VANCOUVER -- British Columbia has recorded another 428 cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths from the disease, health officials said Tuesday.

The update brings the total number of COVID-19 infections identified in the province so far to 54,629, and the provincial death toll to 954.

More than half of those deaths have been recorded since the beginning of December.

In a written statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered condolences to "everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Another 770 people recovered from the disease over the same period, which helped push B.C.'s number of active cases down to 6,472 – the lowest it has been since mid-November. That's down from 6,823 on Monday.

Hospitalizations increased to 367, including 77 patients in intensive care. The remaining people who have tested positive are recovering at home, officials said.

The new infections announced Tuesday are below the average of 543 per day that B.C. been recorded over the past week. The province's seven-day average has been increasing since late December, when it reached a recent low of 467 per day.

"We were able to slow the increase of new cases in mid-December and we want to continue that trend, but the number of new cases and deaths across the province remains high," Henry and Dix said.

"The more people we see, the higher our risks are, which is why keeping our groups small and using our layers of protection is so important right now."

The current province-wide health order severely limiting social interactions is scheduled to remain in place until midnight on Jan. 8. Health officials haven't indicated whether they intend to extend that order.

Meanwhile, the province is continuing with its vaccination program, which officials outlined in greater detail this week (LINK). Officials said 28,209 people had received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine by Tuesday afternoon.

"Our focus is to ensure we safely deliver the vaccines as quickly as possible to communities across the province, using all available supply," Henry and Dix said.

"While the focus is on first-priority populations in the next three months, as new vaccines are approved and additional supply becomes available, we will incorporate the additional doses into our distribution to enable as many people as possible to be immunized as soon as they can."