41 people die of COVID-19 in B.C. over the weekend, as 1,667 new cases confirmed
Provincial Health Officer said B.C.'s curve is 'levelling,' but at too high a plateau
B.C. health officials have announced 1,667 new cases of COVID-19 over a three day period and 41 new deaths — but offered a glimmer of hope on Monday, saying restrictions appear to be working to slow the spread of the virus.
In a live news conference from Victoria, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed 652 new cases between Friday and Saturday, 486 new cases between Saturday and Sunday, and 529 new cases between Sunday and Monday.
The new cases represent a 23 per cent decrease compared to last weekend, when 2,146 new cases were recorded.
Hospitalizations are down slightly and active cases have shrunk for the first time since the second wave began, according to provincial statistics.
There are currently 341 people in hospital, with 80 patients in critical care.
Henry said that while B.C.'s curve is currently "levelling," it's at too high a plateau, with significant growth of new cases in the Interior and the north of B.C.
"COVID spreads quickly but shows up slowly. ... With restrictions in place, the number of people that have had close contact has decreased, but it is still a substantial number," she said.
"We have to remember that people getting sick today were in contact with others days ago, and as much as two weeks ago."
As of Friday, 3,644 health-care workers in the Lower Mainland had received their first dose of vaccine, and on Monday, vaccines had arrived in every health region of the province.
Henry said she hopes to have all staff and residents of long-term care homes immunized "well before March" — but the timetable for shipments of the vaccine is still unpredictable.
"What we've seen, so far, is that things are changing quickly and will continue to change quickly, as we get a better sense of how much vaccine is coming and when — but last week was a great kickoff," she said.
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have urged British Columbians to hold the line against the virus and adhere to provincial health guidelines over the holiday season, as vaccinations against the virus are dispensed.
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Current provincial health orders in B.C., which include voluntary restrictions on non-essential travel and a mandatory ban on social gatherings, are set to expire on Jan. 8.
"[I've made] a personal commitment to celebrate safely and stay small. I ask you to do the same. Have a safe holiday celebration, reach out to those in your community, but in a way that's safe," said Henry.
Asked about reports of long lineups at Whistler over the weekend, Henry urged would-be skiers to stay local over the Christmas break.
"We want people to stay local. Stay local, stay small," she said.
Flights from UK halted after emergence of new strain
On Friday, Canada halted flights from the UK in response to a new, potentially more contagious strain of the virus.
Henry said no new cases with the mutation have been discovered in B.C. or any other part of Canada.
"This pause give us time to put in appropriate protective measures. So far, it does not seem to increase severity of illness, however it can transmit more easily. It could be because one of the changes has made the virus more easily able to attach to the receptors to get into our body and begin the infectious process," she said, adding that, to date, COVID-19 has mutated relatively slowly.
The variant in the UK is made up of 17 different mutations that are now being studied by scientists.
"It's not unexpected to see mutations and we've been watching this from the very beginning. There's nothing to worry about the vaccine being effective with the mutation so far. But it's something we will keep watching."
Henry said regardless of new strains of the virus, actions taken to avoid spreading the virus will remain the most important tool to slow the pandemic.
"It is behaviour — it is us doing the things that stop transmission that will stop this the virus and this mutation from transmitting," she said.