Another 3,795 cases of COVID-19 and three related deaths have been recorded across British Columbia, the province announced Friday in its last pandemic update of 2021.
The latest numbers from the Ministry of Health pushed B.C.’s seven-day average for COVID-19 infections to a new record high of 2,738 per day. That’s more than quadruple what the average was just two weeks ago, and case numbers are believed to be severely under-reported due to limits in testing capacity.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recently advised fully vaccinated British Columbians who are not considered high-risk and are only experiencing mild symptoms to forego testing, and instead assume they have the virus and begin self-isolation.
Even with testing centres overwhelmed, the province has repeatedly broken all-time records for daily case increases in the weeks since the Omicron variant was first detected in the Lower Mainland.
B.C.’s active case count has also set a new record for eight days in a row, and topped 20,000 for the first time on Friday. There are now 20,811 active cases across the province.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has increased by 27 patients over 48 hours, following weeks with only minor fluctuations. The ministry said there are now 220 infectious COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals, including 73 in intensive care.
That’s still a far cry from the province’s all-time record of 515 hospitalizations recorded back in April, at the height of the third wave.
There has also been a resurgence of outbreaks in health-care settings. Officials announced two more on Friday – at Kopernik Lodge and Amica Douglas House, both long-term care homes – bringing the provincial total to 15. That’s up from just two health-care facility outbreaks as of two weeks ago.
Earlier in the day, health officials announced the return of strict visitor restrictions at long-term care homes in the province. Henry said only essential visitors are allowed until Jan. 18, at which point the government will be re-assessing a number of COVID-19 measures currently in place.
The province also revealed vaccination capacity is being ramped up, with a new goal of getting boosters to almost everyone who wants one within six months of their second dose.
So far, 88.1 per cent of eligible B.C. residents age five and older have received at least one dose and 82.9 per cent have received two. Nearly 20 per cent of those 12 and older have received a third dose.
While the province is recording unprecedented COVID-19 transmission, health officials have pointed to emerging evidence that infections are becoming shorter and less severe, particularly among the fully vaccinated.
The government cited those changes as justification for shortening the minimum period of self-isolation required for fully immunized B.C. residents to five days. The unvaccinated must still self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days.