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Dr. Bonnie Henry says the seven-day average of cases in B.C. is creeping up

VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer is warning that COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates are ticking up in some jurisdictions due to increased interactions. Dr.

VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer is warning that COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates are ticking up in some jurisdictions due to increased interactions. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that while the overall number of cases has slowly been coming down across B.C., the seven-day rolling average is starting to creep up. 

This is particularly true in the Fraser Health region, where the viral reproductive rate has risen above one, meaning each infected person is passing the virus on to at least one other person on average, she said. 

"While the overall number of new cases has slowly been coming down and is lower than it was a few weeks ago, it is still very high, much higher than we want it to be," Henry said. 

"The tide can turn quickly and successes we have in getting our transmission down and preventing outbreaks can also be washed away."

British Columbia recorded 1,533 new cases in the four days between Friday and Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed since the pandemic began to 74,283. 

Another 26 people died and the death toll sits at 1,314. 

Henry said 60 cases involving variants of concern have been confirmed. They include 40 cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, 19 of the one first detected in South Africa and one of the strain first found in Nigeria. 

The province extended the state of emergency, granting health and emergency management officials extraordinary powers to support the pandemic response, to March 2.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is on track to vaccinate about 10 per cent of the population by April 1. 

As of Tuesday, 171,755 doses of vaccine had been administered and 22,914 people had received their second dose. 

Like many jurisdictions, B.C. experienced delays in deliveries of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. 

While those deliveries are getting back on track, Henry said she is now confident the gap between doses can safely be extended to up to three months if necessary. 

In B.C., researchers have monitored vaccinated residents of long-term care homes after they connected with people with COVID-19, Henry said.

In the three weeks after the initial dose, the protective effect of the vaccine was nearly 90 per cent, she said. 

"As a scientist and somebody who has worked in the field of vaccines for quite a long time, this is actually incredibly exciting and positive news that we have this very high level of protection in seniors here in B.C. from the first dose of the vaccine," Henry said. 

Henry also announced two new community outbreaks at a school and a child care centre in the Fraser Health region. 

The Fraser Health authority said in a statement that 35 staff and students at Timothy Christian School in Chilliwack have been infected.

The independent school voluntarily closed and shifted to remote learning Feb. 4 due to COVID-19 cases. The health authority is working with the school on a plan to return to in-class learning as early as next week. 

The outbreak at the SFU Childcare Society in Burnaby involves 24 staff and children, Fraser Health said. 

The society serves children five and under and has one before-and-after school program.

Five classes are affected and the society is able to continue operating its other classes, the health authority said. 

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press