COVID-19 update: B.C. adds 708 cases, 11 deaths over the weekend

B.C.'s COVID-19 case numbers continued to decline over the weekend, but health officials noted the infections that occurred around the Victoria Day holiday are only beginning to emerge.

A total of 708 new COVID-19 cases and 11 related deaths were recorded across the province over the three 24-hour reporting periods from Friday to Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. That includes 212 cases identified from Sunday to Monday, which represents the lowest single-day increase since Oct. 26

B.C.'s weekly average dropped to 277 per day, the lowest it's been since Oct. 31, and the province's active caseload fell to 2,953, marking the first time it's been under 3,000 since Nov. 2.

There are now 249 people battling COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals – a decrease of 43 from Friday – with 78 patients in intensive care.

But even though numbers have been trending in the right direction, Henry said it remains "a time of caution for all of us."

"New strains are circulating and outbreaks are still occurring in schools, in hospitals, in long-term care and in our communities," Henry said, adding that the results of people's behaviour over the May long weekend will soon be coming into focus.

"We are in the midst of the post-long weekend incubation period, which means anyone who may have contracted the virus at that period of time will be starting to see symptoms now – and it is important if you have any systems to get tested right away."

This weekend was also the first since B.C. relaxed a number of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing people to once again host a small number of guests at home or meet friends and family at restaurants.

The province has teased that many more rules could eased or lifted over the coming weeks and months, but only if case numbers and hospitalizations continue to decline.

Health officials have credited B.C.'s immunization program for helping to get cases under control, but Henry noted that the protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines is not absolute – particularly after only one dose.

She also highlighted that seniors and the elderly remain the most likely to suffer the most devastating outcomes from the disease. Of the deaths recorded over the weekend, one victim was in their 40s, four were in theirs 60s, six were in their 70s and two were over the age of 80.

"Our condolences and our thoughts go to those who have lost loved ones. We know how challenging it is in this time," Henry said.

A total of 3,250,116 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTEch, Moderna and Astrazeneca vaccines have not been distributed in B.C., with enough first doses to cover nearly 70 per cent of the adult population. Only 179,954 people have received both doses.

Last week, officials shortened the interval between doses to eight weeks, with the expectation being that every British Columbian will be fully vaccinated before the end of the summer. There is still some uncertainty for those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not as widely available as the others, but Henry said the province will be providing more details on the options available to that group on Thursday.

Henry also confirmed the province's third case of vaccine-induced blood clots, this time involving a man in his 30s from the Island Health region. He's currently recovering in hospital.

Before delivering Monday's COVID-19 update, Henry took a moment to reflect on the recent discovery of 215 children's remains at a former residential school site. The provincial health officer became emotional while discussing the weight of the tragedy, and argued for taking actions that "arrest and disrupt our deeply rooted ideologies of settler supremacy."

“We must make no mistake that while these deaths happened in the past, our systems and laws continue to perpetuate racism and discrimination that hurts Indigenous peoples in countless ways," she said.