternoon TV, providing regular updates on case counts. The pair announce that gatherings with more than 250 people must stop.
March 15 – Gathering restrictions tighten up
Health officials urge British Columbians to stay six feet apart and work from home if possible. Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned.
March 17 – Public health emergency declared
Dr. Bonnie Henry declares a public health emergency in B.C. – the second of its kind to ever be declared in the province. Under a public health emergency, Henry can issue verbal orders to be enforced immediately.
March 17 – School cancelled
Dr. Bonnie Henry also cancels in-classroom schooling indefinitely, for Kindergarten – Grade 12 students.
March 18 – Province state of emergency declared
March 18 – Feds announce U.S.-Canadian border to close
The land borders close amid growing numbers of infections in both countries, remaining closed today.
March 21 – Businesses shut down in B.C.
Personal businesses are directed to shut down until further notice.
March 26 – Mandatory quarantine
Federal Health Minister Patty Hadju announces all returning travellers into Canada must quarantine for 14 days or face heavy fines and possible jail time.
March 31 – B.C. surpasses 1,000 confirmed cases
In their daily health briefing, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix announce a total of 1,013 test-positive cases of COVID-19 in the province.
April 2 to 6 – Jail outbreaks confirmed
An inmate tests positive at the Okanagan Correctional Centre, which is provincially operated. A few days later, one of the countries largest prison outbreaks is confirmed at federal facility Mission Institution.
April 8 – B.C. adds extra isolation rules for travellers
In addition to federal quarantine rules, Premier John Horgan says that returning travellers to B.C. will have to have self-isolation plans prepared in order to be allowed to go home. If a plan isn’t prepared or insufficient, the traveller is put up in a hotel.
April 21 – Poultry facilities become hotspot for transmission
An outbreak at Vancouver United Poultry Company Ltd. involving 28 workers is forced to shut down, marking the first processing plant to see an outbreak.
April 25 – B.C. records 100th death related to COVID
Dr. Bonnie Henry shares devastating news that one of the latest fatalities is the first recorded death of a First Nations elder.
May 1 – Provincial funds available for residents struggling
Any worker impacted by COVID-19 is encouraged to apply for B.C.’s Emergency Benefit for Workers. Those approved receive a one-time tax free payment of $1,000.
May 6 – Health officials bring hope of seeing friends, family on May long
Dr. Bonnie Henry, Premier John Horgan and Minister Adrian Dix release a multi-phase restart plan after months of social isolation for most British Columbians. The first phase includes personal businesses reopening, the introduction of a “safe six” and the restart of elective surgeries.
May 19 – Phase 2 in restart plan begins
June 1 – Voluntary return to school
As parents return to the office, children get the green light to return to the classroom on a voluntary basis. This plan receives mixed reviews – particularly for teachers juggling in-class and virtual lessons simultaneously.
June 24 – Phase 3 begins
Travel within the province is back on – a welcome decision for the tourism industry. British Columbians are warned that Canada Day and other summer holidays will still be much smaller than in the past.
June 30 – Long-term care home restrictions eased
After months of separation, in-person visits to the elderly in care homes are allowed once again. One designated person can see their relative in care.
July 10 – Canada Day festivities spark spike in new cases
The Okanagan city of Kelowna is thrust into the spotlight, nine days after Canada Day. Eight people from local and other health regions test positive for COVID-19, connected to private gatherings in hotels. This later gets declared as a community cluster.
July 22 – Nightclubs and bars spark concern
As B.C. sees a surge in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, the province’s top doctor amends the health order for bars and nightclubs, as well as events.
July 27 – B.C. puts restrictions on Airbnb, rentals
New provincial health order limits the number of guests and visitors in short-term vacation rental homes and houseboats.
Aug. 21 – Fines for party hosts enforced
B.C. announces fines for those not following public health orders, specifically the ban on large gatherings.
Aug. 24 – Masks mandatory on public transit
Both of the province’s major transit companies, TransLink and BC Transit, as well as BC Ferries announce all passengers to wear masks on board.
Sept. 8 – B.C. students back at school
Students go back to school, organized in learning groups made up of a consistent group of staff and students in order to reduce the risk of transmission.
Oct. 11 – Second wave of COVID a concern
Acknowledging frustrations around partial lockdowns and scrapped Halloween plans in some parts of the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians need to gird themselves for a “tough winter ahead” amid the second wave of the virus.
Nov. 9 – Strict measures announced for hotspot region
Lower Mainland residents are placed under restrictions in place just for the region amid surging cases. The restrictions, initially set for two weeks, still remain in effect today and have been expanded to all of B.C.
Nov. 24 – Masks mandatory in public indoor spaces
B.C. requires masks in public indoor and retail spaces, following months of calls for such a mandate. Masks are required for both customers and employees in indoor retail and public spaces in all parts of the province, except for when eating or drinking in a designated food service area.
Dec. 9 – Hope shines bright as two-dose vaccine gets green light
Dec. 14 – First Canadians get vaccine shot
Dec. 15 – First B.C. front-line worker gets inoculated
With two deep breaths, Nisha Yunis becomes part of history as one of the first health-care workers in B.C. to be immunized with a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dec. 23 – Moderna approved by Health Canada
Health Canada approves a second vaccine against COVID-19, Moderna. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirms the government is working to procure seven different COVID vaccines.
Dec. 25 to 31 – Holiday season unprecedented for British Columbians
There’s no way to prep for a lonely holiday season, after a tough year for most. Canadians face first Christmas without loved ones lost to COVID-19.
Jan. 15, 2021 – Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine sees delays
The company says it is facing production issues in Europe, sparking a temporary delay in the vaccine shipments set for Canada.
Jan. 22 – B.C. releases vaccine rollout plan
Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix say the largest immunization program in the province’s history will set up clinics in 172 B.C. communities, using school gymnasiums, arenas, community halls, church halls and convention centres, as well as mobile clinics for rural areas.
– with files from Victoria News staff
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