B.C. renews record-breaking state of emergency for 33rd time

The B.C. government has extended the province-wide state of emergency prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic for another two weeks.

While coronavirus case numbers have been declining, Premier John Horgan noted the crisis isn't over and urged British Columbians to continue following public health guidance.

"A normal summer is within reach, but we still need to be careful," Horgan said in a statement. "We have seen how quickly case counts can rise if we let our guard down."

The province's state of emergency, which grants officials extraordinary powers, including the ability to enforce B.C.'s current travel restrictions and mask mandate, was declared on March 18, 2020, and has now been renewed 33 times.

The government said the decision to extended it once again was based on the advice of health and emergency management officials.

It's unclear when the state of emergency will be lifted, but earlier this week officials alluded to a future when COVID-19 is handled the way public health treats other communicable diseases.

"As long as we continue on this trajectory, we will be aiming to shift our approach from pandemic emergency response to sustainable public health management," deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said Monday, touting the province's progress in limiting COVID-19 transmission.

"We are on a good path to get back to work, to school, to university, to seeing friends, to travelling, resuming those connections that are so important to all of us."

B.C.'s rolling weekly average for coronavirus cases has dropped to 175 per day, down from a record high of 1,130 back in April – progress that health officials have largely credited to the province's immunization program.

Before the pandemic, B.C.'s longest state of emergency was prompted by the historic 2017 wildfire season. That one lasted 10 weeks.