B.C. health officials announced 873 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths on Tuesday, as Premier John Horgan suggested more restrictions could be coming to stem the third wave of the pandemic.
In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are 9,756 active cases of people infected with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in B.C.
A total of 377 people are in hospital, with 117 in intensive care. Hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up 15 per cent from a week ago, when 328 people were in hospital.
The news came not long after Horgan told reporters that the possibility of travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet and those talks will also likely examine the status of bookings for hotels, bed and breakfasts and camping sites.
"We've not taken anything off the table, but practicality is first and foremost in our mind," said Horgan. "We will use the tools that are available to us if we believe they are effective, but deployment of those tools is a challenge. We haven't taken travel restrictions off the board, quite frankly."
The premier said Henry will provide any update of possible new restrictions Thursday during a briefing where the province's latest COVID-19 modelling data will be presented.
Horgan said he's troubled by the recent COVID-19 case counts in B.C. and is looking to Thursday's release of information for a better sense of where the province stands.
As of Tuesday, 1,148,993 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 87,785 second doses.
Earlier this week, Dix noted that the province has the capacity to deliver many more doses daily than it is right now, but the supply is not there yet.
"We are adapting our vaccine delivery in step with our supply and will continue to do that moving forward. If needed, we will pivot, pause or shift our delivery to maximize protection to as many people as possible," Henry and Dix said Tuesday.
The provincial death toll from the disease to date is 1,515 people out of 113,702 confirmed cases.
Public health is actively monitoring 16,290 people across the province who are in self-isolation because of COVID-19 exposure.
B.C. has now recorded 5,221 cases that involve variants of concern — the majority have been the B117 variant first reported in the U.K.
On Monday, Dix said high occupancy rates are beginning to affect the surgical capacity of local hospitals in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and that while there is still space in intensive care units provincewide, things are starting to get tight in the Lower Mainland.
Spike in cases complicates work of contact tracers.
Also on Tuesday, the B.C. government once again extended the provincial state of emergency that has been in place since March 18, 2020.
"With the vaccine program well underway, we can see hope on the horizon, but higher case numbers and variants mean that we need to draw back in some places instead of opening up," Horgan said in a news release.
The state of emergency will now remain in place until at least April 27.
The recent surge in cases has made the job of contact tracers at Fraser Health increasingly complicated, according to team leader Dr. Amir Bharmal. Over the last weekend alone, 1,957 cases were confirmed in the region.
"It's not only the increased volume, but it's also the fact that we have just a lot more complexity and diversity in terms of the places where people can get exposed to COVID." he told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.
"On any given day, we're dealing with over 150 clusters that are occurring in different workplaces."
The average number of close contacts for each infected person has stayed relatively stable at between 2.5 and three, Bharmal said. Right now, his team is able to trace about 80 per cent of new positive tests to previously known cases.
Vaccine rollout continues
B.C. is currently vaccinating eligible adults in transmission hot spots like Whistler and Prince Rupert, while the age-based program slowly rolls on.
The province has announced dates for those aged 40 and older to register for their vaccine:
Monday, April 12 — born 1966 or earlier (55+)
Wednesday, April 14 — born 1971 or earlier (50+)
Friday, April 16 — born 1976 or earlier (45+)
Monday, April 19 — born 1981 or earlier (40+)
Registering for a vaccine is not the same as booking the appointment to get your shot. Once registered, users receive a confirmation code, followed by an email, a text or a call telling them when they're eligible to use the code to make an appointment.
If your prefer to register by phone, the number to call is 1-833-838-2323. Service by phone is available in more than 110 languages.