Vancouver Island adds 53 new COVID-19 cases, as Henry warns of 'rough ride for the next few days'

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Health officials identified 53 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Thursday.

The new coronavirus cases were among 832 cases found across the province over the past 24 hours, bringing B.C.’s total to 100,880 cases since the pandemic began.

Officials have now recorded 3,377 cases of COVID-19 in the island region since the pandemic began.

There were five more deaths related to the disease in B.C. on Thursday, bringing the province’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,463. No deaths were recorded in the Vancouver Island region, where the pandemic has killed 29.

There are currently 425 active cases of COVID-19 in the island region, including 13 people in hospital and two more in critical care.

Island Health identified the locations of 392 active cases in the region Thursday, including 189 in the South Island, 171 in the Central Island and 32 in the North Island.

Health officials have now administered 787,649 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in B.C., including 87,394 secondary doses.

The province’s long-promised website for booking vaccinations will go live on April 6, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Thursday.

“There will also be a call centre backing it up but our online platform will be in place on that day,” Dix said.

Instructions on how to navigate the website will be released one day prior to the launch or earlier, the health minister said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned British Columbians Thursday that people who are vaccinated can still be infected with COVID-19 “particularly in the first couple weeks” after receiving a vaccine.

“It is still incredibly important, even after you’ve been immunized – even if your community has been immunized – that you take the precautions that we all need to continue with,” Henry said.

“These are the things we need to pay attention to in the next few months as more and more people are immunized,” she added.

Henry reiterated that the province is on track to immunize everybody who wants a vaccine before the end of June. At that time, the province will restart its program of offering second doses to all who require them.

Henry said the province is looking at whether extending the current four-month window between first and second doses may have the beneficial effect of increased immunity to the virus. 

B.C.’s top doctor continues to urge British Columbians to socialize safely, particularly this coming long weekend.

“If you do choose to spend time with anyone other than in your immediate household this weekend, it must be outdoors,” Henry said. “If you are in doubt at all this weekend, don’t go.”

Henry said those who feel they must take an overnight break from their homes should stay at a local hotel or campground.

“Travel is still very high-risk for all of us,” she said. “A good guideline is to think about staying in the area where you would go for a day trip.”

Health officials have identified 90 new variant cases in B.C. over the past two days.

“They spread more easily in most cases and in some cases they lead to more severe illness,” Henry said of the COVID-19 variants that have grown in rapidly increasing numbers in B.C. over the past few weeks.

“The same measures that we take for COVID all along work for the variants, we just have to do them more carefully and that’s more important than ever this weekend,” she said.

There are currently 192 active variant cases in the province, with 35 people in hospital with variant cases.

“We are not out of the woods by any means,” Henry said. “We are likely to be in for a rough ride for the next few days.” 

B.C.’s health ministry will not be providing a COVID-19 case update on Friday. The next update will come in a written statement on Saturday, followed by a live update on Tuesday.