Less than 200 hundred cases for three days in a row

B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Province of BC/Flickr)

B.C. health officials announced fewer than 200 new cases of COVID-19 for the third day in a row Thursday, adding 199 new coronavirus infections to the provincial count.

There have now been 144,866 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began.

Health officials also announced two additional deaths from the disease Thursday, bringing the overall provincial total to 1,709.

Both of the latest fatalities were people in their 60s who lived in the Lower Mainland, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, who offered their condolences to the families and caregivers of those who have died.

There are currently 2,563 active cases in B.C., and most people recovering from the coronavirus are doing so at home. A total of 224 people are in hospital, and 62 of them are in intensive care units.

Thursday's new cases brought B.C.'s rolling seven-day average for daily infections to 229.

Henry and Dix provided the latest numbers during a live briefing, at which they also shared details on B.C.'s plans for providing second doses of COVID-19 vaccines, especially for the nearly 280,000 people who received the AstraZeneca shot for their first dose.

The AstraZeneca vaccine will be available in pharmacies across the province starting on Monday, Henry said, adding that pharmacies will contact people who received first doses to schedule appointments for second ones. 

In all, nearly 72 per cent of all British Columbians ages 18 and older have received a first dose of one of the three vaccines available in the province, Henry said. The total equates to nearly 69 per cent of those ages 12 and older, she added.

Immunization rates are a key factor in the province's restart plan, alongside continued declines in case rates and hospitalizations.

B.C. has already surpassed the 70 per cent threshold that is a prerequisite for moving to step three of the reopening plan, but Dix said Wednesday that the province would not be moving to further steps of the plan ahead of the scheduled dates.

The province is currently in step one of the plan, and is scheduled to move to step two on June 15 and step three on July 1. 

During Thursday's briefing, Henry reminded the public to keep following the restrictions that are in place in order to keep B.C.'s restart timeline on schedule.

"We do still have COVID-19 circulating in our communities," she said. "In some areas we're still having outbreaks that are affecting people, and we know there are still people getting seriously ill with this virus, so we need to keep doing what we're doing." 

- with files from CTV -