B.C. reports 800 cases of COVID-19, the biggest single-day jump since early December
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's surge in COVID-19 case numbers continued Thursday as health officials announced 800 new infections – the biggest single-day jump in several months.
The last time the province reached that many infections was Dec. 2, when 834 cases were announced.
The latest infections also pushed B.C.'s rolling weekly average to 674 per day, the highest it's been since Dec. 17.
In a joint written statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said much of the "notable spike" in recent coronavirus cases has involved people in the 19 to 39 age range.
"This tells us some people are taking on more risk for themselves and their loves ones than what is safe right now," they said.
"We remind everyone that although some outside activities are allowed, we must keep going with our protective layers. Until everyone has been protected with immunization, our protective layers must be the first and last thing we think about – whether at home, work, school or elsewhere."
Health officials also announced five more deaths related to COVID-19. The province has now recorded a total of 94,769 infections and 1,446 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.
There are 5,856 active cases across B.C. – the most there's been since Jan. 8 – with 306 people in hospital, including 79 patients in intensive care.
Another 191 cases involving COVID-19 variants of concern have been confirmed in B.C. as well, bringing the provincial total to 1,772. Of those, 215 remain active.
The B.1.1.7 variant associated with the U.K. remains the most common by far, making up 1,549 of all identified variant cases in the province. The P.1. variant associated with Brazil has been picking up steam as well, reaching 176 cases on Thursday – an increase of 36 from the day before.
Earlier in the day, during a news conference announcing amended rules for care home visits in B.C., Henry referenced emerging evidence that B.1.1.7 can cause more severe illness across age groups.
"We've now seen data particularly from the U.K. but some other countries as well that shows that it can have increased severity of illness in younger people and across the age spectrum," she said. "So we are concerned about that."
But as cases trend upward, the province's immunization program is continuing to ramp up. B.C. administered a record 30,037 doses over the last day, for a total of 610,671 of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII vaccines combined.
The province also reached a milestone Thursday, with 10 per cent of the population – or 523,459 people – having received a first dose.
Health officials said the progress vaccinating seniors in care has allowed them to ease visitor restrictions beginning on April 1. They are also relaxing some of the rules around religious gatherings, giving churches and temples the ability to host indoor services on four dates between March 28 and May 13.
"Each faith can identify the days most appropriate for their faith – whether for Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi," Henry and Dix said in their statement.
"The maximum capacity is 50 people, or 10 per cent of the worship space capacity – whatever is less. There are a number of safety requirements and protocols that must be met by worship service organizers and attendees alike."
The full list of rules and requirements for religious gatherings is available on the B.C. government website.