British Columbia

B.C. records 862 new cases of COVID-19 and 7 more deaths

For the first time in B.C., a person in their 20s has died of the disease.

For the first time in B.C., a person in their 20s has died of the disease

Pharmacist Eugene Woo delivers an AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at Davie Pharmacy in Vancouver, B.C. on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. health officials announced 862 new cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths on Wednesday.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are 8,906 active cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A total of 483 people are in hospital, 164 of whom are in intensive care.

The new case numbers show B.C.'s rolling caseload average is on a downward trend, but hospitalizations — which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases — are up from last Wednesday. At that time, 397 people were in hospital, with 120 in intensive care.

The provincial death toll from the disease is now 1,546. That includes, for the first time in B.C., a person in their 20s who has died of COVID-19.

"This case, as in all cases of young people who pass away, is particularly tragic," Dix told reporters Wednesday.

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Few details have been released about the case, but according to a situation report from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the person died sometime between April 3 and 10.

Public health is actively monitoring 13,135 people across the province who are self-isolating after being exposed to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Northern Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Dawson Creek and District Hospital in the medical inpatient unit, after two patients tested positive for the virus.

The provincial statement Wednesday said "there is no new update on the variants of concern."

However, the health ministry confirmed that as of April 4, there had been 39 cases of the B1617 variant in B.C. — a variant first identified in India, where COVID-19 is now surging.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is now calling B1617 a variant of interest, and more information about its presence in the province will be available later this week.

So far, 1,456,946 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 88,335 of those being second doses.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) said in a statement transmission in Whistler, a long-running hot spot, has dropped by more than half compared to last week. The authority identified 72 new cases this week after confirming 179 last week.

VCH said Wednesday it will be running an additional vaccination clinic day in Whistler on April 28 for those who missed or were unable to attend the one-week clinic last week.

Incoming travel restrictions

Earlier this week, Premier John Horgan announced Solicitor General Mike Farnworth would be drafting orders for strict new travel measures that will come into effect Friday and last until after the May long weekend.

Those orders, Horgan said Monday, are intended to stop people leaving their health authorities for non-essential reasons. There will be random audits of travellers to make sure people are in compliance.

Full details on the official rules will be announced Friday, including a clearer definition of what constitutes "essential travel" and what penalties might be in store for those who break the rules. 

In the meantime, Farnworth provided a piece of further clarity on Wednesday for two neighbouring health authorities: The minister said Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health will be considered a single region under the new orders.

B.C. Premier John Horgan is pictured on March 18. The province announced Monday new travel restrictions are being drafted in B.C. to come into effect this Friday. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

He told reporters the restrictions will be most focused on catching people travelling for recreation, with roadblocks set up around BC Ferries' terminals as well the area of Highway 1 where people leave the Lower Mainland en route to the Interior.

The province has also asked the tourism industry to reject bookings from people travelling outside their local areas. Restrictions banning indoor dining and adult fitness activities at gyms have been extended for another five weeks.

Who is eligible for vaccination?

As of Wednesday, British Columbians born in 1991 or earlier can register online, by phone or in-person at a Service B.C. office. Once registered, individuals will be contacted when it is their time to book an appointment.

People born in 1981 or earlier are eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine now through pharmacies and, in some hard-hit areas, special clinics.

Officials have released a list of 13 community health service areas that have seen the highest COVID-19 case rates, which will be given top priority through the clinics. Eligibility for those clinics is based on postal code.

People who wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine through a pharmacy need to book their shot with the pharmacy itself. The province provides a list of participating pharmacies online. Pharmacies have limited supplies of the vaccine.

Also on Wednesday, the Abbotsford School District informed teachers and staff they are now eligible to receive the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, with priority being given to those employees who work directly with students.