Record number of hospitalizations

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 British Columbia lost another 17 people to COVID-19 over the weekend while recording 1,933 new infections, health officials revealed Monday.

The latest cases were recorded over three reporting periods: 713 were identified from Friday to Saturday, followed by 626 from Saturday to Sunday and 594 from Sunday to Monday.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said altogether, the infections pushed B.C.'s active caseload to 7,360, setting a new record for the province.   

Hospitalizations also increased sharply to a new high of 277, up from 227 on Friday. That includes 59 patients struggling in intensive care or critical care.

In Interior Health, 104 new cases over the last thre days. 

Henry once again appealed to the public to heed her latest public health order and reduce social interactions as much as possible, warning that schools and businesses could be forced to close if B.C. can't get the pandemic back under control soon.

"We are all feeling the strain," Henry said. "This virus doesn't pause, though, when we're tired and frustrated and we want it to be over. And it doesn't pause when we're out with our friends, our family members."

B.C. has now recorded 27,407 cases since the start of the pandemic, and 19,069 people with confirmed infections have recovered. On top of the currently active cases, there are 10,200 people under public health monitoring after being exposed to a known case.

The latest fatalities leave the province's death toll at 348. Henry noted the majority of people killed by COVID-19 have been "seniors and elders in long-term care."

She also announced six more outbreaks in B.C.'s health-care facilities, at North Peace Senior Housing, Queens Park Care Centre, CareLife Fleetwood, Sunset Manor, Renfrew Care Centre and Lions Gate Hospital. Two others were declared over, leaving 60 active outbreaks across the health-care system.

"Over the next two weeks, we need to urgently reduce the level of transmission in our province to keep our schools and workplaces open and relieve that very real stress we're seeing right now on our health-care system," Henry said.

"We've learned as we move into winter, the virus spreads more easily. And we're seeing that across the globe and across the country. We need to pay attention to that."

Health officials said they've received many questions from people trying to understand B.C.'s temporary public health order and how it applies to their lives. Henry encouraged people to "focus on the intent" behind the restrictions when deciding how to behave.

"I'm asking you to put the safety measures at the top of your list every day rather than thinking about where the gaps are, where the shortcuts are, is there a workaround," she said. "Simply put, we all need to focus on making a difference today."

Under the orders, British Columbians across the province are asked only to socialize in-person with their "core bubble," which for most people means members of their own household. People who live alone are allowed to choose one or a maximum of two people to include in their core bubble, which could be friends or family members.

Health officials have also said people can go for a walk or bike ride with a friend, provided that it doesn't turn into a group gathering.

"It's important that we continue to look after our mental health and our physical health," Henry said. "Get outside. Go for a walk. Keep your distance. Take advantage of when we can get outside."

Events of any size are temporarily banned, with exceptions for small weddings, funerals and time-sensitive religious services such as baptisms, all of which are under increased restrictions and must have no more than 10 people in attendance.