British Columbia

B.C. records 21 more deaths from COVID-19 and 673 new cases

B.C. has confirmed 673 more cases of COVID-19 and 21 more people have died of the disease, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday.

There are 358 people in hospital with the disease caused by the coronavirus, including 93 in critical care

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix walk the halls of the B.C. legislature on their way to a COVID-19 briefing. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

B.C. has confirmed 673 more cases of COVID-19 and 21 more people have died of the disease, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday.

There are now 10,009 active cases of the novel coronavirus across the province. Of those, 358 patients are in hospital, including 93 in critical care.

While the number of active cases remains high, Henry asked members of the public to keep up their efforts to control the spread of the disease, including restricting holiday celebrations to members of the same household.

"If there's one thing we have learned to keep our wall strong is to keep up our team effort," she said.

"Together, we are making a difference. Many people have already decided to make their holiday celebrations safe celebrations. I've made that commitment. I ask you to do the same."

To date, 44,776 have had confirmed cases of the disease in B.C. and 713 people have died. Once again, Henry said the majority of new deaths recorded Thursday were seniors in long-term care.

Acute care beds in B.C. hospitals are now about 88 per cent occupied, according to Health Minister Adrian Dix, compared to more than 100 per cent at this time last year before the pandemic began. Nonetheless, a field hospital established at the Vancouver Convention Centre is available to receive patients if necessary on 48 hours notice.

The province has also recorded two new outbreaks in the community, one at the Wingtat Game Bird Packers poultry plant in Surrey, confirmed by Fraser Health on Wednesday, and the second at the LNG Canada worksite in Kitimat, involving employees of Diversified Transportation.

There are now 10,388 people in isolation and under active public health monitoring because of exposure to COVID-19.

On a more positive note, Henry said 1,215 workers in the B.C. health-care system have received the COVID-19 vaccine this week, and she expects more doses of the vaccine to arrive weekly from now on.

"We are days away from the solstice … but light is ahead," she said.

She said details about further immunization clinics will be announced as they are confirmed. B.C. expects to have about 380,000 doses within the first quarter of 2021, Henry said.

"We're looking at a system so that people have equal and equitable access to vaccines," Henry said.

Henry noted that the vaccine is not recommended for people with compromised immune systems. These people were not represented in clinical trials, so it's not clear whether the vaccine is safe or effective for them.

Henry encouraged anyone who is unsure about whether they should receive the vaccine to consult their doctor.

New testing guidelines announced

Also on Thursday, Henry announced new guidelines for COVID-19 testing. She said anyone who has had contact with a known case and has any possible symptoms should get tested immediately.

There are four key symptoms that should also prompt immediate testing, irrespective of whether there has been any contact with a COVID-19 case. The symptoms are fever or chills, cough, loss of sense of smell or taste and difficulty breathing.

Symptoms like sore throat, loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea are a lower priority for testing. Anyone experiencing one or two of those symptoms should wait 24 hours and then get tested if they still feel the same or worse.

B.C. is ramping up enforcement of public health orders to ensure more people are following its mask mandate and social gathering restrictions.

Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, B.C., has fired some of its employees for breaking a social responsibility contract, after health officials announced that 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been linked to the resort. 

With files from Roshini Nair

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