Rule-breakers still responsible for much of B.C.'s COVID-19 transmission, officials say
VANCOUVER -- There are still too many B.C. residents gathering indoors, defying public health orders and ignoring the increased threat posed by COVID-19 variants of concern.
That's according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who once again sounded the alarm about rule-breaking behaviour Tuesday as B.C. neared a weekly average of 1,000 coronavirus cases per day.
"Much of the increased transmission we're seeing in the last little while is being driven by social gatherings, where people are disregarding our provincial safety precautions," she said.
"And it's particularly notable in our younger demographics now, because many young people live, work and socialize in the same networks."
Henry said it's easy for the disease to spread when people live with half a dozen roommates, some of whom may work at different restaurants or stores where they can pass COVID-19 along to their colleagues – a situation that played out with disastrous results in Whistler this year.
Henry stressed that the issue isn't limited to any one industry, location or cluster. There are people across the province going against B.C.'s public health order that bans indoor gatherings among members of different households, she said.
This behaviour has become an even bigger problem as Canada grapples with variants of concern that spread more easily and can potentially cause more severe illness – including in younger people.
Officials confirmed another 207 infections involving variants of concern on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 3,766. The vast majority of those are the B.1.1.7 variant associated with the U.K. And while most B.1.1.7 cases are concentrated in the Lower Mainland, Henry cautioned the variant is spreading in all corners of the province.
"We all have the ability to slow that down, and this is a time where we can do that. All of our connections need to be safe connections," Henry said.
That means meeting people outdoors, and only meeting people from the same small and consistent group. It also means staying distanced, wearing masks, and washing your hands.
"If you choose to spend time with anyone other than your immediate household, it must be outside, it must be done safely, it must be small," Henry said. "Let's ensure we don't lose anymore ground."
B.C.'s case numbers reached a new record high over the Easter weekend, as did the number of patients battling COVID-19 in intensive care. Meanwhile, two Vancouver restaurants drew backlash after openly defying another order that temporarily prohibits serving customers inside.
Both Gusto and Corduroy Lounge have had their business licences suspended until April 20.
While B.C.'s numbers have been alarming, and many people have expressed frustration that others are apparently not following the rules, Henry said there's hope for the summer if people can buckle down for a few more months.
"I am confident that we will be in a very different position by this summer – that is a prediction that I will make right now," she said.
"We have to work together to get through it. Let's all pledge to do our part today to break these chains of transmission that we're seeing."