British Columbia

COVID-19 hospitalizations rising in B.C., as 269 cases added from weekend

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 continues to rise in B.C. after a weekend that saw 269 new cases confirmed and one more death.

1 more person dies as active cases rise to new high

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 in B.C. is the highest it's been in two months, officials said Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 continues to rise in B.C. after a weekend that saw 269 new cases confirmed and one more death.

Eighteen patients are being treated in hospital, including five in intensive care, up from a total of 13 hospitalized on Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday. The number of patients in hospital is now the highest it's been in two months.

The latest update, which covers the last three days, brings the number of active cases to a new high of 913 out of 5,184 cases to date. The one-day total of 109 new cases confirmed on Saturday is also the highest number of new cases in one day so far.

"As we live with COVID-19 in our communities our goals continue to be clear. We need to minimize our new cases," Henry said.

"Despite the recent outbreaks and clusters that we have seen in the past week and the rising case numbers, we still have low undetected transmission in our province. We are able to find and connect most people who have this disease."

A total of 203 people have died from the coronavirus in B.C.

Monday's update also included one new outbreak in a long-term care home in the Fraser Health region, bringing the total number of active outbreaks in the health-care system to 10.

In recent weeks, B.C. has increased its testing capacity for the virus to between 4,000 and 5,000 a day. Henry said the rate of positive tests remains relatively low, but the health-care system needs to be prepared.

"There are many more months of this to come," she said.

Henry acknowledged B.C.'s caseload is higher now than it was when the province began shutting down public services and businesses in March, but said health officials now understand much more about the virus, including how to track and prevent transmission. 

"Shutting down is not an answer to things," Henry said, pointing out that even New Zealand, despite its considerable success against the disease, has been unable to completely prevent transmission.

While there have been some exposures to the virus in restaurants and bars, Henry said the vast majority of businesses are taking the proper public health measures, and she worries that a blanket shutdown would just drive social functions underground. 

Stricter enforcement begins

The province is continuing to urge people to maintain physical distancing as cases increase and is doing more to encourage the public to follow safety guidelines. 

Last week, the province announced law enforcement authorities would have the authority to issue fines of up to $2,300 to people who host large events that violate public health orders during the pandemic.

Watch | Dr Bonnie Henry says limiting large events is the only way to ensure adequate contact tracing:

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says when there's more people than 50 the chances of COVID spread go up 'dramatically.' 2:09

This weekend, the host of a party in Victoria that, according to police, drew as many as 60 people, was fined $2,300. The same fine was issued to four separate venues in Surrey and to the organizers of a large party in Richmond.

Henry said Monday that it's up to every individual to follow public health advice, but enforcement measures are there for when they're needed.

"Our B.C. COVID-19 response is about all of us doing our part," she said. 

"We need to all continue to do the right thing from the get-go, so that we don't need to use the enforcement measures."

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the key to getting through the pandemic is not to finger point, but for everyone to take personal responsibility for their actions and recommit to measures like avoiding large gatherings, maintaining physical distance and wearing a mask when necessary.

Schools are expected to reopen in B.C. on Sept. 10.

As cases have increased in recent days, some parents are considering homeschooling their children.

With files from Andrea Ross and Justin McElroy

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