66 new cases of COVID-19 identified in B.C., bringing total to 725

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. has risen to 725 after 66 new cases were identified on Thursday.

No new deaths have been recorded, so the province's total remains at 14. Sixty-six people are in hospital being treated for COVID-19, including 26 in intensive care.

A total of 186 people have now recovered from their illnesses.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it's too early to be optimistic about B.C.'s rate of hospitalization, which has yet to rise sharply.

"I don't dare hope at this point. We're still very much in the incubation period," she said.

Any dramatic jumps might still be five or six days away, Henry added.

B.C.'s COVID-19 cases include outbreaks at nine long-term care centres, the most serious of which has been at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where four additional residents and three workers have tested positive in the last 24 hours.

Henry has ordered that health-care workers be restricted to working at a single care home so that they don't spread the virus between homes.

She continued to stress the message that British Columbians need to do their part to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus by following public health orders to stay home and not gather in groups.

"We can all make a difference but we need everyone to be 100 per cent committed to doing this," Henry said.

"We need to take care of each other right now. We need to be kind and we need everybody to do their part."

Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. has now cleared 3,903 acute care hospital beds and 371 critical care beds to make way for COVID-19 patients. Fifteen new ventilators arrived in the province on Wednesday and more are expected on Friday.

He described the decision to cancel non-urgent elective surgeries as one of the most difficult choices B.C. has had to make.

"This will be a difficult time, as difficult as we have seen in this province," Dix said. "The actions we take today matter."

Earlier Thursday, the provincial government announced a series of emergency orders meant to ensure that British Columbians are abiding by restrictions from public health officials.

People who ignore public health orders, including a ban on large gatherings, can now be fined upwards of $25,000. Jail time is also possible, the province said Thursday.

City bylaw officers across the province now have the power to help enforce those orders, through education and potentially gathering evidence of a violation.

B.C. has also introduced measures to rein in the black market on the necessities of daily life, bringing in fines of up to $10,000 and possible jail time for anyone caught reselling food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning products and other essential supplies. 

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.