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B.C. shatters records with 274 new COVID-19 cases, social gatherings blamed

Click to play video 'Dr. Bonnie Henry threatens more restrictions, after rising COVID-19 numbers' Dr. Bonnie Henry threatens more restrictions, after rising COVID-19 numbers
Dr. Bonnie Henry threatens more restrictions, after rising COVID-19 numbers – Oct 22, 2020

For the second day in a row, British Columbia has announced a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases.

At a Thursday briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 274 new cases — shattering the previous record, announced Wednesday, of 203.

B.C. is now facing 1,920 active cases, nearing the previous record of 1,987 set in September. In addition, 4,425 people were in isolation due to possible exposure.

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The province’s death toll was unchanged at 256.

Despite surging cases, the situation in B.C. hospitals has remained relatively stable since early October.

Seventy-one people were in hospital, 24 of them in critical or intensive care.

About 82 per cent of B.C.s 12,331 cases have recovered.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: B.C. breaks record with 274 new COVID-19 cases' Coronavirus: B.C. breaks record with 274 new COVID-19 cases
Coronavirus: B.C. breaks record with 274 new COVID-19 cases – Oct 22, 2020
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Surge driven by social gatherings

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Much of the surge in new cases has been driven by social gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, which Henry described as “high risk.”

A small percentage of the new cases were also linked to “large” Thanksgiving gatherings.

Many of the events have been concentrated in the Lower Mainland, but their effects have since spread province-wide as attendees returned to homes outside the region, Henry said.

Click to play video '“Superspreader” events help BC post new one day record for COVID-19 cases' “Superspreader” events help BC post new one day record for COVID-19 cases
“Superspreader” events help BC post new one day record for COVID-19 cases – Oct 22, 2020

They have also spread into the healthcare system and workplaces people who were exposed returned to work, she added.

“People are not sticking with their COVID-19 safety plans for social gatherings, particularly ones like weddings and funerals,” Henry said.

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“We may have the best intentions to keep them small,” Henry added. “It is hard, and right now it is not working.”

Read more: How superspreader events have contributed to B.C.’s recent COVID-19 surge

Henry said it is critical that people avoid inviting guests to social gatherings beyond their immediate family or “safe six” bubble, and urged people who are invited to such events to decline.

If problems with social gatherings continue, Henry said the province was prepared to implement new measures to crack down such as conditions tied to to wedding licences or new restrictions on indoor gatherings.

“We are considering all the options, and certainly changing of (public health) orders is one of them” she said.

First school outbreak

Henry said five cases, up from an initial three, had been linked to the province’s first school outbreak at Kelowna’s École de l’Anse-au-Sable School.

The school and public health officials have taken steps to ensure the cases remain contained to affected learning cohorts, and 160 people were now isolating at home, Henry said.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: B.C’s top doctor says province has 1st school outbreak' Coronavirus: B.C’s top doctor says province has 1st school outbreak
Coronavirus: B.C’s top doctor says province has 1st school outbreak – Oct 22, 2020

Public health officials were also at the school investigating who may have been exposed.

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“While it is obviously not what any of us want to see, it is not unexpected as we know that COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities, and we know that is reflected in our school communities as well,” Henry said.

There have been 213 exposure events and six clusters — where officials had identified more than one person who had been exposed — in the province’s 2,000-plus schools, Henry said.

She said most occurred in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions, and that there had been few recorded cases of transmission.

“I think that helps us put it in perspective that we are not seeing return to school causing amplification in our communities,” Henry said.