COVID-19 in B.C.: 832 new cases, 5 deaths in latest update
B.C. has recorded 832 more cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, as well as five additional deaths from the disease.
The new cases bring B.C.'s rolling seven-day average to a new record high of 873 per day.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provided the latest updates during a live briefing on Thursday.
There have now been 100,880 cases of COVID-19 and 1,463 related deaths in B.C. since the pandemic began.
Currently there are 296 people who are hospitalized with the coronavirus, 79 of them in intensive care.
Details on active cases, recoveries and newly identified coronavirus variants of concern were released in a written statement Thursday evening.
B.C.'s active caseload has grown to 7,571, the highest number it has reached in 2021. The last time there were more active cases in the province was on Dec. 31.
The written statement also announced 90 new cases of variants of concern, leaving the province with a total of 2,643 that have been identified so far.
The vast majority of those - 2,214 - have been the B.1.1.7 variant commonly associated with the U.K. There have also been 50 cases of the B.1.351 variant associated with South Africa and 379 cases of the P.1 variant associated with Brazil.
A total of 192 variant cases are active in B.C. The rest of the people who have been infected with a coronavirus variant of concern are now considered recovered.
B.C. has administered another 31,569 doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 787,649. There have now been 700,255 first-doses of vaccine administered in the province, enough to vaccinate 13.6 per cent of residents.
Thursday's update comes after a day on which B.C. set a record for new cases in a single day and surpassed the grim milestone of 100,000 total infections.
Henry acknowledged the milestone during her briefing and took the time as an opportunity to answer some questions she says she's been asked frequently in recent days.
Among them were questions about the interval between vaccine doses and the "safety signal" that prompted the province to put the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on pause for residents under age 55.
The provincial health officer reiterated that the four-month timeline between doses will allow B.C. to provide a first dose to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and added that researchers are still studying the effects of delaying the second dose for various lengths of time.
Some vaccines become more effective if the booster shot is delayed, Henry said, though she stressed that second doses in B.C. are on track to be offered sooner than the four-month maximum currently recommended.
"The second dose will be offered as soon as all eligible people in British Columbia have received their first dose, or at least been offered their first dose," Henry said. "In most cases, that will mean less than four months."
On the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been linked to very rare instances of blood clotting in other parts of the world, Henry reiterated that the vaccine is effective and still recommended for people 55 and up.
It's use in younger people remains on hold while B.C. officials await updated guidance from Health Canada, which has forced the province to pause its plans to offer AstraZeneca to frontline workers and first responders.
"We're going to need to regroup and we will come back early next week as soon as we have more information on how we're going to move forward with that program," Henry said.
With the Easter long weekend set to begin, Henry also addressed travel guidelines, saying travel remains risky and now is not the time to leave one's local community.
"If you are in doubt at all this weekend, just don't go," she said. "A good guideline is to think about staying within the area where you would go for a day trip. If it requires an overnight stay, a vacation rental, then it is not a good idea right now."
"We do have an end in sight," the provincial health officer added. "All of this talk about vaccines and how well they are going to work in our communities is in sight, but it's not here yet."