Another 21 British Columbians have lost their lives to COVID-19, health officials said Thursday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the fatalities, along with 673 new cases of the novel coronavirus, at a live briefing in Victoria.
It brought the province’s death toll to 713, more than double where it stood one month ago. According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s latest situation report, about 71 per cent of the province’s fatalities were associated with care home outbreaks.
Henry said 1,215 health care workers had now received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
“Starting next week we will be receiving weekly vaccine deliveries,” she said.
“We do expect and are planning for immunization clinics in every health region across the province starting early next week.”
Of the new cases, 403 were in the Fraser Health region and 145 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
Sixty-six were in the Interior Health region, 47 were in the Northern Health region and just four were on Vancouver Island.
Ten of the deaths announced Thursday were in the Fraser Health region, 10 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and one was on Vancouver Island.
There were 10,009 active cases while another 10,388 people were isolating due to potential exposure.
Hospitalizations dropped by four overnight to 358, 93 of them in critical or intensive care.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province’s regular hospital beds had reached 88.8 per cent capacity, while 78.2 per cent of regular ICU beds were occupied.
However Henry said the province hadn’t yet reached the point it needed to bring it’s emergency field hospitals — one of which is in the Vancouver Convention Centre — online.
“We are coping, but it reminds us again how important it is for all of us to do our piece right now, because we are bumping up against that stretch in our health system,” she said.
“We’ve flattened our line, but we have not yet come down to our level where we need to. There’s still too much transmission in our community.”
Henry said some patients from B.C.’s north had been transported to hospitals in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, but the surge hospitals could be activated within 48 hours if needed.
About 74 per cent of B.C.s total 44,776 cases had recovered.
While new case numbers have held relatively steady in recent weeks, the province also continues to see community outbreaks.
Fraser Health shuttered a Surrey poultry packing plant last week due to an outbreak involving at least 30 workers, and Northern Health declared a new community outbreak involving at least 15 people at the LNG Canada project in Kitimat on Thursday.
Health officials are also dealing with a community cluster of at least 60 cases at the Big White ski resort near Kelowna.
Earlier Thursday, the provincial government announced B.C.’s deficit for 2020 had grown to $13.6 billion, driven by COVID-19 relief spending.
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