VICTORIA -- B.C. has now entered the sixth straight day of no deaths related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The province’s death toll stands at 167 since the pandemic began, with the last death being recorded on June 5.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced 14 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing B.C.’s total to 2,694 cases.

Of those cases, 2,344 people have fully recovered leaving 183 active cases in the province. Thirteen people currently require hospitalization for the virus, including five people that are in intensive care.

‘These are our brothers and sisters’ 

B.C.’s provincial health officer also spoke about the B.C. Coroners Services report released Thursday revealing that May was the deadliest month in the province’s history for illicit drug deaths.

Henry said that there were “many unintended impacts” of COVID-19 health measures, including an increasingly toxic street drug supply.

“I cannot express how difficult this news has been to hear,” said Henry while holding back tears.

“These are our brothers and sisters,” she said.

Henry urged British Columbians to check in on friends and coworkers and people who they may not be seeing as regularly due to COVID-19.

As people are physically distancing, the use of drugs and addiction can be easier to hide. Henry warned that many overdose deaths are linked to people using drugs while alone.

She urged people not to use drugs alone and to carry naloxone with them.

Henry noted that in southern Vancouver Island and the province’s Interior, drug overdose deaths reached “some of the highest rates we’ve ever seen.”

B.C.’s top doctor said that there was no single “magic bullet” that could solve the growing number of overdoses. But she noted that the province has been taking steps to help manage the health crisis, including expanding the use of pharmaceutical alternatives for illicit drugs.

“My thoughts and condolences to those who have lost their loved ones,” said Henry.

“We must all show the compassion that we have during the COVID-19 crisis,” she said.

B.C.’s reopening progress

As B.C. continues to reopen parts of its economy, health officials have announced new updates to some reopening guidelines.

Restaurants must now set a specific number for their maximum seating capacity. B.C. will no longer be holding a blanket 50 per cent maximum seating capacity for eateries.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s health minister says that the health-care system has been making progress in restarting surgeries.

The number of scheduled and urgent surgeries has increased by roughly 4.5 compared to April.

More than 5,500 surgeries took place in B.C. in the last week of May, said Dix, just short of the roughly 6,000 surgeries that took place per week before the pandemic.

Dix also noted that while B.C. has been successful in flattening its COVID-19 curve, the pandemic continues to pose a global threat.

He noted that the world saw the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases on June 8, and that our neighbours south of the border in Oregon also saw their highest number of new cases on the same day.

B.C.’s success in the fight against COVID-19, however, has made it an attractive option for one of the NHL’s two potential hub cities to restart the hockey season.

The province’s top doctor says that she has reviewed the NHL’s restart proposal and has approved its use in B.C., if the league is interested.

She noted that B.C.’s health restrictions would still apply for athletes and that the NHL’s proposal meets all of the province’s health requirements.

“Let me be very clear, there are no exceptions to the rules or the public health guidelines here in B.C.,” said Henry.

“Teams would have no contact with the public, with spectators and with families,” she said.

B.C.’s top doctor noted that a slight modification to B.C.’s health guidelines would apply to the NHL, which would allow for teams to self-isolate as a group, rather than restricting self-isolation to smaller household numbers.

The vast majority of COVID-19 cases are found in the province’s Lower Mainland. The Vancouver Coastal Health region has seen 917 cases and the Fraser Health region has reported 1,386.

Elsewhere in the province, the Island Health region has confirmed 130 cases, the Interior Health region has recorded 195 and the Northern Health region has seen 66.