B.C. health officials announced 217 more cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday but no new deaths and renewed their plea for British Columbians to consider their role in slowing down transmission, with cases on the rise.
In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Stephen Brown, B.C.'s deputy health minister, said there are 2,322 active cases of people infected with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in B.C.
There are currently 84 people in hospital — the highest number since hospitalizations began increasing in August — with 27 in intensive care. Hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by nine from last Friday, when 75 people were in hospital.
The provincial death toll is 259.
Public health is actively monitoring 5,101 people across the province, who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.
There are two new outbreaks at Felburn Care Centre and St. Michael's Centre, two long-term care facilities in Burnaby. There are now 21 long-term care or assisted-living facilities that have active outbreaks in B.C.
Masks now an 'expectation' in public places
On Monday, B.C. put new restrictions on private gatherings in homes after confirming a record high 817 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and three more deaths — the largest number of new cases in the province in a three-day period.
The new provincial health order from Dr. Bonnie Henry restricts gatherings in private homes to no more than immediate household members and a "safe six" additional people — a number she acknowledged may still be too many for some households, depending on space and number of people already living together.
Henry said it has become clear gatherings of fewer than 50 people are not always safe.
More than 50 per cent of identified COVID-19 cases in B.C. are in the Fraser Health Region, where the province is homing in on contact tracing and other efforts to manage a mounting case load.
The region has 39 per cent of B.C.'s population but 67 per cent of Tuesday's new cases.
Health officials in the Fraser Valley are asking residents not to hold private Halloween parties this weekend as the region tries to get ahead of further transmission.
Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health, says the region seems to be a hot spot for COVID-19, because it has the highest density of multi-generational people living in close proximity to each other, making it easier for the virus to circulate.
Health officials are reiterating the importance of "protective layers" for everyone in B.C. to reduce the spread of the virus.
On Monday, Henry said it is now an "expectation" that British Columbians wear non-medical masks in public, stopping short of making them mandatory, as the province heads into cold and flu season.
That message was repeated in the province's statement on Tuesday. Henry and Brown say masks are particularly helpful in indoor public spaces where you don't know the people around you.
Masks should be worn in places like health care facilities, malls, grocery stores, community centres and other public spaces, they said.
"In addition to washing our hands often and staying home when ill, our protective layers include limiting our time with people outside of our household, keeping our groups small, giving people the space to stay safe and if that is challenging, using a non-medical mask," the statement said.
"Public indoor spaces are quite different from our schools, offices and businesses that have established learning groups and work cohorts, supported by comprehensive COVID-19 safety plans."