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New COVID-19 infections remain high in B.C. as province reveals vaccination details

Health officials detected 622 infections in the past day, while eight more people have died from the virus.
 Bonnie Henry in march 2021
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry provides regular updates on the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

The number of British Columbians contracting COVID-19 remains high as the B.C. government gears up for what it expects to be a massive uptick in the number of people getting vaccinated every day.

The B.C. government on March 18 revealed new details of how it aims to have every eligible British Columbian vaccinated by July 1. 

The significant difference going forward is that health officials starting in April will call people in a range of professions to ask them if they would like to have their vaccinations. This is even if those individuals' age cohort is not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

Teachers, police officers, fire fighters, manufacturing workers, postal workers and a host of people in other jobs are set to be among the first 322,000 British Columbians to called and asked if they would like to be vaccinated against COVID-19 outside of those in their age group. For more on that, click here.

Henry stressed that these people should not call provincial call centres, and that it will be health officials who reach out. 

Other news includes provincial health officer Bonnie Henry hinting that life could start including larger gatherings and weddings as soon as the summer. 

Some have asked her if they could have big weddings in April.

"Not April," she said. "Keep it small, but by the time we get to the summer, if we get through this program, and we continue to have the immunization, and we continue to keep stopping our transmission, then yeah. We've been looking, by the end of the summer into the fall, of being able to have local gatherings again with larger numbers."

When quizzed about exactly when the ban on events will end, however, Henry said, "I wish I could tell you. ... I just don't know that yet."

That decision rests in whether the number of new infections, and serious infections, starts to shrink from what Henry called a "very high level."

B.C. recorded 622 new infections in the past day, raising the total number of people infected with the virus to 90,049, since the first case was detected in late January, 2020.

Of those infections, 1,132 are considered to be of "variants of concern," which are thought to spread more rapidly. That includes 136 variant cases of the virus that have been detected in the past day. No one has yet died of a variant-virus infection in B.C., and 143 people are actively battling variant viruses.

The B.1.1.7 variant remains the most significant mutant virus, as there have been 1,040 identified cases of that variant. Henry said that the good news about the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., is that it responds well to vaccines.

Here is the breakdown of where the 622 newly infected people reside, by health region:
• 184 in Vancouver Coastal Health (29.6%);
• 317 in Fraser Health (51%);
• 35 in Island Health (5.6%);
• 30 in Interior Health (4.8%); and
• 54 in Northern Health (8.7%).

More than 92.8%, or 83,613 people, are considered recovered from COVID-19, or one of its variants, because they have tested negative for the virus twice. 

The vast majority of the 4,941 people actively battling infections have been told to self-isolate, although 286 are in hospital, and 85 of those are sick enough to be in intensive care units. 

Another eight people have died in the past day from COVID-19, raising the province's death toll from the virus to 1,419.

So far the province has provided 465,584 vaccine doses to 378,462 people, with 87,120 people having had their needed second doses.

In the past day, the province set a record by administering 21,444 vaccine doses to 21,417 new people, as well as second doses to 27 others.

"We're doing about 20,000 vaccinations, a day in B.C., so that's a remarkable increase," said Penny Ballem, who is heading the province's vaccination effort. "You can start to see the numbers, starting to ratchet up, as we're moving people through all of the clinics around the province."

No new outbreaks have been detected at seniors' homes.

That means, the Vancouver Coastal Health, Island Health and Northern Health regions continue to have no outbreaks at seniors' homes. 

The four active outbreaks at seniors' living facilities in Fraser Health are:
• Fleetwood Place in Surrey;
• Holmberg House Hospice in Abbotsford;
• Oceana PARC in White Rock, and
• Revera Sunwood in Maple Ridge.

The two active outbreaks at seniors' living facilities in Interior Health are at the Florentine in Merritt, and at Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna.

There are also eight active COVID-19 outbreaks at B.C. hospitals.

The eight hospitals in B.C. that have outbreaks are:
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody;
• Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna;
• Mission Memorial Hospital in Mission;
• Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey;
• UBC Hospital, and
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver.

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