B.C. reports second-highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases in 2021

Testing has also increased to one of the highest totals so far this year

dix henry
Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry get ready for a press conference | B.C. government

While B.C. is getting some good news when it comes to likely future supply of COVID-19 vaccines, many metrics to chart the spread of the virus in B.C. are trending in the wrong direction. 

Health officials reported 634 new infections overnight. That is the second highest total so far in 2021, as it was only surpassed by the 761 cases identified on January 7. The number of people in hospital because of viral infections rose by seven overnight to 255 people, which is the highest total since February 4, more than a month ago. The 66 patients in intensive care wards of hospitals is the highest number in more than a week. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said in a joint statement that they were not yet confident enough in the recovery to ease health-order restrictions. 

"We are regularly reviewing the public health restrictions to assess when we can safely ease them," Dix and Henry said. "We know many are keen to resume activities and we will open what we can when we have the confidence it is safe to do so."

Thankfully, there were comparatively few deaths in the past day – four, which is lower than the average in the past week. 

Of the 83,107 people known to be infected with the COVID-19 virus since the first case was detected in the province in January 2020,  health officials list 1,380 people who have died, 76,752 people who are considered recovered because they have had two negative tests, 4,901 people who are actively fighting infections and 74 people who are unaccounted for, likely because they left the province without alerting authorities as to their status. 

Another 8,861 people are being closely monitored for symptoms because they were exposed to at least one person identified as having been infected.  That is the highest number of people under observation since January 6.

Some good news is that the province conducted 10,384 tests in the past day, which is one of the higher totals for the year. That makes the positive-test rate in the past day 6.1%, which is lower than yesterday and in the range for the past week. 

The vaccine roll-out is starting to ramp up, but the 12,347 doses administered in the past day was not a record, as it was 193 fewer doses than the record 12,540 doses provided on February 26. The strategic shift toward holding off on providing recipients with second doses was clear, as 12,228 people received their first dose of a vaccine in the past day, with only 119 people receiving a second dose. 

News today that Health Canada has approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is likely to provide a shot in the arm to B.C.'s vaccination effort. 

"This has been a week of progress in our COVID-19 response, as we ready our province to begin our age-based immunizations and integrate the AstraZeneca-SII vaccine into our program," Dix and Henry said.

"Starting on Monday, vaccine appointment bookings for people over 90 [years old] and Indigenous people over 65 [years old] will get underway, with appointments available in communities province-wide. We ask that anyone outside of this age group waits to call until their registration window begins."

The Fraser Health region is home to an increasingly disproportionate percentage of new infections.

Here is the breakdown of where the 634 newly infected people reside, by health region:
• 149 in Vancouver Coastal Health (23.4%);
• 365 in Fraser Health (57.6%);
• 26 in Island Health (4.1%);
• 33 in Interior Health (5.2%);
• 60 in Northern Health (9.5%) and
• one infected person who resides outside Canada. 

"There have been four new confirmed COVID-19 cases that are variants of concern in our province, for a total of 250 [variant] cases," Dix and Henry said. "Of the total [variant] cases, 12 are active, and the remaining people have recovered. This includes 222 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant and 28 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant."

One new outbreaks of COVID-19 was identified at a seniors' home in the past day: Holmberg House Hospice in Abbotsford.

None of the ten active outbreaks at seniors' homes is in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. 

The six active outbreaks at seniors' living facilities in Fraser Health are:
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Chartwell Carrington House in Mission;
• Holmberg House Hospice in Abbotsford;
• Revera Sunwood in Maple Ridge;
• Royal City Manor in New Westminster; and
• Shaughnessy Care Centre in Port Coquitlam.

Royal City Manor is by far the largest of those current outbreaks, as it has had a total of 133 cases and 31 deaths, according to government data up until March 2. 

The outbreak at Glacier View Lodge in Courtenay is the only outbreak at a seniors' home in the Island Health region.

The only outbreak at such a facility in the Northern Health region is at the Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert.

The two active outbreaks at seniors' living facilities in Interior Health are now at Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops, and The Florentine in Merritt.

There are also eight active COVID-19 outbreaks at B.C. hospitals. They include:
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Dawson Creek and District Hospital in Dawson Creek;
• Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody;
• Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna;
• Mission Memorial Hospital in Mission;
• Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey; and
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom