COVID-19 update: B.C. records 1,785 cases, 16 related deaths over the weekend
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia recorded another 1,785 cases of COVID-19 and 16 related deaths over the weekend, continuing a steady surge in infections that officials have partly blamed on illegal household gatherings.
The latest numbers pushed the province's active caseload to 5,290, and the rolling weekly average to approximately 600 infections per day – the highest it's been since Dec. 20.
Hospitalizations also increased to 303, with 80 patients in intensive care.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said some of the increasing hospital and ICU admissions have involved younger people, a concerning development emerging months before the government expects to have all eligible residents vaccinated.
"We're having more and more people protected by this vaccine, but we do not yet have enough protection to keep us all safe," she added.
The recent increase in transmission, which has centred around the Lower Mainland, has been linked to workplace clusters and indoor gatherings at homes, according to the province.
As COVID-19 variants of concern continue spreading in B.C., Henry stressed the need for people to continue following public health orders, which still prohibit having guests over indoors.
"We know the B.1.1.7 variant is more transmissible, it's much easier to spread it with even minimal contact in indoor settings. The areas where we know it spreads most quickly and most dangerously are the same as they were last year, but now there's even less margin for error," Henry said.
"The only safe place for us to gather right now with our small groups – with our friends, with our family – is outside."
Hosting indoor gatherings at home can net B.C. residents a $2,300 fine, and their guests can also be dinged $230.
B.C. has now identified a total of 92,571 novel coronavirus cases and suffered 1,437 related fatalities since the start of the pandemic. Officials said one of the latest deaths was actually a historical case that was reclassified over the weekend.
The province also retrospectively identified another 166 cases involving variants of concern, bringing the provincial total to 1,366. Henry said 237 of those remain active, while the rest of the cases involve people who are "past the acute phase."
The B.1.1.7 variant associated with the U.K. remains the most common in B.C. by far, making up 1,240 cases. But Henry noted that 20 of the latest cases involve the P.1. variant associated with Brazil, following the discovery of two separate clusters.
She noted that so far, officials are not seeing an increase in hospitalizations or deaths directly related to variants.
"There are currently 23 people who've been identified as having a variant case in hospital, but our overall hospitalization rate remains the same as what we've seen, or slightly less than what we're seeing in the general population," Henry said.
Meanwhile, the ramp-up of the province's immunization program continued over the weekend with another 48,386 doses being administered across B.C., bringing the provincial total to 539,408.
"This puts us ahead of the schedule that we had originally been on based on what we were expecting to receive," Henry said.
The provincial health officer also celebrated the newly released findings of U.S. clinical trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which found it to be both safe and 79 per cent effective overall – putting it "right up there in league with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines," Henry said.
The findings follow the discovery of a small handful of cases of blood clotting linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe – about 25 reported instances out of 20 million shots administered – and Henry stressed that the benefits of all three of the vaccines available in B.C. far outweigh the risks of catching COVID-19, which include a higher chance of blood clotting.
The findings follow the discovery of a small handful of cases of blood clotting linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe – 25 reported instances out of 20 million shots administered – and Henry stressed that the benefits of all three of the vaccines available in B.C. far outweigh the risks of catching COVID-19, which include a higher chance of blood clotting.
"We know that this virus can cause clotting. We’ve seen it," she added. "(The risk of) blood clots, of heart attacks, of pulmonary blood clots and strokes from infection with COVID-19 remains very high and a very real risk."
B.C. has been closely monitoring for adverse effects following immunization, and has recorded 497 instances so far, including 50 related to anaphylaxis or allergic reactions. There have been no instances of blood clotting yet.