VANCOUVER -- British Columbia has recorded another 16 deaths from COVID-19 and 566 new infections, health officials announced Tuesday.

The update from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix pushes the provincial death toll to 543, and the total number of cases identified since the start of the pandemic to 38,718.

B.C.'s number of active cases dropped slightly to 9,315, down from 9,380 on Monday. That includes 352 patients hospitalized with the disease, 74 of whom are in critical care.

Sixteen deaths ties the province's previous record for the most COVID-19 fatalities announced for one 24-hour period, which was set on Dec. 1.

"We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic," Henry and Dix said in a joint written statement.

There are some encouraging signs, however, that the province is beginning to bend its curve back down. B.C. has recorded an average of 689 cases over the past seven days, down from an average of 752 over the preceding seven days.

But Henry and Dix said the province still has a long way to go before the government can start relaxing its tough-but-temporary restrictions on socializing, team sports and fitness activities.

"The number of new cases and people with serious illness requiring care in hospital remains high," they said.

"Let’s make the coming weeks our ‘winter break’ by breaking the chain of transmission in our province. We can still be festive and enjoy the season, but let’s ensure it is only with our immediate household or, if you live on your own, with one or two close contacts."

There has also been some hopeful news regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, the first doses of which are expected to arrive in B.C. soon.

Premier John Horgan revealed Tuesday that 4,000 British Columbians should be receiving their first dose by the end of next week.

Horgan, Dix and Henry are scheduled to appear together at a briefing Wednesday to discuss the province's vaccine rollout plans.


A previous version of this story reported B.C.'s seven-day average for Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 was 852 cases per day. It was 752 cases.