Next B.C. COVID-19 update will include cases recorded in 4-day period ahead of 1st day of school

People march across the Cambie Bridge into downtown during a protest against COVID-19 vaccine passports and mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers, in Vancouver, on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

British Columbians wondering about the state of the pandemic on the day before kids head back to class will have to wait until Tuesday for an update.

No new COVID-19 data is expected from provincial health officials on Labour Day, as is common on long weekends.

This means the number of cases announced Tuesday will be that much higher. The update will include cases recorded in four 24-hour periods.

Even though officials have noted dips in the number of people who get tested over long weekends, the latest modelling data suggests case numbers could approach record levels by the end of the month.

As of Friday's update, when another 671 people had been diagnosed with the disease, a total of 168,325 infections had been confirmed in B.C.

Of those, 5,872 were considered active. And the number of hospitalizations, particularly of patients requiring treatment in intensive care units, is also higher than earlier in the summer.

On Friday there were 215 people hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus, more than half of whom were in ICU.

The ratio of ICU patients is notable at this stage in the pandemic.

On June 6 there were 224 patients in hospital, but only 59 in intensive care. A recent U.K. study suggests the Delta variant – now the dominant strain in Canada – could be playing a role in this.

Having both doses of the vaccine does not mean a person will not get COVID-19. ImmunizeBC says no vaccine is 100 per cent effective.

However, according to health officials, the overall number of cases is lower among vaccinated people, as is the severity (including illness, hospitalization and death).

Nearly 85 per cent of eligible adults in B.C. have received at least one shot, and 77.1 per cent have had both. Some may be told to get a third, a rollout the province's top doctor, Bonnie Henry, estimated to begin in October.

VACCINE PASSPORT ON SEPT. 13

Soon, the activities of those who've opted not to get the shots will be limited in the province, though details have not yet been provided.

So-called "passports" will be required for a person to take part in non-essential activities such as dining out or going to the movies.

It's unclear what form this documentation will take, but a resident or visitor will have to have evidence, through their passport, of having at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Details will likely be released this week, ahead of the Sept. 13 launch. The passports will be phased in, the province has said.

BACK TO SCHOOL

The new school year will look a little different to some children, but not all.

This time around, students who are eligible are urged to get vaccinated, and those in grades 4 to 12 will have to wear masks at their desks, in hallways and in other indoor spaces.

There are some exceptions, including when eating or drinking, playing a wind instrument or taking part in high-intensity exercise. 

Younger kids, in kindergarten to Grade 3, are encouraged to wear a mask indoors and on the school bus, but they don't have to.

Physical distancing is no longer required, though schools may take measures to prevent crowding if they choose to.

Children or teens will be required to do a daily health check and stay home if they're sick.

In the event of an exposure, public health officials will notify parents or caregivers if their child was determined to be a close contact.

Online and homeschooling are still options.

Guidelines published late last week show the plan for the new semester at the post-secondary level. 

Proof of vaccination is not required to attend classes in person, but masks are mandatory in all public indoor areas.

However, individual institutions can implement their own policies including a proof-of-vaccine system or mandatory testing, so students should check with their own school before returning.