Hospitalizations fall, as B.C. records fewer than 500 daily new COVID-19 cases for nearly 2 weeks

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B.C. health officials announced 449 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths on Thursday.

New daily cases first dropped below 500 on Jan. 29 and have hovered between 400 and 500 ever since.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 224 people — the lowest number since Nov. 19 — with 63 in intensive care.

A total of 1,278 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

"We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19," Henry and Dix wrote.

There are currently 4,317 active cases of coronavirus in the province, with public health monitoring 6,869 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. More than 66,603 people who tested positive have recovered.

So far, 159,887 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 15,684 of those being second doses.

No new outbreaks in the health-care system were declared Thursday. Outbreaks at Glenwood Seniors Community in Agassiz, Hilton Villa Seniors Community in Surrey and Bradley Centre in Chilliwack have been declared over.

Earlier Thursday, Northern Health declared an outbreak at the Brucejack Gold Mine, located 65 kilometres north of Stewart, B.C., with a total of 14 cases detected.

Officials have urged everyone in the province to stay local over the Family Day long weekend and avoid any non-essential travel.

'Devastating' overdose deaths acknowledged

In their statement, Henry and Dix acknowledged B.C.'s longer-running public health emergency — drug overdose deaths.

Thursday saw Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe confirm 2020 was the deadliest year ever for overdose deaths in B.C., with 1,716 people dying due to illicit drug use.

"Losing more than 1,700 people to the overdose crisis is devastating, and sadly, there is no vaccine that will help to end it soon," the statement read.

"To the parents, friends, partners and communities who have lost loved ones, we offer our condolences. We remain committed to supporting people who use drugs and are doing everything we can to address the dual health crises affecting our province."

Lapointe, in her report released Thursday, blamed decades of criminalization, an increasingly toxic illicit drug market and a lack of timely access to treatment and recovery services for contributing to the staggering death toll.

Henry and Dix also acknowledged the first virtual Moose Hide Campaign Day which encourages men and boys to stand against violence against women and children.