In a press conference on Tuesday, March 17, COVID-19 in B.C. caused the province to declare a state of emergency. The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said doing so allowed her to move faster and with more freedom. With the new changes, she's going to have more power to effect change to help flatten the curve.

This is the second time the province has declared a public health emergency under the current legislation, and it means that Henry can "issue verbal orders with immediate effect, order them to perform duties anywhere in the province and compel any and all peace officers to enforce her orders," said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

It also means Dix could make changes to the provincial legislation by himself.

During the conference, she used her new power to order all bars and restaurants that aren't able to maintain social distancing of one to two metres between patrons to close.

"Bars and clubs are not able to meet our requirements for social distancing, so they must close," she said.

She also said that not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19.

"Part of our mitigation is that people who have come back to Canada from anywhere, we are now ensuring that they are all isolated and self-isolating at home so that if they develop symptoms, they will not be transmitting to others and they will be in isolation at home. There’s no need for them to be tested."

"This is not forever... but it is for now," said Henry.

In the same conference, Henry said that three more people have died of COVID-19, two in the Lynn Valley Care Home and one in the Fraser Health Authority. This brings the provincial total up to seven.

B.C. now has joined both Ontario and Alberta in declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier in the day, BCCDC said they were running critically low on swabs.

They just received a new shipment of swabs to be used by health officials and they "have adequate supplies of masks now," Dix said.

Henry announced a new testing strategy where not everyone needs to be tested.

Anyone who came from outside of Canada will need to self-isolate for 14 days; if they develop mild symptoms they can take the online screening test. If they develop more severe symptoms, they can call 8-1-1 for more info.

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