There were more grim numbers presented in a rare Saturday COVID-19 update in British Columbia.
For the first time, the province reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases on two consecutive days. The figures were the highest and second-highest single-day case totals yet.
In a written statement, health officials said there were 1,018 cases between Thursday and Friday, and 1,072 cases between Friday and Saturday.
The previous record of 1,013 was set on Wednesday, when B.C. surpassed 100,000 total cases.
Of the new cases, 709 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 1,052 were in the Fraser Health region, 147 were in the Island Health region, 149 were in the Interior Health region and 33 in the Northern Health region.
“We’re in really hunker down territory again, in some ways even worse, because this variant is more transmissible and it’s more deadly,” UBC mathematical biologist Sally Otto told Global News.
While the province did not provide data on variants of concern, Otto said the data government was releasing was not keeping up with the actual spread of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) and P.1 (Brazil) variants, which she estimates now account for half of all new cases.
“We’re now at over 6,000 cases in the last week, the week before, it was under five thousand. That’s immense growth and growth in the number of cases and it’s driven by the rise of B.1.1.7 and P.1 that we’ve been seeing,” Otto said.
The province also did not release hospitalization numbers on Saturday, but said 90 people were in intensive care. That’s just three fewer than the highest number recorded, 93, on Dec. 15.
Otto said that rising number is a direct result of the increased severity of illness the variants can cause.
“I mention that not to scaremonger, but to just make it clear to everybody that we all need to be very careful right now with the variants at approximately 50 percent of cases in in B.C.,” she said.
“That means we have to be even more conscious, wear masks outdoors, wear a double masking. If you’re in prolonged contact, make sure you’re distant. Really, reducing the amount of shopping or anything you do to what is needed at this point in time.”
The one bright spot in Saturday’s numbers were the latest vaccination figures, which showed that nearly 70,000 people had received their first dose since Thursday.
The province has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 769.346 people, just over 15 per cent of B.C.’s population. Of them, 87,455 people have had a second dose.