B.C. health officials announced 525 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and three more deaths, as hospitalization numbers reach levels not seen since the spring.
In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are 5,133 active cases of people infected with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in B.C. With today’s deaths, the provincial death toll stands at 284.
There are currently 142 people in hospital, 50 more than last Tuesday, with 46 in intensive care. That rapid increase — more than 50 per cent in just one week — is pushing numbers close to the record high of 149 COVID-19 patients who were in hospital on April 2.
Tuesday’s numbers continue to show that this phase of the pandemic is largely concentrated in the Lower Mainland, where strict new guidelines are now in place. Of the new cases, 92 per cent were in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.
“We need to break the chains of transmission and slow the surge of COVID-19 cases — especially in the regions and locations of highest spread,” Henry and Dix said.
“The regional health authority restrictions are a short-term pause on non-essential activities to ensure we can maintain capacity within our health-care system and continue important essential activities.”
In an interview with CBC earlier Tuesday, Dix was asked about the possibility of bringing in stricter measures once the 14-day period for the regional restrictions has ended.
He didn’t rule out the prospect of a red alert-level shutdown like Manitoba has implemented, but said what happens next will depend on whether B.C. can get transmission and hospitalization rates under control.
“I’m not drawing conclusions before we see the facts,” he told B.C. Today host Michelle Eliot.
Public health is now actively monitoring 9,781 people across the province, who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.
The statement from the province said there are two new health-care facility outbreaks at Holyrood Manor in Maple Ridge and Burnaby Hospital.
In total, 33 long-term care or assisted-living facilities and six acute-care facilities have active outbreaks.
‘We can turn this trend around’
Officials on Saturday announced broad new COVID-19 restrictions for the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions to stop case numbers from surging further. The new orders focus on social gatherings, travel, indoor group exercises and workplaces and are in effect until noon on Nov. 23.
Residents living in those regions are being told not to have social interactions with anyone outside of their immediate household. The ban on gatherings from people outside the household includes outdoor gatherings and gatherings in restaurants.
Travel in and out of the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions should be limited to essential trips only.
Businesses and recreation centres that operate indoor group physical activities — like spin classes, yoga, and exercise classes — have been told to suspend those activities.
“A growing number of people in British Columbia are now self-isolating at home, away from their work, school, friends and family, which in turn is creating unnecessary financial and emotional strain for far too many,” Henry and Dix said.
“We can turn this trend around and the time to do that is now.”
They said Remembrance Day on Wednesday should serve as a reminder of the sacrifices that veterans have made in the past, hardships that the rest of us can honour by making smaller sacrifices to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
“While the ceremonies may be remote, the poppies virtual, and our legions closed this Remembrance Day, we can still show our appreciation, in a safe and respectful way, to the men and women who have proudly served our nation,” Henry and Dix said.
Also on Tuesday, the provincial state of emergency was extended for another two weeks to support B.C.’s COVID-19 response. It has now been in place for more than eight months.
B.C. Premier John Horgan on Monday said he was concerned about the “dangerous increase” in cases seen in recent weeks, warning the province could return to peak restrictions seen in March if case numbers keep rising the way they have been.