B.C. records 737 new cases of COVID-19, highest number in more than 2 months

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B.C. administered a record 24,438 vaccine doses on Thursday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
B.C. administered a record 24,438 vaccine doses on Thursday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

B.C. health officials announced 737 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths on Friday.

It marks the highest daily case tally since Jan. 7, when the province recorded 761 cases.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 292 people, 85 of whom are in intensive care.

Hospitalizations are at their highest since Feb. 2, when 294 people were in hospital, and are up 35 per cent in a month.

More than half of the new cases are in the Fraser Health region, which confirmed 426 cases.

The province now has 5,207 active cases — the highest level since Jan. 11 — with public health monitoring 9,412 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.

A total of 1,421 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Record 24k vaccines administered

B.C. has now administered 490,022 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 87,139 of those being second doses.

More than 24,000 people received a dose Thursday, the highest number yet.

The province also confirmed 68 new variant cases, for a total of 1,200. Of that total, 149 cases are active and the rest have recovered.

The variant tally includes 1,094 cases of the B117 variant first linked to the U.K, 41 cases of the B1351 variant that surfaced in South Africa and 65 cases of the P1 variant identified in Brazil.

More than 84,000 people who tested positive have recovered.

B.C. has recorded no new outbreaks in health-care facilities. Officials say the outbreak at Holmberg House Hospice in Abbotsford, B.C., is now over.

Updated vaccine timeline

Friday marked the first day that seniors aged 80 and older can book vaccine appointments.

The next age cohort on the list, which includes people 79 and over, as well as Indigenous people 55 and over, will be able to call to book a vaccine appointment as of Saturday. Those aged 75 to 78 can sign up later in the week.

On Thursday, the province announced that more than 300,000 front-line workers in B.C., such as teachers, child-care workers, grocery store staff and first responders will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine next month as it moves ahead with its vaccination plan.

The Ministry of Health said people in priority groups will receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in April.

Dix said the age-based rollout is ahead of schedule and that progress, combined with the incoming supply of AstraZeneca vaccines, means the province can move to vaccinate those working in specific front-line industries.

Henry and Dix reminded workers Friday that health authorities will contact employers to arrange vaccinations. They said that calling the age-based booking line will not provide access to the AstraZeneca vaccines.

"We are working with all of the supply we have available to maximize our protection and we are using every last drop," Henry and Dix said in a release.

"We also must focus on the individual actions that we need now more than ever to keep each other and our families and communities safe."

The province also announced more details Thursday on the accelerated timeline for people receiving their vaccine based on their age. The new schedule shows people from 18 to 59 all eligible by the end of June.