VICTORIA -- Health officials identified 19 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Tuesday.

The new cases were among 682 cases found across the province over the past 24 hours, bringing B.C.’s total to 93,253 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. The health ministry noted Tuesday that 36 of the newly identified cases were actually historic cases found in the Interior Health region last year but only recently identified in a review of health data.

Officials have now recorded 2,975 cases of COVID-19 in the island region since the pandemic began.

One more person in B.C died from the disease on Tuesday, bringing B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,438.

The Vancouver Island region has recorded 28 deaths since the pandemic began.

There are currently 273 active cases in the island region, including 13 people in hospital and three in critical care.

Island Health identified the locations of 217 active cases on Tuesday, including 100 in the South Island, 98 in the Central Island and 19 in the North Island.

Officials confirmed 144 new COVID-19 variant cases in the province Tuesday, for a total of 1,510 variant cases recorded. Approximately 171 variant cases are now active in B.C.

Health officials have now administered 557,508 doses of COVID-19 vaccines across B.C., including 87,168 secondary doses.

Earlier on Tuesday, the province announced it would offer priority access to vaccines for people with severe medical conditions, including transplant recipients and people with various forms of cancer, respiratory and blood illnesses.

Those high-risk British Columbians will be able to register for COVID-19 vaccines starting Monday, March 29.

The province estimates that approximately 200,000 people aged 16 and older fall into this priority group, though some have already been vaccinated under the ongoing age-based vaccination program.

The province also amended its orders on outdoor gatherings Tuesday to allow for small, outdoor religious services.

“Worship service organizers must ensure COVID-19 safety plans are in place for all outdoor services and all attendees follow those plans,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The order says worship services can include up to 50 people, as well as more people in vehicles. Those attending in a vehicle must remain inside the vehicle during the service. 

“While we are immunizing more people every day, and in parallel slowly turning the dial on the restrictions we have in place, we must remember the risk for all of us remains high, particularly with indoor activities – whether for work or social reasons,” the health officials said.