The number of British Columbians with serious enough COVID-19-related illnesses to be in hospital has been soaring in tandem with the rise of variants of the virus that are believed to spread more easily.
There are now a record 96 people in B.C. hospitals' intensive care units (ICU). That is up by six from April 3, and by 17 from April 1.
In total, 318 British Columbians are in hospital with ailments related to the virus that has spawned a global pandemic. That is the highest number since January 25.
The rise in serious cases of COVID-19 illness comes as the province recorded 23 more virus-related deaths in the past four days. That raises the death toll from COVID-19 in B.C. to 1,486.
New daily COVID-19 case counts continue to be elevated.
Health officials detected 890 new cases in the past 24 hours, and 999 cases in the day before that. B.C. set a record by identifying 1,072 new cases on April 1. In total, 104,061 infections have been identified since the first case was discovered in January, 2020. Of those, more than 91.1%, or 94,806 people have recovered.
The rise in the number of cases and serious infections comes as mutant strains of the virus are exploding, particularly the P.1 strain first discovered in Brazil.
B.C. has now detected 737 people infected with the P.1 variant. That number is more than 94% higher than the 379 people known to have been infected by that strain four days ago. Rumours have swirled that the Vancouver Canucks' recent outbreak of COVID-19 illnesses is from the P.1 variant.
Health officials are particularly concerned about the P.1 variant not only because it is believed to transmit more easily than the main COVID-19 strain, but also because there is some evidence that it may be resistant to vaccines.
Health officials detected 916 additional cases of the so-called "variants of concern" in the past four days. That includes 557 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the U.K., 358 new cases of the P.1 strain, and one case of the B.1.351 strain first detected in South Africa.
So far no one in B.C. is known to have died from an infection with a mutant COVID-19 strain, but 588 people are actively battling infections with the others considered by the province to have recovered.
The number of daily vaccinations had been at a record high on April 3, with an average of 34,545.5 people per day on April 2 and 3. In the past couple days, however, only 36,772 new people have been vaccinated, or an average of 18,386 people in each of the past two days. Health officials also provided needed second doses to 17 people in the past two days.
In total, the province has administered 893,590 doses of vaccine to 806,118 people, with 87,472 individuals getting needed second doses.
Health officials are monitoring 11,989 people for symptoms because they have had known exposure to individuals identified as carrying the virus. That is the highest number since December 11, when 12,008 people were being monitored. A record 12,016 people were being monitored for symptoms on November 13.
The rise in the number of variant cases, serious infections and overall spread of COVID-19 prompted provincial health officer Bonnie Henry on March 29 to launch what she called a "circuit breaker," by enacting new health orders, such as banning in-restaurant dining.
Since then, proprietors at restaurants, such as Gusto, and Corduroy, flouted those health orders and allowed customers to eat meals or snacks inside. This prompted a stern rebuke last night from the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association.
"The BCRFA urges the immediate closure, fining and business license revocation of any business who elects to defy health orders," the association said in a statement.
Today, the City of Vancouver followed up with the scofflaws by suspending their business licenses until at least April 20.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a mid-afternoon interview that the remarkable thing is really the adherence by restaurants to the health orders.
"The real thing that we should all be appreciative of, and recognize, is all of the other restaurants, which are in the thousands, in the tens of thousands, perhaps, across B.C., who are following the rules," Dix said. "We need to support them – those that are providing takeout – by getting takeout, if we can, and recognizing the impact on them. The way bigger story, it seems to me, is the 99.8% or 99% of restaurants that are following the rules."
There remain three outbreaks active at B.C. seniors' homes. They are:
• Fleetwood Place in Surrey;
• Longlake Chateau in Nanaimo; and
• Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna.
The nine hospitals in B.C. with active outbreaks are:
• Abbotsford Regional Hospital in Abbotsford;
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody;
• Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna;
• Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge;
• Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in Prince Rupert;
• UBC Hospital in Vancouver;
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver; and
• Vernon Jubilee Hospital in Vernon.