'Cases have surged': Vancouver Island adds 73 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

Health officials identified 73 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Tuesday.

The new cases are among 1,068 new coronavirus cases found across the province over the past 24 hours, bringing the provincial total to 105,988 cases since the pandemic began.

The Vancouver Island region has now recorded 3,682 cases since the pandemic began.

Three more people in B.C. died of the disease Tuesday, bringing the province’s pandemic death toll to 1,489. Two of the deaths were recorded in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and one death was recorded on Vancouver Island.

Thirty-one people in the island region have now died during the pandemic.

There are 585 active COVID-19 cases in the island region Tuesday, including 17 people in hospital and four in critical care.

Island Health identified the locations of 463 active cases on Tuesday, including 254 in the South Island, 182 in the Central Island and 27 in the North Island.

Vancouver Island recorded an all-time peak of 76 new daily COVID-19 cases on April 1, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control, but the information was not released publicly until late Tuesday afternoon. 

“Cases have surged and people are having much higher numbers of contacts,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday. “That has meant increased numbers of people in hospital and we know that much of this transmission is happening in young people.”

Health officials confirmed another 207 COVID-19 variant cases Tuesday. All of the new variant cases were found in the Vancouver region, except for one case that was found in the Fraser Health region.

The province has now identified 3,766 variant cases since the COVID-19 variants first emerged. Approximately 266 of B.C.’s variant cases are now active.

"Concerningly, much of the increased transmission we're seeing in the last little while is driven by social gatherings where people are disregarding our provincial safety precautions for lot of reasons," Henry said. "It is happening everywhere."

B.C.’s top doctor said unnecessary travel is also fuelling the explosion in new cases in B.C. She pleaded with British Columbians to hold off on gatherings and long-distance travel until the summer.

“We will be in a very different position by this summer and that is a prediction I will make right now,” Henry said. “But right now we don’t have enough people protected.” 

B.C. has now administered 912,056 COVID-19 vaccine doses, including 87,474 secondary doses.

On Tuesday, the province unveiled its new vaccine booking website, which allows British Columbians to book their immunization appointments online.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 160,464 people had registered for vaccines through the website by 2 p.m., and more than 23,000 vaccine appointments had been booked.

Dix said pharmacies in select communities across B.C., including Victoria, Nanaimo and Parksville, would receive AstraZeneca vaccines this week for people between the ages of 55 and 65.

More details on the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccines in pharmacies will soon be available through Island Health, the health minister said.