VICTORIA -- B.C. health officials discovered 817 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday.

Of those cases, 317 were discovered on Saturday, shattering the province’s previous daily record of 274 that was set on Thursday.

An additional 293 cases were found on Sunday and 207 were confirmed on Monday. The update brought B.C.’s total number of cases to 13,371.

B.C.’s top doctor says that three more people have died of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the province’s death toll to 259. All three victims were residents of long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

“Our condolences go out to their families and their care providers and the communities that mourn their loss,” said Henry.

Health officials say that there are currently 2,325 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, including 77 people who are in hospital with the disease, 26 of whom require critical care.

Four new COVID-19 outbreaks have been discovered in the health-care system, all at long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland.

Three of the outbreaks are at Fraser Health facilities, while one is at a Vancouver Coastal Health home.

At the same time, three health-care outbreaks have been declared over at other long-term care homes, two of which were located in the Fraser Health region with the last located in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

There are now 21 active health-care outbreaks across B.C., 19 of which are located at long-term care or assisted living facilities and two of which are found at acute-care units.

One new community outbreak was also detected over the weekend in Surrey, while one was declared over in Kelowna.

Over the weekend, two schools were shut down due to COVID-19 exposures, said Henry. One school is located in the Fraser Health region and the other is located in the Interior Health region.

Both schools will be closed for roughly two weeks, which is the length of the virus’s incubation period.

“We knew, of course, this could be a possibility – especially in the smaller schools,” said Henry, explaining that smaller schools may have fewer students and fewer cohorts, meaning that COVID-19 can spread more broadly within one school community.

“The schools are working with the families to ensure that educational services can continue during this period,” she said.

Henry issues new public health order

With a surge of COVID-19 cases over the weekend, B.C.’s top doctor announced new public health orders and safety recommendations.

Henry issued a new health order that limits the size of social gatherings in private residences, as many new cases have been linked to gatherings inside homes.

Social gatherings are now limited to immediate household residents plus a “safe six” social bubble. She adds that for large households, it may not be safe to have non-residents visiting a home.

The health orders are enforceable by police and bylaw officers, similar to the public health orders that were put in place around short-term rental properties this summer.

“So yes, you can complain if there is a large party, (like) if there was a noise complaint or anything,” said Henry.

“But I also know that people will do the right thing,” she said, explaining that the vast majority of British Columbians are following provincial health guidelines and that some may be falling into complacency, rather than intentionally acting against government recommendations. 

“This is going to be a challenge more for some people than others, but we need to do this together,” said Henry.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s top doctor now says that face coverings are encouraged when in any public space.

“It is now the expectation that people will wear a non-medical mask in public spaces,” she said.

Henry noted that the mask mandate is not a “health order” but an “expectation,” like other public health guidelines such as regular hand washing and staying home if feeling unwell.

Examples of public spaces where masks are now expected include grocery stores, businesses or places where you may have an appointment in an indoor setting.

Henry added that businesses should consider reviewing their safety policies to include mandatory masks for staff members, especially if they interact with a high volume of people.

“Orders, as we know, are a last resort but it does reflect how seriously we need to treat this now,” said Henry.

“When you get together with others you bring your risk with you, and when people leave they bring their risks home,” she said.

Most of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases have been found in the Lower Mainland, with 7,529 discovered in the Fraser Health region and 4,428 found in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

With recent COVID-19 cases spiking in these two regions, Henry says that health officials are considering enacting regional health measures in hot spots, particularly in the Fraser Valley.

Elsewhere in the province, the Interior Health region has reported 639 COVID-19 cases, the Island Health region has confirmed 250 and the Northern Health region has discovered 383.

A total of 88 people who normally live outside of Canada have tested positive for the virus in B.C.

Since Friday, 487 more people have recovered from COVID-19 in B.C., bringing the province’s total number of recoveries to 10,734.

Another 5,077 people are currently under public health monitoring due to exposure to known COVID-19 cases.