New coronavirus cases surged in British Columbia on Wednesday, with the province reporting the third-highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.
Health officials reported 85 new cases of the virus, two of them epi-linked — the highest since April 25.
The majority of the new cases are young people in the Lower Mainland, with exposures at events in the community.
B.C. also recorded one death at Vancouver’s Holy Family Hospital long-term care home.
More than 1,900 people are currently isolating due to potential exposures.
Eight people remain in hospital with COVID-19, five of them in critical care.
Of B.C.’s total 4,196 cases, 3,469 — about 82 per cent — have recovered.
The surge comes nearly two weeks after the B.C. Day Long Weekend and follows weeks of new cases trending over 40 per day. Officials said it also includes “a significant number of cases” linked to travel from out of province.
It pushes the number of active cases in the province from 472 on Tuesday to 531.
The worsening numbers have renewed questions about whether B.C.’s approach to stopping transmission — which has relied on asking the public to follow guidelines, rather than ordering them — remains effective.
Earlier Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said he continues to prefer the soft touch, though he hinted the province could get tougher on those flouting existing regulations.
“When it comes to things like private parties, people flouting the restriction on the number of faces in the smaller spaces … we’re going to be looking hard at enforcement when it comes to situations like that,” said Horgan.
“Those tools are available to us and they’re escalating, starting with warnings, of course, and then getting into more severe penalties. But we have been successful without taking a punitive approach to this pandemic, and we want to keep it that way.”
Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, people caught breaking one of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s health orders could face a fine of up to $25,000 and a jail term of up to six months.
Most of those orders remain focused on industry, however, a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people and restrictions on the number of visitors to vacation rental properties remain key areas where individuals could face enforcement.
Horgan and Henry also both reiterated support for wearing non-medical masks, Wednesday, while resisting making them mandatory.
“We don’t want people to believe that masks will be an invincibility shield for them,” said Horgan, saying physical distancing and hand hygiene remain the key to stopping the virus.
“We’ve said from the very beginning personal protective equipment like masks in the community are the last line of defense and they should be worn when you can’t maintain those physical distances,” added Henry.
“We also need to remember that we need to be inclusive. There are reasons why people cannot wear masks, and we need to ensure that they can get the services and the care they need as well.”
Several new or expanded exposures were also announced on Wednesday.
New and expanded exposures
Levels Nightclub (560 Seymour St., Vancouver)
- Aug. 4, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.
- Aug. 7, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Harbour Dance Centre
- Tuesday, Aug. 4, Advanced Choreography at 8:00 p.m. (studio #2)
- Thursday, Aug. 6 Advanced Choreography at 1:45 p.m. (studio #2)
- Friday, Aug. 7 Jazz Funk at 2:00 p.m. (studio #2)
- Saturday, Aug. 8 Intro Hip hop at 12:45 p.m. (studio #4)
Foot Locker (919 Robson St., Vancouver)
- Aug. 4
- Aug. 5
Pierre’s Champagne Lounge (1028 Hamilton St., Vancouver)
- July 31 to Aug. 8
West Oak Restaurant ( 1035 Mainland St., Vancouver)
- July 31 to Aug. 8