B.C. announces 683 new cases of COVID-19 and 8 new deaths in final update of 2020

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B.C. announces 683 new cases of COVID-19 and 8 new deaths in final update of 2020

B.C. health officials announced 683 new cases in the province and eight new deaths in what was noted to be the 160th and final COVID-19 update of 2020.

There are currently 7,803 active cases in the province, with 374 in hospital and 76 in intensive care.

A total of 901 people in B.C. lost their lives to COVID-19 in the year 2020.

"2020 has been hard on us, it has been hard on all of us," said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. "COVID-19 may define 2020, but it will not define us."

The update represents the highest number of new cases in the province since Dec. 14 and the lowest number of deaths since Nov. 23.

A total of 17,510 people in B.C. have now received one dose of vaccine and immunizations have begun in remote and rural areas of the province, including First Nation communities.

Henry said that while B.C.'s curve has been trending in the right direction, the uptick in cases is a reminder to keep New Year's Eve celebrations small, and limited to immediate households.

Liquor sale restrictions on New Year's Eve

In a last-minute teleconference on Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Henry ordered restaurants, bars and retail locations to stop selling alcohol at 8 p.m. PT on New Year's Eve in a bid to prevent a surge in cases in the new year.

Henry said the restriction, which shaves two more hours off the previous cut-off time of 10 p.m., is being implemented to prevent small, safe gatherings from turning into group gatherings that place restaurant staff and patrons at risk.

"Two hours now is necessary for us to manage a situation that is going to last," she said.

"The actions of a small group of people like we have seen before can have consequences ... Every time you choose to do the right thing you are potentially saving a life."

Current restrictions on social gatherings and events are in effect until Jan. 8, meaning rules must be followed on New Year's Eve.

Henry said the province has assembled a task force to ensure students can safely resume in-person classes on Monday.

Dix thanked B.C. residents for the sacrifices made throughout the year to stem the spread of the virus.

"All of us in the year changed for all that has been lost but we have also ended the year, I think, with significant resilience ... in the end, 2020 was a year where we showed a willingness ... to save lives," he said.

"We see the awesome power that we have, that every single one of us have."

The next update from the province is scheduled for Jan. 4.