British Columbia

B.C. records 549 new cases of COVID-19 and 5 more deaths over the long weekend

Another 549 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in B.C. over the last four days, but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the high numbers are partly the result of a testing backlog.

Testing backlog blamed for higher than normal case counts announced Tuesday

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the high number of new COVID-19 cases announced Tuesday is related in part to a backlog of tests that was cleared over the weekend. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Another 549 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in B.C. over the last four days, but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the high case numbers are partly the result of a testing backlog.

Tuesday's update also included five more deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of people who have died so far to 250.

"The numbers are higher than what we would like to see," Henry acknowledged, but she said a backlog added approximately "an extra day's worth of tests," mainly from the Fraser Health region, to the totals of the last four days.

"The backlog has now been cleared and we are working to keep it that way," she said, adding that the test positive rate remains low at about 1.39 per cent.

There have now been 10,734 confirmed cases of the virus in B.C., of which 1,476 are still active. A total of 77 people are currently in hospital, including 24 in intensive care — the highest number of COVID-19 patients in hospital since May 1.

Tuesday's update also includes four new outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living facilities. There are now 20 active outbreaks in the health-care system, including 17 in long-term care and assisted living and three in acute care units of hospitals.

Henry noted that there have been no new community outbreaks, but public health workers are starting to see some exposure to the disease at sporting events like soccer and hockey games. Those exposure events have led to the closure of a few facilities.

She said all sporting facilities need to make sure they have COVID-19 safety plans in place that prioritize player participation over the presence of spectators.

"We know spending time cheering with other parents and fans increases the risk of transmission and exposure," Henry said.

Asked about a recent "super-spreader" event at a spin studio in Ontario that has led to at least 61 infections, Henry said there haven't been many exposure events in B.C. gyms and she isn't considering changing her public health advice on that front.

Henry said she remains optimistic that British Columbians took her advice to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small and local, and that the long weekend will not lead to a spike in cases.

"Hopefully, people took this to heart. Really, it's about protecting those who are close to us," she said.

B.C. has significantly ramped up testing for the virus in recent weeks, with more than 10,000 performed every day.

But some people in the province have had trouble getting their test results, because a hotline set up for people to confirm negative COVID-19 results has been overwhelmed with calls and keeps hanging up on people.

The Provincial Health Services Authority of B.C. says the phone number is getting more than 10,000 calls per day and that's causing delays of up to two weeks or more.

On Tuesday, Henry said that people who are waiting for results should continue to self-isolate, but she recognizes that is a burden and health officials are working on reducing the wait.

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

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