VANCOUVER -- B.C. health officials are stressing the importance of following COVID-19 precautions as the case count and death toll continue to grow in the province.

During her daily virus briefing Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced another 40 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus and one has died.

That marks eight deaths in British Columbia so far, seven of which, including the most recent, were recorded at the same seniors’ home in North Vancouver.

A total of 271 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C. Seventeen of them are currently in hospital, nine in intensive care.

Only five are confirmed to have fully recovered, though Dr. Henry said there are others whose symptoms have subsided and are awaiting test results to conclusively clear them of the virus.

Officials imposed dramatic new measures this week in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, including banning gatherings of more than 50 people and closing all public schools, bars and clubs.

That’s on top of urgent calls for social distancing, which Henry repeated while speaking to reporters from downtown Vancouver Thursday.

“This is not optional,” she said. “I want to be very clear that everybody needs to take these actions now. This is what’s going to protect us for the next few weeks – it’s going to protect ourselves, it’s going to protect our families.”

While some people have been publicly shamed on social media for congregating in groups at Whistler, at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach and other popular areas, Henry said she’s been heartened by some of the ways others are complying with the province’s orders.

She pointed to “virtual coffee dates,” and the volunteers who have been dropping groceries off on the doorsteps of vulnerable people in self-isolation.

Dr. Henry also encouraged people to continue going outside, provided they are maintaining their distance from others. Some of the activities she recommended included dog walking, bike riding and playing outdoors as a family while keeping a safe distance from others.

Asked what kind of trajectory officials expect from the virus in B.C., Health Minister Adrian Dix said they are in the process of combining data collected in the province and internationally to do modelling that could provide insight on what’s ahead.

“We’re not going to be hiding it from people. We’re going to be sharing some of that work as early as next week,” he added.

The number of COVID-19 cases recorded across Canada has now exceeded 870. The bulk of the infections in B.C. – 152 – have been recorded in the Vancouver Coastal Health region that runs north from Richmond through to Whistler. Eighty-one have been in the Fraser Health region that spans from Burnaby east to Hope, followed by 22 on Vancouver Island, 12 in the B.C. Interior and four in the province’s north.