16 new COVID cases in Northern Health

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported 16 new cases of COVID 19 for the Northern Health region on Wednesday.

It marked a major uptick from zero reported on Tuesday and pushed the number of active cases up to 23 on Wednesday from 11 the day before.

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Hospitalizations remained at one with that person remaining in intensive care.

The jump was in line with an ongoing, province-wide trend that saw 287 new cases on Wednesday. Two more deaths were also reported - neither in Northern Health - raising the total to 266 since the pandemic began.

Active cases stood at 2,316, down six from the day before, while 5,358 were under active public health monitoring, up 257. Hospitalizations stood at 87, up three, with 25 in intensive care, down two.

The troubling counts have prompted provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to put in place an order restricting gatherings in private homes to a maximum of six people, plus immediate family.

"The new order is about ensuring what happens in our homes is in step with what we are doing elsewhere," Henry and Deputy Health Minister Stephen Brown said in a joint statement.

"Just as we need to keep our groups to no more than six when we go to restaurants, we must also keep our groups small at home.

"We can still spend time with our friends and family, but right now we must all keep to our 'safe six' only or take our events outside, where it is far easier to maintain a safe physical distance."

They urged people to hold off on celebrations until the pandemic has passed and to keep weddings and birthdays to a small scale.

"If you are planning a wedding in your home, make it your immediate family only and save the celebration for next year. If you are organizing a birthday party for your children, only invite those small number of friends from your close social circle, not the entire class or sports team.

"The things we do at parties and celebrations including talking, hugging and eating and drinking together indoors are much riskier than our normal school or work activities.

"And unlike our schools and workplaces, most homes do not have space for everyone to keep a safe distance from others, nor do our homes have the layers of protection - the physical barriers, one-way pathways and the use of masks - that are part of school and work COVID-19 safety plans.

"Now is the time for us to take a step back from our in-person social events and gatherings, and connect virtually instead. This will help to protect our loved ones, our seniors, Elders and our communities as we move forward."

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