Health officials in British Columbia announced 66 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 725 cases.
There have been no new deaths from the novel coronavirus in British Columbia over the last 24 hours, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in her daily update on the pandemic.
In Henry's previous update, she announced one new death in B.C. and 42 more positive tests.
The province's death toll stands at 14, while a total of 186 people have fully recovered from the virus, according to Henry.
Of B.C.'s 725 cases, the vast majority remain in the Lower Mainland. Some 359 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and another 241 are located in the Fraser Health region. Those two regions include all of Metro Vancouver as well as surrounding areas as far away as Whistler and Hope.
Those two health regions are also the site of nine outbreaks at seniors' care homes in the province. On Thursday, Henry said there had been no new outbreaks at such facilities, but a few new cases had been confirmed.
At Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where the majority of the province's deaths from COVID-19 have occurred, four additional residents and three additional staff members have tested positive for the virus, Henry said.
There have also been three more positive tests at Haro Park Centre in Vancouver. Two of them are residents of the facility, while the third is a staff member.
Henry said Thursday she has issued a new provincial health order aimed at minimizing the spread of the coronavirus between long-term care facilities. The order assigns health-care workers to a single facility for the duration of the pandemic, rather than allowing them to work at multiple facilities, which had been the case in the past.
Health officials have known workers travelling between seniors' care homes is a problem for weeks - since the Lynn Valley outbreak began. On Wednesday, Henry said it took time to develop an order prohibiting people from working at multiple facilities because of the "patchwork" nature of employment for those individuals, with some working for facilities directly, others working for private contractors and others working for the public health system.
"That is one of the things that has facilitated movement and outbreaks in a number of different facilities, unfortunately, so far in British Columbia," Henry said. "So this will be really important to help support those workers to be able to work and to maintain the support that we need in those facilities while decreasing that risk."
Elsewhere in the province, there are 62 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Interior Health region, 52 in the Island Health region and 11 in the Northern Health region.
A total of 66 people in B.C. are currently in hospital with the virus, and 26 of those are in intensive care.
That represents an increase of only two hospitalizations relative to Wednesday, while the number of people in intensive care has remained the same.
Asked Thursday if she found the relative consistency in the number of hospitalizations encouraging, Henry urged caution. She said it's been less than two weeks since the province put in place strong recommendations for maintaining physical distance to slow the spread of the virus, meaning some transmission of the virus that happened before those measures began still hasn't been detected.
"I don't dare hope at this point," Henry said. "We're still in the incubation period from when we first started putting in these measures."
All of the province's reported case numbers reflect people who have been tested for COVID-19. The province plans to provide an update on its "modelling" of the virus at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
That update will include a look at estimates for the number of cases in the province that haven't been confirmed by testing, as well as a projection for what the outbreak in B.C. could look like relative to outbreaks in other countries, said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix Thursday.
"What you're going to see tomorrow is our preparations in the face of what could be worst-case scenarios in B.C. in comparison to places like Hubei (China) and Italy," Dix said.