B.C. continues to smash records, recording 2,046 new COVID-19 cases

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People walk down a street during a period of snowfall in downtown Vancouver on Dec. 17, 2021. Environment Canada says more snow could be on the way for the region. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
People walk down a street during a period of snowfall in downtown Vancouver on Dec. 17, 2021. Environment Canada says more snow could be on the way for the region. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

B.C. continues to break records as health officials announced 2,046 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with one additional death.

It marks the third day in a row the province has reported a record-high daily case count. Prior to this week, the highest daily total was 1,293 cases, reported back in April.

There are 8,739 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, more than double the total reported on Friday.

A total of 195 people are in hospital with the disease, an increase of eight from Wednesday, with 75 in intensive care, four more than the day prior.

COVID-19 in British Columbia by the numbers

New health restrictions came into effect Wednesday to stop the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. A report from an independent COVID-19 modelling group said hospitalizations due to the variant will reach unprecedented heights by around mid-January.

Officials will hold a press conference Friday morning to update the public on the fifth wave.

The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,410 lives lost out of 233,217 confirmed cases to date.

The regional breakdown of new cases is as follows:

  • 880 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, which has 3,729 total active cases.

  • 741 new cases in Fraser Health, which has 2,825 total active cases.

  • 248 new cases in Island Health, which has 1,267 total active cases.

  • 123 new cases in Interior Health, which has 699 total active cases.

  • 53 new cases in Northern Health, which has 217 total active cases.

  • There is one new case among people who reside outside of Canada, a group which has two total active cases.

Growing demand for testing

A record-high total of 20,133 tests were conducted on Wednesday.

In a statement, Vancouver Coastal Health said it continues to see a "significant uptick" in demand for testing.

Demand at testing sites in the health authority increased 69 per cent from Dec. 6 to 19, according to the health authority. In response, VCH has begun using rapid antigen tests at testing centres in addition to PCR tests.

"Based on expert recommendations from medical health officers, most people attending VCH test sites right now will be offered testing with a rapid antigen test," Vancouver Coastal Health said in a statement.

"PCR testing will continue for some clients, prioritizing people at greater risk of severe disease from COVID-19, as per expert advice."

COVID-19 infections in B.C. by vaccination status, adjusted by population and age

Those who test positive through a rapid antigen test are given instructions to complete their assessment, report their results to the health authority, manage symptoms while they self-isolate, and notify their contacts. No additional test is needed to confirm the positive result, VCH said.

People who are asymptomatic are advised not to attend testing sites to save capacity for those with COVID-19 symptoms.

Island Health said it is also seeing an uptick in demand for tests. The health authority said it received around 2,000 calls per day this past weekend, more than triple what it sees during a typical weekend.

"A large portion of calls to our call centre are asymptomatic people seeking testing for social reasons." the health authority said in a statement.

Current hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in B.C.

An outbreak at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver is the only active outbreak in assisted living, long-term and acute care facilities.

As of Thursday, 91.8 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 89 per cent a second dose, and 17 per cent a third dose.

When taking into account those five and older, 87.7 per cent of people in B.C. had received a first shot and 82.7 per cent a second dose.

From Dec. 15 to 21, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 24.8 per cent of cases and from Dec. 8 to 21, they accounted for 68.6 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.

Government announces relief for businesses

On Thursday, the B.C. government announced measures to help businesses affected by the latest pandemic restrictions and closures. Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Ravi Kahlon said businesses like gyms, fitness studios, and banquet halls that were ordered closed can apply for the one-time grant between $1,000 and $10,000 in January.

Daily COVID-19 vaccination progress in B.C.

Kahlon said the provincial grant is meant to complement federal aid announced earlier this week including the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit and the Local Lockdown Program.

The provincial government has allocated $10 million to the grant program.

Current restrictions

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed the latest round of public health orders on Tuesday.

First doses for the young and third doses in B.C., December 2021

They include:

  • No indoor organized gatherings of any size, including weddings, receptions and parties.

  • Bars and nightclubs closed.

  • Maximum of six people per table at a restaurant, pub or cafe.

  • Gyms, fitness centres and dance studios must be shut down.

  • Seated events like concerts, sports games, movie theatres are down to 50 per cent capacity.

Swimming pools can continue to operate but staff must scan proof of vaccination QR codes before allowing users in. Hotel pools are exempt.

Rolling average of COVID-19 cases by Health Region in Omicron wave

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