British Columbia

B.C.'s COVID-19 caseload is rising as officials announce 634 new cases and 4 more deaths

B.C. health officials announced a spike in new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, adding 634 to the tally over the last 24 hours. Another four people have died of the disease. 

There are 255 people in hospital with the disease, 66 of whom are in intensive care

A registered nurse delivers a COVID-19 vaccine to a front-line worker at Vancouver General Hospital on March 4, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. health officials announced a spike in new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, adding 634 to the tally over the last 24 hours. Another four people have died of the disease. 

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 255 people, 66 of whom are in intensive care.

Friday's update marks the highest one-day total for cases since Jan. 7, and the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 is now higher than it's been in a month.

Active cases are also rising. There are currently 4,901 active cases of coronavirus in the province, and public health is monitoring 8,861 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation because of COVID-19 exposure — the highest number since Dec. 31.

Henry and Dix said recent numbers show the importance of following public health orders, which ban all social gatherings and events.

"Our days are brighter, but the number of new cases remains higher than where we want it to be. So, as we get outside and enjoy the many activities we can do safely, let's ensure we are also staying the course with our safety measures," they said.

A total of 1,380 people in B.C. have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, out of 83,107 confirmed cases. A total of 76,752 people who tested positive have recovered.  

So far, 311,208 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 86,865 second doses. 

Friday's update also included four more confirmed cases of more transmissible variants of concern, bringing the province's total to 250.

One new outbreak has been recorded in the health-care system at Holmberg House Hospice in Abbotsford.

B.C.'s hospitalization numbers and seven-day rolling average of new cases have been rising over the last two weeks, but health officials said Thursday they're hopeful that as the vaccination program speeds up, the province could be in a post-pandemic world by this summer.

The province's current plan is to have first doses administered to every eligible adult who wants one by July, thanks to a decision to delay second doses to four months after the first.

Earlier Friday, Health Canada announced the approval of a fourth vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Unlike the other shots in use right now, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires just one dose.

Dix told reporters after the announcement that the one-dose schedule for the new vaccine will be convenient both for the health-care system and for patients, but he doesn't know yet when the shots will begin arriving in B.C. He expects that shipments will come in sometime between April and June, allowing the province to accelerate the current immunization schedule.

Beginning Monday, people over the age of 90 and Indigenous people over the age of 65 will be able to book appointments for vaccination. 

"We ask that anyone outside of this age group waits to call until their registration window begins. Regular updates will be provided to ensure everyone has the latest registration information," Henry and Dix said Friday.

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