COVID-19 update: B.C. has lost 99 lives over the past week

B.C. health officials announced another 16 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, meaning the province lost 99 lives over a single week.

The latest fatalities pushed the provincial death toll to 457, up from 358 just seven days ago.

In a joint written statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered their condolences to the loved ones of the latest victims, while acknowledging the sobering update fell on World AIDS Day.

"It is a time for all of us to pause, to think about the many people throughout our province, our nation and the world who have been impacted by COVID-19 and other global epidemics. It is also a time to think about what we can do to make a difference," Henry and Dix said.

"Let’s be resilient in face of this surge. United and together, let’s make an impact today through our own personal actions."

Health officials also announced 656 new cases of COVID-19, which is below the province's seven-day average of 752. B.C. has now recorded a total of 33,894 infections since the start of the pandemic, including 5,269 over the past week.

On Monday, Henry indicated officials are seeing case numbers "levelling off" – a potentially optimistic sign weeks after she first imposed tough new restrictions on B.C.'s Lower Mainland. Those have since been expanded and applied across the province

Those temporary restrictions are currently scheduled to end on Dec. 7. Health officials did not provide any indication Tuesday whether they intend to extend the measures, but they stressed that they currently remain in place "without exception."

"Remember that events, which refer to anything that gathers people together - whether on a one-time, regular or irregular basis - are not allowed for now. This includes religious, cultural or community events. Do not gather at home with anyone other than your household or core bubble," they said.

B.C.'s number of active cases dropped slightly to 8,795, while hospitalizations reached a new record high of 336 patients in treatment, including 76 in intensive care or critical care.

There are also 10,123 people under active public health monitoring as a result of exposure to a known case of COVID-19.

Officials also announced one more outbreak, at The Harrison at Elim Village, a seniors' home in Surrey. Two others, at Holy Family Hospital and Jackman Manor, have been declared over, leaving 60 active outbreaks in B.C.'s health-care system.

Much of the concern surrounding the province's recent surge in COVID-19 cases has revolved around the coronavirus infiltrating long-term care homes, where elderly residents are at a much greater risk of severe complications and death.

At Monday's COVID-19 briefing, Henry urged the public to keep those people in mind before looking for loopholes in B.C.'s strict limits on social interactions.

"If you are thinking that it might be OK to bend the rules, please remember that this virus takes lives," she said.