VANCOUVER -- B.C. health officials announced another 16 deaths related to COVID-19 and 414 new cases on Wednesday.

The province has now recorded a total of 1,234 coronavirus fatalities and 68,780 infections since the start of the pandemic.

B.C.'s active caseload decreased to 4,426 and hospitalizations fell to 278, which is the lowest number of patients in hospital since Nov. 23. That includes 80 patients in intensive care.

The province's rolling seven-day average also dropped to 437 per day – the lowest it's been since Nov. 7.

In a written statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed the importance of continuing the pandemic precautionary measures that have helped bring cases down in recent weeks – particularly as more contagious variants of COVID-19 continue to appear in Canada.

"We know the COVID-19 variants make things more challenging as the virus is more likely to spread quickly, which is why we all need to continue to make safe choices," they said.

"Until the COVID-19 vaccines are available for all of us, let’s choose less and choose small. This is the path to get to the brighter days ahead."

Health officials are scheduled to provide an update Friday on whether they will be lifting or easing any of the current public health orders in place across the province. Henry has already suggested gatherings of friends and family will remain off-limits on Super Bowl Sunday.

In their Wednesday update, health officials once again provided the example of walking outside with a friend as a way to remain connected while staying safe.

"This is the modified approach we want to continue," Henry and Dix said.

A third outbreak has been declared at Burnaby Hospital, and officials said the public health investigation into the COVID-19 exposure at Garibaldi High School has been completed.

"Testing has confirmed the original person did have the B.1.1.7 variant of concern. They have since recovered and there is no longer an exposure risk," Henry and Dix said.

It doesn't appear anyone else at the school caught COVID-19. About 90 students and staff were tested, and health officials said there was only one positive result, which came from a rapid test and was later proven to be false by a follow-up polymerase chain reaction test.

B.C. has now administered 142,146 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, an increase of 1,694 from Tuesday. The province is still grappling with decreased supply from both manufacturers. Some 5,097 of the shots distributed so far have been second doses.

Approximately 90 per cent of all cases identified in B.C. so far – or 61,643 people – have recovered.