British Columbia

Another 1,889 cases of COVID-19 reported in B.C. in past 2 days

In their first update in two days, B.C. health officials announced 1,889 new cases of COVID-19. Another 23 people have died of the disease since Thursday.

23 more people have died of the disease since Thursday, health officials say

A health-care worker directs traffic at a drive-through clinic in Central Park in Burnaby on March 26. B.C. has seen an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In their first update in two days, B.C. health officials announced 1,889 new cases of COVID-19.

Another 23 people have died of the disease since Thursday, said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a written statement.

The statement puts the number of hospitalized patients at 318 people, 96 of whom are in intensive care. There are now more COVID-19 patients in intensive care than at any other point in the pandemic.

Monday's update was the first since the province released incomplete data on Saturday, covering case numbers but not deaths, active cases or variants of concern.

Another 916 cases caused by variants of concern have been confirmed since Thursday, for a total of 3,559 to date, Henry and Dix said. Of those, 588 are currently active.

In a media availability on Monday afternoon, Dix expressed concern about the spread of these more contagious variants of the virus.

"The most transmissive variants of COVID-19 are ultimately going to take over. We've seen that in other jurisdictions and we expect to see it here," he said.

But he pushed back against public pressure to implement stronger measures to control the spread of these variants.

"All of the measures that can control COVID-19 are the best measures to deal with the variants."

Online vaccine portal opens Tuesday

A total of 1,486 people in B.C. have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

There are currently 8,490 active cases of coronavirus in the province, and public health is monitoring 11,989 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation because of COVID-19 exposure. A total of 94,806 people who tested positive have recovered. 

So far, 893,590 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 87,472 second doses.

On Tuesday morning, the province's online vaccine registration portal is set to go live. People born in 1950 or earlier, and those whom the province has deemed clinically extremely vulnerable will be able to register online to book their appointment, as will Indigenous people who are 18 and older.

Dix said the province has spent the past couple of weeks testing the system to be sure it's capable of handling a large volume of traffic when it goes live, and he's "hopeful" it won't crash.

Monday's update follows concerning numbers released Saturday, when health officials announced back-to-back single-day records for new cases. The update revised those numbers to 1,074 on Friday and 1,077 on Saturday.

Recent weeks have seen a major surge in infections with the novel coronavirus, and rising numbers of people who've tested positive for more infectious variants of concern.

Of the confirmed variant cases to date, 2,771 are of the variant first identified in the U.K., 737 of the variant first identified in Brazil and 51 of the variant first identified in South Africa.

Challenged Monday about why the province isn't releasing more data on where the variants are spreading, Dix declined to provide specifics.

"The variants are not dissimilar to the rest of COVID-19. It's indoor spaces — indoor events, in some cases … indoor spread within households," he said.

B.C. hospitals 'can manage,' Dix says

While the number of patients in critical care with COVID-19 has hit its highest level ever and health officials have expressed concerns about growing numbers of younger people needing to be hospitalized, Dix said B.C. still has plenty of capacity in its hospitals.

He said provincewide, intensive care units are about 77 per cent full, and there's more capacity available in surge beds as well.

"Let's be clear, there's a lot of people in hospital, a lot of people in critical care," Dix said. "We can manage but it puts a lot of pressure on staff."

He also noted that some individual hospitals are struggling with large numbers of COVID-19 patients, including Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, Surrey Memorial Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

On Sunday, Dix defended the measures that B.C. has put in place to control the spread of the disease, describing them as very strict and saying it's up to everyone to follow the rules. As of last week, officials have cancelled indoor dining, in-person worship and group fitness classes.

He also acknowledged that a higher proportion of younger people are becoming ill from the disease.

"I'm not one bit happy about where we are at now," Dix said.

Health officials also urged British Columbians to stay home for the holiday weekend, but mayors in some tourist destinations said over the weekend that they were noticing an influx of visitors.

With files from Justin McElroy


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