British Columbia

Record high 165 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in B.C.

A record number of new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in B.C. on Thursday, and two new outbreaks have been declared in hospitals in the Lower Mainland.

1 more person has died and 2 new outbreaks have been declared in Lower Mainland hospitals

British Columbia Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on COVID-19 on Sept. 17, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A record number of new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in B.C. on Thursday, and two new outbreaks have been declared in hospitals in the Lower Mainland.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 165 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus during Thursday's briefing, as well as one additional death. There are new outbreaks at Delta Hospital and the rehab unit at Peace Arch Hospital, bringing the total number of active outbreaks in the health-care system to 15.

Henry appealed to members of the public to stick to gatherings with six or fewer people and to keep those groups of six consistent. She also addressed new restrictions that have closed nightclubs and banned service of alcohol after 10 p.m., calling them necessary to slow transmission of the disease.

"This give and take is not easy; it is what will keep us safe and functioning in the weeks ahead," Henry said. "This is going to be our most challenging year."

There are now 57 people in hospital, including 22 in intensive care. To date, 7,663 people in B.C. have had confirmed infections from the novel coronavirus and 220 have died so far.

The number of active cases of COVID-19 infection across the province has also risen to a record high 1,705, and 2,949 people are in isolation and being monitored because of possible exposure to the virus.

Henry said that most recent new cases are linked to previous cases, and many of those testing positive were already in isolation because of known exposure events.

New testing program for children

Henry also addressed the recent return to class for many schoolchildren, saying that while there have been some exposures to the virus, there have yet to be any outbreaks.

With those children in mind, Henry announced a new system of testing for COVID-19 that involves gargling a saline mouth rinse, rather than inserting a swab deep inside the nasal cavity. She said this "exciting" program, delivered by a B.C. company, will make testing much more comfortable for children.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says British Columbia is one of the first places in the world to use a mouth rinse gargle test for COVID-19. 1:31

"[We] want to have it available for everyone, but right now it's for children for reasons of supply," Henry said.

The test can be done by children or parents without the help of a health-care professional.

B.C.'s rising numbers are part of a trend across the country. In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions and fines for large gatherings, as 293 new cases of COVID-19 were reported there on Thursday.

Ontario is now restricting the number of people in any outdoor gathering to 25 in some regions, but Henry said there are no plans to do that in B.C., where the limit will remain at 50.

"That doesn't mean that 50 is OK," she added.

She urged young people to try to influence friends and colleagues to remind them to stick to small, consistent groups. Henry said that while the rise in new cases that began earlier this summer was driven by people in their 20s and 30s, that's now spilling into older, more vulnerable age groups.

"If you see a different group of people every night, you're exposing yourself to an exponential growth of contacts. This is how we're seeing spread happening now," she said.

With files from Roshini Nair

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