VICTORIA -- B.C. health officials announced three more deaths related to COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the province’s death toll to 146.

All three people who died from the virus lived in care homes. Two of them were in the Fraser Health region, and one was located in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

Meanwhile, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced just two more cases of COVID-19 over the same period, bringing the province’s total to 2,446 cases since the beginning of the outbreak.

With only two new cases of COVID-19 appearing over the past 24 hours, B.C.’s health minister said that he was optimistic about the future, but warned that there were still many people in hospital for treatment of the virus.

“When you only find two [new cases] that’s a very positive indication,” he said.

Currently, 45 people in B.C. are in hospital for treatment of COVID-19, including 12 patients that require critical care.

No new outbreaks have been seen in B.C. since Monday, but 14 outbreaks continue at long-term care or assisted living facilities in the province. Five outbreaks at acute care centres also continue at this time.

With B.C. officially launching the second phase of its restart plan Tuesday, both Henry and Dix urged British Columbians to be thoughtful as they re-enter the community.

Health officials say that good hygiene continues to be the best defence against the spread of COVID-19.

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and staying home if feeling at all unwell are effective ways of curbing the spread of the virus.

“Simple things can make a big difference,” said Henry.

“We can flatten our curve and safely reopen our province, but we must do so slowly,” she said.

B.C.’s health minister added that elective surgeries that were cancelled due to COVID-19 have restarted across the province.

Forty-nine health centres across every health authority in B.C. have begun performing elective surgeries. However, Dix said that it would take several months to return the province’s surgery schedule to pre-COVID-19 levels.

The health minister said that “significant changes” were also coming to the province’s guidelines on hospital visitations.

Visits will continue to be restricted to “essential visits,” however, the scope of essential visits will be expanded to include support workers, like communication assistants for people with disabilities.

The majority of COVID-19 cases continue to be found on the Lower Mainland. There are currently 883 confirmed cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 1,196 in the Fraser Health region.

Elsewhere in the province, there are 126 cases in the Island Health region, 181 in the Interior Health region and 60 cases in the province’s Northern Health region.