Mandatory masks and social lockdown for BC

henry

British Columbia added 538 cases of COVID-19 to its total on Thursday, and one additional death.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, there have been 24,960 confirmed infections in the province and 321 deaths

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the new numbers during a live briefing on Thursday afternoon.

The health officials said there are currently 6,929 active cases of the virus in B.C. Of that total, 217 people are in hospital, and 59 of those are in intensive care units.

Both active cases and hospitalizations reached new all-time highs in Thursday's update.

Thursday's numbers came alongside an extension to public health orders put in place on Nov. 7 in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions.

Henry and Dix announced an extension of those rules, which limit social gatherings to people's immediate households, for two more weeks. The restrictions were scheduled to end on Nov. 23, but will now last until Dec. 7. The health officials also expanded those rules to apply province-wide

Additionally, face masks will now be required in all indoor public spaces and retail stores, except when people are eating or drinking. The requirement will apply to all staff and customers, and was motivated by repeated requests from retailers and other public-serving sectors, Henry said.

The health officials also announced six new outbreaks of COVID-19 in the provincial health-care system. There are currently 59 active outbreaks, including 40 in long-term care and assisted-living facilities, as well as 19 in acute care.

A new community outbreak has been declared in the Northern Health region at the LNG Canada project site in Kitimat, where 14 employees have tested positive for the disease.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, most of B.C.'s new cases have been recorded in the Lower Mainland, with 309 of Thursday's infections reported in the Fraser Health region and 178 in Vancouver Coastal Health.

Elsewhere in B.C., there have been 28 new cases in the Interior Health region in the last 24 hours, as well as 12 in Island Health and 11 in Northern Health.

Across the province, there are 9,929 people who are under active public health monitoring because of exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19, and 17,207 who have had the coronavirus are now considered recovered.

Henry concluded her remarks Thursday with a message of hope, while also warning of the challenge ahead.

"As we approach the darkest days of this year, there is light at the end of that tunnel," the provincial health officer said. "We know that there's vaccines on the horizon, and I am hopeful that early in the new year, we'll start to have some of those tools to help us protect those who are most at risk."

"Right now, we all need to focus our efforts on slowing the spread and bending our curve back down," she said. "That is what will get us through these next two months."