Pandemic claims life in north, health restrictions remain in place

The Northern Health region saw 41 new cases of COVID-19, and one new death attributed to the disease, on Thursday.

The COVID-related death brings the north's death toll from the pandemic up to 106. A total of 10 new COVID-related deaths were reported in B.C. on Thursday, pushing the province's pandemic death toll to 1,348.

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the information during a public update on Thursday afternoon. Those hoping to see public health orders relaxed by the end of the month will be disappointed.

"Over the last month we have been closely monitoring our transmission rate," Henry said."In the last two weeks, that has creeped up a bit. It's levelled off in the north, but we're seeing an uptick in the Lower Mainland."

The seven-day rolling average for new cases and the seven-day rolling average positivity rates have both shown slight increases, Henry said. In addition, the reproduction number, also know as the R-number, has edged above one.

That means that on average, each person with COVID-19 is infecting more than one other person on average, Henry said, which could lead to exponential growth of cases if it continues to rise.

"When we have confidence they are starting to slow, we'll be able to ease restrictions," Henry said.

Last year the spread of the virus slowed down over spring and summer, she said. If that happens again this year, "that will help us as well."

Across the province there were 4,489 active cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 228 people were hospitalized with the disease – including 62 in critical care.

In the Northern Health region there were 264 active cases and 34 people hospitalized – including 12 in critical care, according to data released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Sixteen new cases of COVID-19 "variants of concern" were discovered in B.C on Thursday. There have now been 95 cases of the U.K. variant and 21 of the South African variant in the province. The bulk of those cases have been in the Lower Mainland, with four on Vancouver Island, two in the Interior Health region and none in the north.

Only nine of the cases are still active, and the province is monitoring to look for any other cases of the dangerous COVID variants, she said.

As of Thursday, 239,833 doses of COVID-19 had been administered in B.C., including 68,157 second doses. In the Northern Health region, 8,271 doses had been administered, including 2,284 second doses.

The province will unveil more details on Monday about its vaccination campaign for the general public, which will start with residents 80-plus.

"There are many, many people in British Columbia who are eager to get vaccinated," Henry said. "I'm encouraged immensely by that enthusiasm."

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