B.C. health officials announced 648 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday — the highest number since Jan. 7 — but no additional deaths.
In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 255 people, 67 of whom are in intensive care.
It's the first time since Nov. 5 that a day has gone by without anyone dying from COVID-19.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is still here, and we are still facing headwinds, which means continuing with 'few faces, open spaces and safety layers' in place," said Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Of the new cases, 79 are variants of concern, for a total of 717 in the province.
A total of 1,397 people in B.C. have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, out of 86,867 confirmed cases.
There are currently 5,070 active cases of coronavirus in the province, the highest since Jan. 11. Public health is monitoring 9,155 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation because of COVID-19 exposure.
A total of 80,325 people who tested positive have recovered.
So far, 380,743 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 87,024 second doses.
"The three vaccines we have available and in use throughout B.C. are a safe and effective way to protect people around the province," officials said.
Earlier in the day, the province approved a limited season for players in the B.C. Hockey League, beginning in April.
"While we are not out of the woods yet, there is hope on the horizon and we are now ready to, gradually and safely, resume some of these activities. That includes getting young people back on the ice this season," said Premier John Horgan in a written statement.
The health plan for the limited season includes limited travel between five pods in Pentiction, Coquitlam, Chilliwack, Vernon and Port Alberni.
In Kamloops, Interior Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre over.
There had been 32 cases of COVID-19 at the centre, including 24 residents and eight staff members. Two residents died as a result of their illness.
On Thursday, health officials eased restrictions to allow outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, but asked that people stick to the same group.
Despite the province's case numbers hovering around 500 per day in recent weeks, Henry said the riskiest settings are indoors and the chance of spread decreases outside.
Henry stressed the province's restrictions on indoor gatherings will remain in place for now. Only people who are part of the same household should meet indoors, including at restaurants.
The province will also ban liquor sales at restaurants, bar and liquor stores at 8 p.m. on March 17 to limit gatherings on St. Patrick's Day, a similar tactic was used on New Year's Eve.