British Columbia suffered another eight deaths related to COVID-19 over the weekend, and one of the victims was under the age of two.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the tragic news during her pandemic briefing on Monday, noting that the toddler is now the youngest person to have succumbed to the disease in B.C.
"Although this child had pre-existing health conditions that complicated their illness, it was the virus that caused their death," Henry said.
The child was from the Fraser Health region, which spans from Burnaby to Boston Bar, but had been getting specialized care at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver.
The toddler's death serves as a reminder of the "vicious nature of this virus," Henry added.
"Our thoughts and prayers and condolences go to the family of this child, and to all of the families and care providers who I know have been so affected by caring for people and who have lost loved ones in this pandemic," she said.
The province has now recorded 1,538 deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
B.C. also once again broke hospitalization records over the weekend, when the number of patients battling the disease in hospital reached a new high of 441. That includes 138 patients in intensive care, another record for the province.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix revealed the province has started using surge capacity to care for the influx of COVID-19 patients in hospital. While some regions have plenty of available base capacity, others are nearing their limit – including the Interior Health region, which is already using 22.5 per cent of available surge beds.
The more surge capacity that's used, the more resources need to be diverted to COVID-19 care from other parts of the province's health system, officials said. A number of scheduled non-emergency surgeries have already been strategically delayed in the Lower Mainland in order to address the worsening state of the pandemic in hospitals.
Dix urged the public to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19, which in turn limits the burden being placed on exhausted health-care workers who have been fighting the pandemic for more than a year.
"We need to take action together," Dix said. "What's happening in hospitals is always affected by what all of us do in communities, and we all have to take action to reduce transmission of COVID-19."
Meanwhile, the number of daily COVID-19 cases being recorded in B.C. remains high. The province identified another 2,960 infections over the weekend, bringing the provincial total to 120,040.
The rolling weekly average has been slowly declining in recent days, reaching 1,030 Monday after hitting a record high of 1,130 on April 12. But Henry and Dix said the province's curve has only begun to bend back down, and it's too soon to relax any of B.C.'s current COVID-19 restrictions.
Officials revealed Monday that all the current public health orders related to the pandemic will remain in place until after the May long weekend, and that a new travel restriction banning people from moving between health regions for recreational reasons will be implemented on Friday.
The province also expanded eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to everyone 40 and up, with Henry and Dix noting an alarming spike in hospitalizations among the 40-59 age group.
B.C. administered another 98,060 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines over the weekend, for a combined total of 1,380,160 first and second doses across the province so far.
About 30 per cent of the adult population has now been vaccinated, Henry said, and officials hope to have 60 per cent protected by the end of May.
"Vaccination has proven to be one of the most powerful tools that we have," Henry said.
"Immunization can get case rates to our post-pandemic levels, and this is what we need to focus on over the next five weeks."
Correction: A previous version of this story reported the child who died was two years old. The child was under the age of two.