For the 10th day in a row, British Columbia has reported COVID-19 deaths in the double digits.
At a live Thursday briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 694 new cases, along with 12 new deaths.
A total of 481 people have now died of COVID-19 in B.C.
The majority of the new cases were in the Fraser Health region (465) and Vancouver Coastal Health region (114).
Eighty-two cases were in the Interior Health region, 23 were in the Northern Health region, and 10 were on Vancouver Island.
The number of people in hospital fell by 12 overnight to 325. Eighty people were in critical or intensive care.
Active cases topped 9,000 for the first time, reaching 9,103. An additional 10,849 people were isolating due to potential exposure.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said 70.6 per cent of the province’s hospital beds, accounting for surge capacity, were occupied. In critical care, 54.6 per cent of base and surge beds were occupied.
Keeping pressure off those hospital resources was among the key reasons the province has cancelled public events and implemented restrictions on social gatherings, Dix said.
“Part of the reason to do that is we don’t have to cancel surgeries. And that we can provide better protection for people in long-term care,” he said.
“It’s to protect those very healthcare workers that are working to protect us.”
Henry is expected to provide an update on what will happen with the province’s COVID-19 orders on Monday.
The public will also hear a detailed update on the province’s vaccine rollout plans from Dr. Ross Brown, who is heading up B.C.’s “Operation Immunize.”
That program will focus first on vulnerable seniors and health-care workers, Henry said.
“We know we will have limited amounts (of vaccine) at first, so we won’t be able to achieve what we’ve been calling community immunity, or herd immunity, right off the bat, but that will come,” she said.
“We are planning to put vaccine into arms in the first week of January, is what we’re planning for.”