British Columbia

Next step of reopening may be delayed in B.C. as COVID 19 case counts increase

British Columbia may not advance as expected to the next step in its COVID-19 restart plan as case counts surge in the Interior Health region, the province's top doctor said Friday, as health officials announced 663 new cases and one more death.

Officials announced 663 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 more death on Friday

A registered nurse prepares to deliver a COVID-19 vaccination to a frontline worker at Vancouver General Hospital on March 4. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

British Columbia may not advance as expected to the next step in its COVID-19 restart plan as case counts surge in the Interior Health region, the province's top doctor said Friday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it won't be a surprise if the province doesn't advance to Step 4 in September.

"It's very likely that we won't be seeing a move to any more loosening of restrictions in the near term,'' she said, adding that the province has met its immunization targets, but case numbers and hospitalizations remain high.

Under B.C.'s restart plan, Step 4 would mark a return to largely pre-pandemic life, with normal contact allowed and increased capacity at events, such as concerts.

Cases, hospitalizations rising

The news came as health officials announced 663 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday.

In a written statement, the province said there are currently 6,345 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A total of 129 people are in hospital, with 59 in intensive care, up from 39 a week ago.

 

Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by 57 per cent from last Friday, when 82 people were in hospital with the disease.

The provincial death toll from the disease is now 1,785 lives lost out of 158,919 confirmed cases to date.

As of Friday, 83 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.3 per cent a second dose.

That means B.C. has reached the immunization targets it set out as requirements for Step 4. However, health officials say there also needs to be a decrease in cases and hospitalizations before that happens.

"I don't think if we were talking from today that where we are in terms of cases and hospitalization reflects where we need to be to make that move forward," said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

So far, 7,296,096 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 3,442,163 second doses.

Signs of slowdown in Interior

The Interior Health Authority accounted for the sharp rise of cases at the start of the province's fourth wave, but there are signs of a plateau in cases there weeks after targeted health measures were put into place.

However, the rest of B.C. has seen continuous spikes in new cases as the more contagious delta variant has taken root.

There have been numerous case clusters associated with large construction projects, with multiple workers at a Trans Mountain site and the Site C dam project testing positive over the past few days.

The regional breakdown of new cases on Friday is as follows:

  • 274 new cases in Interior Health, which has 3,504 total active cases.
  • 162 new cases in Fraser Health, which has 1,169 total active cases.
  • 135 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, which has 1,018 total active cases. 
  • 54 new cases in Island Health, which has 391 total active cases.
  • 38 new cases in Northern Health, which has 254 total active cases.
  • no new cases among people who reside outside of Canada, a group which has 9 total active cases.

 

There are 11 active outbreaks in assisted living and long-term care. Of those, two are in Interior Health and one is in Fraser Health.

Two patients at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock have also tested positive for COVID-19, according to a written release from Fraser Health on Friday. 

The outbreak is limited to one unit that is temporarily closed to admissions.

"The emergency department at Peace Arch Hospital remains open and there has been no impact to any other areas of the hospital," it said.

Up to 12,000 daily cases predicted

Dr. Mike Benusic, medical health officer with Island Health, said 85 per cent of the cases in the health authority over the last week were among those who were not fully vaccinated and 60 per cent were individuals who were unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, an independent modelling group warned in a report on Wednesday that if no action is taken to prevent COVID-19 infections during the fall, daily case counts in the province could go up 10,000 to 12,000 cases a day.

Children are likely to be disproportionately affected as cases continue to spike primarily among unvaccinated individuals, it says.

"Children under 10 are nine per cent of the population, but 36 per cent of the unvaccinated population," the report reads.

With kids expected to be back in school in a few weeks, there have been calls for safety measures to be put into place.

With files from the Canadian Press, Akshay Kulkarni and CBC On The Island

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