Dr. Henry urges people to restrict gatherings as COVID cases rise

'Critical time' as cases rise

As the number of cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in British Columbia, with 1,298 new cases in the past week alone, Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging British Columbians to pull back on their social interactions.

Thursday, the province saw a record-breaking 278 new cases of the virus, and active cases now sit at 1,920. As the province enters flu season, Dr. Henry called this a “critical time.”

“Much of the recent surge that we have seen in cases in B.C. in the last couple of weeks is directly linked to social events,” she said, highlighting weddings and funerals in particular.

“These events have caused clusters and outbreaks that have now spilled over into our healthcare system ... We have now seen several large workplace clusters as well and in our schools.”

She said contact tracing has shown people have not been sticking to their COVID-19 safety plans for social events like weddings and funerals.

Of Thursday's 278 new cases, 208 are residents of the Fraser Health region, while 12 new cases have come from the Interior. But Dr. Henry noted that transmission from Lower Mainland events have spread to all corners of the province.

“We need to take a step back ... it's a time to reset to make sure that we're keeping our groups small and that we're keeping our spaces,” Dr. Henry said.

“We have to pull back on the social side of our lives ... Everybody needs to make their own judgment about this but six is the maximum for those social interactions.”

Thursday's 278 confirmed cases come from 10,398 total tests, equating to a positivity rate of 2.6%. The provincial government's testing regime has ramped up significantly in over the past several weeks.

The province saw a surge in cases in the early days of the summer, partly connected to exposure events in Kelowna, that was linked to younger people attending parties. Dr. Henry says while case counts are now increasing amongst all age groups, those in the 30 to 50 year old age range are seeing a larger increase than others.

“We saw this same phenomena occur with house parties and vacation rentals this summer, particularly in the Interior, and now we're seeing it with these family celebrations in people's homes and elsewhere,” Dr. Henry said.

She noted that additional public health orders may be put in place if numbers continue to rise.

“If there is a major source of transmission, additional measures can and will be put in place,” she said. “We will use all the tools that are available, whether that is conditions tied to wedding licences, restrictions on numbers at indoor gatherings, or other measures that we know will be effective in trying to break these large transmission events.”

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