British Columbia reported 738 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 13 new deaths.
It brings the province’s death toll to 371.
Officials also revised daily case totals from Nov. 16 to Nov. 24, owing to data reporting errors in the Fraser Health region.
The correction saw total case numbers increase on several days, but also saw Tuesday’s record-breaking 941 new cases revised down to 706. Full corrections will be available on the BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 dashboard in the coming days.
“I know we had a dramatic increase in the daily numbers, that was a result of some of these data coming in at different times. So we apologize,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The majority of Wednesday’s cases were in the Fraser Health region (443) and Vancouver Coastal Health (169).
Seventy were in the Interior Health region, 35 in the Northern Health region and 21 were on Vancouver Island.
The number of people in hospital climbed yet again, reaching a new record of 294. Sixty-one people were in critical or intensive care.
The outbreak at Royal Columbian Hospital was declared over, but 57 outbreaks in health-care facilities — 52 of them in long-term care — remained active.
There were 7,616 active cases, while 10,270 people were isolating due to potential exposure to the virus.
About 68 per cent of B.C.’s total 29,086 cases have recovered.
British Columbia is aiming to roll out COVID-19 vaccines sometime in early 2021, Henry said.
The province has appointed Dr. Ross Brown, the Vancouver Coastal Health’s vice-president of COVID response, to coordinate the program.
“This is a massive effort,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
“(It’s) the most significant immunization program certainly in the history of B.C., obviously because of the attention placed on it, it’s importance and its speed and the fact that we are dealing with new vaccines. All of that adds to its complications.”
Brown will work with Henry on logistical questions about how to distribute the vaccine as efficiently as possible, she said.
Questions include how to ship refrigerated vaccine, and how to prioritize its distribution to health-care workers and the vulnerable.
Henry addressed new $230 fines, announced Tuesday, for people who refuse to wear a mask in indoor public places.
She called on people to be tolerant of others if they see them without a mask on, noting that many people cannot wear masks for reasons that may not be immediately visible.
The purpose of the order, she said, is to target individuals who are intentionally flouting the rules and putting others at risk.
“I have no time for people who are belligerent and are trying to make some kind of a statement about anti-vaxx, and think that this is not a truly challenging pandemic,” Henry said.
“I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or is a sign of lack of freedom. For me it is about respect for our fellow people who are suffering through this.”
British Columbia has received a supply of rapid tests from the federal government, but the quantity of tests and limitations around sensitivity mean they are not being widely used, Henry said.
The province has been trying the tests out in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where following up with someone days after a test can be challenging, she said.
Officials are also hopeful they can be used to help identify clusters of virus in rural areas, or in long-term care settings where they need to quickly assess symptomatic people, she said.
“We’re still working out what the best way is to use these tests,” she said.
Global News will host a live town hall Wednesday evening with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix at 6:30 p.m.