Despite rising COVID-19 cases, especially in Metro Vancouver, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry didn’t announce new measures to curb the spread of the virus in a briefing today.
Henry urged British Columbians to continue to stay home when sick, wear a mask in public spaces and not socialize outside their households — public health orders that have been in place for nearly five months.
“It is concerning that we’re seeing an increase in our per-cent positivity and in our weekly average, particularly in the Lower Mainland,” she said.
“We know what to do to manage.”
The province need only stay the course to lower transmission as it continues to roll out vaccines to the most vulnerable to serious illness, she said.
But recent data shows the number of people infected is beginning to climb again after a slow decline. Earlier this month, the province was reporting about 450 new COVID-19 cases each day.
On Thursday, the province reported 617 new cases. Today, Henry said 559 new cases had been identified.
And the rolling seven-day average of new daily cases has surpassed 500 for the first time since early January.
Recent polling also suggests British Columbians are less likely to consistently follow COVID-19 guidelines than people in other provinces.
Concerns have also increased after seven schools reported students and staff had been exposed to COVID-19 variants that are believed to be more easily transmitted and potentially more likely to cause serious illness.
Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside acknowledged the issue in a briefing Monday.
“I can appreciate the anxiety,” she said. But she added that testing has shown the variants are not being spread within schools.
Henry said the province is testing all positive cases for evidence of a variant, and genomic sequencing has been ramped up to confirm the extent of variants in the community.
“We are paying extra attention, so we better understand how and where these are spreading,” she said.
“We’re learning about the impacts of these variants of concern,” Henry said. “But we know what we have to do to manage it.”
Henry said there are signs the province’s vaccination effort has saved lives, particularly in long-term care.
More than 220,000 people have been vaccinated, and at least 55,057 of those have had two doses.
The province reported one death due to COVID-19 today, an individual in assisted living.
There have been no new cases or deaths in long-term care in the last 24 hours, and 92 per cent of residents have had their first dose of the vaccine, Henry said.
Outbreaks in long-term care have also dropped from almost 60 in December to 12. There are five outbreaks in assisted living facilities.
On Monday the province will announce the plan for vaccinating seniors over 80 living in the community, Henry said, which will begin shortly.
“We are in a period of vaccine hope and pandemic reality,” she said.
Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee