COVID-19 continues to spike in B.C. as health officials announce another 83 cases
Update comes as B.C. extends state of emergency to Sept. 1 and premier promises enforcement action
Health officials in B.C. have confirmed another 83 infections of the novel coronavirus, driving the number of active cases to a new high of 775.
The latest COVID-19 update from the province, released in a written statement on Tuesday afternoon, brings the total number of cases to date to 4,677.
No new deaths have been recorded, but the number of patients in hospital has risen from four to six, with four people being treated in intensive care. To date, 198 people have died of the disease.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Réka Gustafson urged British Columbians to be more careful about preventing transmission of the virus.
"We need to continue to protect those who are most vulnerable — our seniors and Elders, and those with underlying health conditions — by thinking about who we are being exposed to, and who we may be exposing, when spending time with others," they said in the statement.
"Seeing friends may seem safe, but if you are in close contact with an elderly family member, your visit may inadvertently put them at risk."
The last few weeks have seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases, following B.C.'s much-touted earlier success at flattening the curve of infection. Not only does the province now have its highest ever number of active cases, but Saturday also marked the highest one-day total of new cases since the pandemic began, with 100 recorded.
Dix and Gustafson said Tuesday that as numbers continue to rise, B.C. needs to be able to trace the contacts of every person who tested positive for the virus.
"We need every new case of COVID-19 to be identified, traced and contained as quickly as possible to keep our curve where we need it to be," they said.
"Hundreds of people are now self-isolating and under care, and we can support them to do that well. Because the virus can spread with very mild symptoms, it is essential that anyone advised to self-isolate stays home, and stays away from others, for the full 14-day period."
Earlier Tuesday, the provincial government extended its state of emergency to Sept. 1.
"British Columbians have sacrificed a lot to keep transmission rates down, and now unsafe parties and gatherings are eroding that hard work. We're committed to getting our province back on track and will be announcing enforcement action against those who continue to put others at risk," Premier John Horgan said in a news release.
The health minister says there will be increased enforcement of the rules in public indoor spaces.
"The places where we've seen transmission are indoor spaces, indoor parties, often private parties," said Dix.
"That maximum gathering of 50 isn't in your apartment."
Dix asks people to avoid private parties with individuals outside your bubble, and to continue to practice physical distancing even when in close quarters with family members.
B.C. has been in a state of emergency because of COVID-19 since March 18.
A tale of two pandemics
There are a number of contrasts when looking at COVID-19 cases in the province, according to Dix. On the one hand, he says, B.C. has seen significant case counts among people aged 20 to 40, while on the other hand hospitalizations have dropped to some of their lowest levels during the pandemic.
"What that tells us is that our efforts to a degree to protect the vulnerable for the moment, although this can change, have been effective," said Dix.
Another contrast is by region.
Dix says Metro Vancouver has been seeing a disproportionately high level of new infections.
He says among Tuesday's cases 76 of the 83 affected people were from Metro Vancouver.
"Overwhelmingly, our active cases are in Metro Vancouver. There are only seven active cases in all of Vancouver Island, for example," Dix said.
The health minister says these areas and groups experiencing increased transmission are the government's focus right now.
With files from On the Coast