British Columbia health officials said they could delay Step 4 of the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan, as they reported 663 new cases and one new death on Friday.
“It’s very likely that we won’t be seeing a move to any more loosening of restrictions in the near term. But we’ll continue to watch both cases … and hospitalizations,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
“In the last couple of weeks, things have changed quite dramatically.”
The province had previously set Sept. 7 as its earliest target for Step 4.
Friday’s case count edged B.C.’s seven-day average for new cases down to 549.
The lion’s share of the new cases, 274, were once again in the Interior Health region. Officials announced Friday that restrictions implemented earlier this month on the Central Okanagan were being expanded to the entire health region.
Elsewhere, 162 new cases were in the Fraser Health region, 135 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 38 were in the Northern Health region and 54 were in the Island Health region.
After weeks of pressure to provide more timely updates on the vaccination status of new cases, Health Minister Adrian Dix said officials would begin “regularly” providing such data on Monday.
Dix and Henry have repeatedly stated this information is made available weekly, however the BCCDC has only provided it every second week since early July.
There were 129 infected people in hospital, an increase of more than 50 per cent since last Friday. Of them, 59 were in critical or intensive care.
Earlier this week, the independent BC COVID-19 modelling group released a report which suggested that hospitalizations had not “decoupled” from cases, as previously suggested by B.C. health officials.
Asked about the report, Henry insisted hospitalizations remained low, citing a 10-fold reduction in risk of hospitalization from vaccines, and noting that high-risk seniors had mostly been immunized.
“Right now, yes we are still seeing a separation, a much reduced risk of hospitalization, but it’s not where we want it to be,” she said.
More than 3.84 million British Columbians — 83 per cent of those eligible and 74.7 per cent of B.C.’s population — has had at least one dose of vaccine.
Of them, more than 3.44 million people — 74.3 per cent of those eligible and 66.8 per cent of the population — were fully immunized.
Active cases also ticked upward again, reaching 6,345 — the highest since May 7.
Since the start of the pandemic, B.C. has reported 158,909 total cases, while 1,785 people have died.