British Columbia's COVID-19 caseload has reached a new record high after health workers identified another 429 infections across the province.
In their first virus briefing after the Labour Day long weekend, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix revealed the province has hit 1,386 active cases of COVID-19 – up from 1,233 on Friday.
They also announced two more people have died from the disease, both residents of long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland. That brings B.C.'s death toll to 213.
"Our condolences go to their families and to their communities and to their care providers. We know that we all feel their loss," Henry said Tuesday.
B.C.'s latest update covers four reporting periods: 123 of the new infections were identified from Friday to Saturday, followed by 116 from Saturday to Sunday, 107 from Sunday to Monday and 83 from Monday to Tuesday.
The total includes 12 epidemiologically linked cases, Henry said.
The latest infections were offset by the 272 people who recovered from COVID-19 since Friday – which brought B.C.'s total number of recoveries to 4,978 – but that wasn't enough to keep the province from breaking its record for active cases yet again.
The number of hospitalizations, which is considered one of the best ways to measure the severity of the pandemic, remained fairly steady, increasing by just one patient from Friday.
Officials said there were 32 people hospitalized from COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, including 12 in critical care or intensive care units.
Nightclubs ordered to close
B.C.'s surging caseload – which is of particular concern heading into cold and flu season – also prompted Henry to once again rework her orders relating to bars, nightclubs and banquet halls.
Nightclubs and stand-alone banquet halls have been ordered to shut down, effective immediately, while bars and restaurants must stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m. unless they're still providing full meal service.
Despite weeks of work by public health teams, Henry said that nightclubs and halls remain a "major source of transmission."
"Issuing orders is not something that we do lightly, it is our last resort," the provincial health officer added. "We need to make some changes."
Nightclub patrons mingling with strangers who are outside of their bubble has put a serious strain on contact-tracing teams, Henry said, calling it "extremely time-consuming" to track people down under those circumstances.
More health care outbreaks
As previously reported, Henry noted there were three more health care outbreaks over the weekend. One of them was at Holy Family Hospital, where a previous outbreak tragically resulted in 21 deaths.
So far, the second outbreak has only resulted in one confirmed infection.
"We are hopeful with all of the precautions in place that that will remain a single case," Henry said.
With people returning to work and children going back to school after the holiday long weekend, officials said everyone in B.C. needs to curb their social interactions.
Henry asked people to spend more time with their household bubble, and to limit the amount of time they spend socializing with others – particularly when face to face and indoors.
"This is what we all need to do now to reduce our risk of contracting COVID-19 for ourselves and everyone around us," she said.