British Columbia shattered its record for daily COVID-19 infections Thursday as health officials identified 274 more cases of the virus over the past 24 hours.
The previous record for new cases found in a single day was set just one day prior, when health officials announced 203 new cases Wednesday.
Active cases of the virus in B.C. are also skyrocketing, hitting 1,920 cases Thursday afternoon. Of those active cases, 71 people are now in hospital with COVID-19, including 24 people in critical care.
An additional 4,425 people are under public health monitoring due to exposure to known COVID-19 cases.
There were no virus-related deaths announced Thursday, leaving B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll at 256.
There are 19 active outbreaks in the B.C. health-care system, with no new outbreaks reported Thursday.
There were no community outbreaks reported Thursday either, though provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said two new cases have been linked to a school outbreak discovered Wednesday in Kelowna, bringing the total cases related to the outbreak to five.
The cases have been found in a mix of students and staff, Henry said.
“This is our first school outbreak and we will learn from it,” she said. “If there are things that come to light that will help reduce potential for this happening in other schools then absolutely we will be looking at how we can expand those measures to every school.”
B.C.’s top doctor warned that if the province’s infection rate doesn't start to trend downward then local health officials may be tasked with cracking down on social gatherings.
“Much of the recent surge that we have seen in new cases in B.C in the last couple of weeks is directly linked to social events,” Henry said. “These events have caused clusters and outbreaks that have now spilled over into our health-care system.”
That spillover is expected to put added strain on B.C. hospitals as flu season arrives, Henry said, urging British Columbians to pull back on all social gatherings outside the home.
“Additional measures can and will be put in place if needed,” Henry warned. “Everywhere in B.C., weddings, funerals and other life occasions need to be small – as small as possible.”
The provincial health officer advised those planning weddings to instead consider holding a civil ceremony only, and to not take offence if people decline wedding invites out of public health concerns.
“As a guest, support your loved ones by choosing not to attend and by showing your support in other ways,” Henry said.
Social gatherings aren’t the only major spreaders of COVID-19 on the public health radar. Henry said workplace infections are on the rise, and officials with WorkSafeBC will be stepping up their enforcement of public health guidelines at offices and businesses “in the coming weeks and days.”
With British Columbians turning out in droves this week to vote in advance polls ahead of Saturday’s provincial election, Henry said there have not been any reported COVID-19 cases linked to large gatherings at polling places.
“I have not heard of any concerns of people getting ill or any transmissions or any exposure events,” she said. “As far as we can tell, things are going really well.”
Most of B.C.'s confirmed cases of the disease have been found in the Lower Mainland, with 6,720 cases recorded in the Fraser Health region and 4,260 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health.
Elsewhere in the province, there have been 644 confirmed cases in Interior Health, 365 in Northern Health and 249 in Island Health.
There have also been 88 cases recorded in B.C. among people who live outside of Canada.
A total of 12,331 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in B.C. since the pandemic began. Henry said 10,114 people who have contracted the virus in B.C. are now recovered.