B.C. has recorded the highest single-day number of new cases of COVID-19 to date, with 1,013 confirmed cases and three more deaths.
In a written statement on Wednesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 301 people, 80 of whom are in intensive care.
The new numbers mean the province has now recorded more than 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus for the first time since the pandemic began, with a total of 100,048 so far, including 1,458 people who have lost their lives to the disease.
In light of the continuing surge in cases, Henry and Dix urged everyone to stay home this long weekend.
"Right now, no one should be travelling for leisure or vacation outside of your local communities or regions. The risk for all of us is too great, which means any of our usual travel and holiday weekend gatherings need to be put on hold this year," they said.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases is now at the highest point it's ever been. There are currently 7,405 active cases of coronavirus in the province, the most since early January.
Henry and Dix said everyone needs to do their part to get the numbers back under control.
"Help us to push our curve back down again. Do this by staying small, staying outside and staying with your same group of close contacts. This is what will get us closer to putting COVID-19 behind us."
Public health is now monitoring 11,468 people across B.C. who in self-isolation because COVID-19 exposure. A total of 91,066 people who tested positive have recovered.
A new outbreak has been declared at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, while the outbreak at Mission Memorial Hospital is now over.
So far, 756,080 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 87,351 second doses.
Henry and Dix said B.C. is still on track to deliver a first dose to every eligible person who wants one before Canada Day, and health officials are "working around the clock" to make sure that happens.
"We don't yet have enough people protected through the vaccines to be able to put aside any of our safety precautions, so we need to continue to follow all the public health orders and guidelines we have in place," they said.
Health officials said there has been a delay in genetic sequencing for variants of concern, so no update on those numbers was provided on Wednesday.
Vaccine program expands again
The B.C. government announced Tuesday that people aged 55 to 65 who are living in the Lower Mainland can register Wednesday to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
In a statement, Dix said anyone in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions within that age range can call their local pharmacy to book a vaccination appointment.
The announcement comes one day after British Columbia health officials paused the use of AstraZeneca vaccines in people under the age of 55 in response to European reports of rare but potentially fatal blood clots.
Health officials said that pause presents an opportunity to use those doses to protect people with higher COVID-19 risks sooner.
Because of safety considerations for those under 55, B.C. is currently waiting on Health Canada's recommendation before resuming vaccination of front-line workers who were to receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, according to Henry and Dix.
"Front-line workers remain a priority," they said.
Officials also opened up appointments this week for Indigenous residents born in 2003 or earlier. All Indigenous people ages 18 and older can now contact their regional health authority call centre to book their first shot.
On Monday, the province implemented sweeping restrictions for a three-week "circuit breaker" as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow at an alarming pace.
Henry also recommended the wearing of masks indoors for elementary school children from Grade 4 up.
On Tuesday night, the Ministry of Education released updated guidelines that reflect this recommendation.