B.C.'s latest COVID-19 update includes 677 more cases as health-care system staggers under weight of 4th wave

B.C. health officials announced 677 new cases of COVID-19 and one related death on Tuesday, as the number of coronavirus patients in hospital climbed once again.

The update, delivered in a written statement from the Ministry of Health, pushed the province's seven-day average for new COVID-19 infections to 724, the highest it's been since May 4.

Hospitalizations increased to 288 – a jump of 10 from Monday – with 140 people being treated in intensive care. The ministry did not provide an updated breakdown on the patients' immunization status Tuesday, but on Monday reported that 87 per cent of the 139 patients then in ICU were unvaccinated.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix have been sounding the alarm in recent weeks about the strain COVID-19 patients are putting on hospitals as the government struggles with the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Dix also revealed this week that one baby and one child of elementary school age were in intensive care.

"The infant in ICU has been discharged healthy and that's good news," the minister confirmed Tuesday afternoon. "What those ICU numbers show by age group is pretty straightforward: that people who are unvaccinated right now are at risk of some serious health effects from COVID-19."

Officials have cited B.C.'s ongoing surge in hospitalizations and case numbers as necessitating their latest measures intended to help control transmission this fall, including the renewed mask mandate, proof-of-vaccination system and newly announced vaccine mandate for health-care workers.

As of Tuesday, 86 per cent of eligible residents age 12 and older have already received at least one dose of vaccine, and 78.5 have received both doses.

This week, officials announced that around 15,000 B.C. residents considered clinically extremely vulnerable can get a third shot of vaccine in order to help boost their immune systems, and that a similar shot could eventually be offered to some seniors.

There has been a troubling resurgence of COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes over the summer, largely in the Interior Health region, which has grappled with high rates of transmission, particularly among pockets of unvaccinated residents.

The Ministry of Health announced one more outbreak Tuesday, at the Westminster House long-term care home in Surrey, where three staff members have tested positive for the disease. The outbreak at the Brock Fahrni care home was also declared over, leaving 24 active outbreaks across the province's health-care system.

There have been 175,819 cases of COVID-19 identified in B.C. since the start of the pandemic, and 167,416 people who tested positive have recovered. The province's death toll stands at 1,866.

The latest infections pushed the province's number of active cases up to 6,165, an increase of more than 300 from Monday, with more than half of those coming from the Interior Health and Fraser Health regions.