B.C. reports highest-ever daily COVID-19 case count as provincial total tops 100,000

British Columbia marked a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday as the province topped 100,000 total cases.

B.C. also set a new record for infections identified in a single day, reporting 1,013 cases of the novel coronavirus along with three related deaths. The previous single-day record of 936 was recorded just a few days earlier, on March 27.

The province has now identified a total of 100,048 infections and suffered 1,458 related fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

In a joint written statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix urged residents to work together to get the spread of COVID-19 back under control.

"Help us to push our curve back down again. Do this by staying small, staying outside and staying with your same group of close contacts. This is what will get us closer to putting COVID-19 behind us," they said.

The latest cases increased B.C.'s rolling weekly average to 868 cases per day – also a new record – and pushed the province's active caseload to 7,405, the highest it's been since Jan. 1.

The number of patients in hospital decreased to 301, which includes 80 people in intensive care.

B.C.'s alarming surge in coronavirus transmission prompted officials to implement a slew of tough new restrictions this week, including the forced closure of the popular Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort and a temporary ban on indoor dining at all restaurants.

They also announced an expansion of the province's mask mandate for schools that applies to every student in Grade 4 and beyond, leading to a protest among a small group of concerned parents in the Fraser Valley on Wednesday.

Henry and Dix did not have an updated number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants of concern, citing a "delay in the sequencing analysis." There was a total of 2,553 variant cases as of their last update on Tuesday.

B.C. has administered another 31,887 doses of vaccine in the meantime, bringing the total to 756,080. That includes 668,729 first doses – enough to immunize 13 per cent of the population – and 87,351 second doses.

This week, health officials announced that Lower Mainland residents between the ages of 55 and 65 would be able to begin scheduling appointments to receive the AstraZeneca-COVISHIELD vaccine at local pharmacies.

AstraZeneca doses were initially intended to go to frontline workers, leaving the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech supplies for the province's age-based immunization schedule, but those plans were put on hold over concerns about rare cases of blood clotting in people below the age of 55 who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Henry and Dix said those same frontline workers "remain a priority."

"Right now, we are waiting on Health Canada’s recommendations to determine what adjustments we may need to make to this immunization stream as a result of the safety signal for those under 55," they said.

With the Easter long weekend coming up, provincial officials once again asked British Columbians to avoid leisure travel outside of their communities.

"The risk for all of us is too great, which means any of our usual travel and holiday weekend gatherings need to be put on hold this year," Henry and Dix said.

The government is still expanding visitation rules for all long-term care facilities across the province, despite the recent spike in cases. The vast majority of vulnerable residents have now received at least one dose of vaccine, though officials have cautioned that they can still catch COVID-19 – as residents recently did at Kelowna's Cottonswoods Care Centre.