Nearly 300 more cases of COVID-19 were identified in British Columbia over the weekend, pushing the province’s active caseload well past the 1,000 mark.
In their biweekly briefing on Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced another four deaths from the novel coronavirus.
Three of the latest victims were residents of long-term care homes. Altogether, the latest fatalities bring the province’s pandemic death toll to 208.
“Our condolences go out to the families, to the friends and to the care providers for these people,” Henry said.
Officials said 294 infections were identified over the last three reporting periods, including three epidemiologically linked cases: 86 were recorded from Friday to Saturday, followed by 107 from Saturday to Sunday and 101 from Sunday to Monday.
Combined, they sent B.C.’s number of active cases surging to 1,107, setting a new record for the province. That’s up from 974 active cases on Friday.
British Columbia had fewer than 200 active cases as recently as mid-July, before a number of private parties and events involving young people set off a steady increase in infections.
That ongoing surge and the pending return of cold and flu season prompted officials to ask B.C. residents to curb their socializing once more – though they did not provide clear guidelines for their latest recalibration.
“After many months of restrictions, we all needed to reconnect with our family, with friends, with our communities this summer,” Henry said. “Now, we must slow down on our social interactions and we must prepare for the respiratory season ahead.”
The provincial health officer asked for renewed vigilance when it comes to hand washing, physical distancing and mask use, but also stressed the importance of “keeping groups small.”
Unlike some jurisdictions, which have set hard rules on how many people can socialize together, B.C. health officials have generally provided more flexible advice and relied on residents to use their best judgment.
Henry and Dix also announced a new outbreak at the Normanna Living long-term care facility in Burnaby, where one staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 so far.
But two other outbreaks – at Dania Home and Holy Family Hospital – have been declared over. Holy Family Hospital’s outbreak was particularly devastating, resulting in at least nine deaths.
“We are all very relieved that this has been brought under control,” Henry said.
Health teams are still grappling with outbreaks at 10 other health care facilities, including eight assisted living and long-term care homes and two acute care centres.
While Henry acknowledged the ongoing increase in cases is “a concern to all of us,” the weekend’s infections were also offset by the 156 people who recovered from COVID-19. That brings the total number of recoveries in B.C. to 4,466.
The number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 – which is considered one of the most important measurements of the seriousness of the pandemic – remained relatively low over the summer, but has been creeping up in recent weeks.
Officials said hospitalizations reached 28 over the weekend, an increase of five from Friday. The number of patients in intensive care or critical care units also increased to 10 from seven.