British Columbia

B.C. health officials warn 'tide can turn quickly' as COVID-19 cases creep up in some regions

B.C. health officials say 26 people died of COVID-19 in the last four days and 1,533 more cases of the disease have been confirmed.

1,533 more cases confirmed and 26 more deaths reported over the last 4 days

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is beginning to inch up in some parts of the province, including the populous Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. health officials say 26 people died of COVID-19 in the last four days and 1,533 more cases of the disease have been confirmed.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the latest numbers Tuesday afternoon in the first public update on the pandemic since Friday. She noted that some parts of the province are starting to see concerning upward swings in their COVID-19 numbers and case positivity rates.

That includes B.C.'s biggest health authority, Fraser Health, and neighbouring Vancouver Coastal Health, where the seven-day rolling averages of new cases are inching upward along with the reproductive number, which measures how many people each new case is infecting.

Henry said that across the province, the number of positive tests reported every day is still far too high.

"The tide can turn quickly," she said. "We're not having those safe interactions as much as we need to be."

Too many people are still bending the rules, holding small social gatherings in defiance of public health orders, Henry said. Though it might not seem like a big deal to have a couple of friends over for dinner, even a gathering like that can spread the disease.

"We need to hold each other accountable for stopping the spread," she said.

Henry noted that a recent game night attended by 50 people in contravention of public health orders led to 15 of those people becoming infected and transmitting the disease to their workplaces, schools and a child-care centre.

There are currently 4,189 active cases of COVID-19, including 231 people who are in hospital, of whom 74 are in intensive care.

Tuesday's update included two new outbreaks in the community at Timothy Christian School in Chilliwack and SFU Childcare Society in Burnaby. Another three new outbreaks have been recorded in B.C.'s health-care system, all in long-term care and assisted living. 

Henry also provided an update on the spread of coronavirus variants of concern in B.C. Officials have now confirmed 40 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., 19 of the variant first identified in South Africa and one of a lesser known variant from Nigeria.

There are 7,136 people across the province who are under active monitoring because of close contact with known cases of COVID-19. So far, B.C. has recorded 74,283 cases of COVID-19, including 1,314 people who have died.

On vaccines: 'We're playing the hand that we're dealt'

As of Tuesday, 171,755 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 22,914 second doses. Henry noted that B.C.'s vaccine supply remains limited, but more is on the way this week.

"This is encouraging," she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix estimated that by April 1, about 10 per cent of British Columbians will be vaccinated.

Henry said she understands the frustration many Canadians are feeling about lagging far behind the U.S. in the vaccination process, but said that isn't going to make the process go any faster.

"It is what it is," she said. "We're playing the hand that we're dealt."

She also offered some reassurance about possible further delays between first and second doses of the vaccine, beyond the guidelines developed by the manufacturers. Henry said B.C. is monitoring people in long-term care who have received their first shot, and it appears to provide about 89 per cent protection from infection.

"This is actually incredibly exciting and positive news," Henry said.

Despite the good news, harsh winter weather in the U.S. will delay, by at least one day, a shipment of Pfizer vaccine en route to Canada, the company said.

United Parcel Service (UPS) has temporarily shuttered its massive air shipping hub at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport in Kentucky because of a significant buildup of snow and ice.

Pfizer ships vaccine doses from its Puurs, Belgium facility through Louisville and, from there by air, to Canadian destinations.



With files from Liam Britten


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