COVID-19 update: B.C. adds 464 cases as province imposes new local restrictions in Okanagan
The B.C. Ministry of Health announced 464 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, shortly after officials imposed new local restrictions aimed at combatting an alarming spike in transmission in the Okanagan.
The latest infections pushed the province's seven-day average to 279 cases per day, the highest it's been since May, while active cases increased to a two-month high of 2,411.
Nearly 60 per cent of the infections announced Friday were identified in the Interior Health region, where rapid spread has prompted the government to once again ramp up COVID-19 measures in the Central Okanagan.
Those measures include the closure of bars and nightclubs, decreased liquor service hours in restaurants, and new limits on personal gatherings.
At a news conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said transmission in the region has largely been among "under-immunized young people," most between the ages of 20 and 40.
"We know that many people in this age group were the last to access vaccine," she said. "And for many of them, case counts had come down, it may not have been a priority with the many different things that people have going on in their lives."
That age group also has the most social connections, Henry said.
"Most of the transmission events that we're seeing are through social gatherings, whether that's in vacation rentals, people coming together and having parties, in bars and nightclubs," she added.
While the Central Okanagan is experiencing a unique explosion in cases, numbers are on the rise in every health authority in the province. There is no indication that officials are considering more restrictions outside of the Interior Health region.
So far, the government's message remains focussed on the importance of immunization.
The government has said 95 per cent of recent cases involve people who are not vaccinated or only partly vaccinated. This week, Henry suggested that inching up vaccination numbers across all age groups could be the determining factor in whether the province experiences another major wave in cases or "something that is more of a ripple."
The Ministry of Health said the province has administered 6,993,104 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, including enough first doses for 81.8 per cent of the eligible population. Nearly 69 per cent of those eligible have received both doses.
Henry said about 80 per cent of the cases in the Okanagan involve the Delta variant, which is said to be much more contagious. But research has found that two shots of vaccine are nearly as effective against Delta as the previously dominant Alpha variant, however.
Officials are hoping local restrictions will put a dent in what they have described as a regional outbreak of COVID-19 in the Central Okanagan, but in the meantime, Henry said they are "strongly recommending" that people avoid non-essential travel to and from the area.
"If you have travelled recently to the Central Okanagan you need to know that this virus is spreading rapidly," Henry said. "You must monitor yourself for symptoms and get tested if any arise."
Despite the rising cases, the number of people dying and being hospitalized with COVID-19 remains low – though Health Minister Adrian Dix previously called COVID-19 hospitalizations a lagging indicator.
The Ministry of Health did not have any new coronavirus-related deaths to announce Friday, leaving the death toll at 1,772, and the number of patients in hospital fell to 52, a drop of six from Thursday. That includes 25 people battling the disease in intensive care.