B.C. urges small, consistent social 'bubbles' when province reopens next week​

WATCH: Health care officials warn against non-essential travel over May long weekend

British Columbia’s top doctor laid out a set of guidelines Wednesday for expanding social groups, as the province prepares to enter Phase 2 of its COVID-19 restart plan next week.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry laid out the advice as she reported one new death from COVID-19 and 16 new cases of the virus.

“The path really is not black and white, and that is the challenge we’re all going to face,” said Henry.

“We’ve never done this before and we all need to try and do our best within the important guidance that we have around the key measures we all need to keep safe.”

With British Columbians getting the go-ahead to expand their social “bubbles,” Henry asked that people continue to keep their social circles small and their visits shorter, and outside where possible. She also advised people to avoid sharing food or drink, and continue to sit apart.

And she said people should also keep their expanded bubbles consistent, and consider making a pact with friends or neighbours about limiting the size of newly shared social circles.

“Every time you include somebody outside your household, you’re also connecting with everybody in their household, their parents, their brothers and sisters, others who may be in their expanded circle,” said Henry. “That can be a lot of people.”

Hugs and kisses with people outside of our bubbles should remain off limits, Henry said.

Henry added that her ban on gatherings of more than 50 people would remain in place for the foreseeable future, and that smaller gatherings are only permissible so long as people can maintain proper distancing from one another.

Henry’s advice came as she said more than 78 per cent of B.C.’s 2,376 COVID-19 cases had fully recovered.

The province’s death toll from the pandemic now stands at 132.

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The number of people in hospital has fallen by four to 59 patients, she said. Just 14 of those remain in intensive care.

Henry said there were no new community outbreaks of the virus, but that the number of people living or working in long-term care who have tested positive has climbed to 489.

On Tuesday, B.C. reported just seven new cases of COVID-19, the fewest in a single day since March 13.

Henry said more than 75,000 people have now taken an online survey to better understand the people’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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