B.C.’s public health officials said contact tracing and testing sites are at maximum capacity as the province goes through its worst surge of COVID-19 yet, driven primarily by the more infectious Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
Health officials announced 2,046 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with one additional death. It marks the third day in a row the province has reported a record-high daily case count. Prior to this week, the highest daily total was 1,293 cases, reported back in April. Friday’s numbers will be released later in the day.
“If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 … you must assume you have COVID and take measures to avoid passing it on,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a Friday news conference.
“Omicron is different … in a sense, we’re in a different game.”
Henry said testing should be available for those most at risk, as well as health-care workers who need negative tests in order to work.
She therefore urged British Columbians to not seek testing for travel purposes, and be proactive with self-isolation if they suspect they have COVID-19.
Those who are fully vaccinated, are not immunocompromised and have mild symptoms should self-isolate for a week. Those who are not fully vaccinated should self-isolate for 10 days.
Close contacts should self-monitor for symptoms for two weeks, in the absence of contact tracing, and unvaccinated close contacts should self-isolate for 10 days.
The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,410 lives lost out of 233,217 confirmed cases to date.
Triage occurring at long testing lines
Yesterday, the province conducted 20,133 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, the most ever done in a single day in B.C. according to Health Minister Adrian Dix.
With very long lines at testing sites, officials said “triage” is occurring in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, with some of those looking to get a PCR test being given a rapid antigen test instead.
“If you are younger and don’t have underlying risk factors, particularly if you’re vaccinated, then rapid testing may be the most efficient way for you to get what you need,” Henry said.
Older people and those who are immunocompromised, as well as younger children, are now being prioritized for PCR tests, which are seen as the gold standard test to confirm or rule out an infection.
Health Minister Adrian Dix defended the province’s age-based strategy for rolling out booster doses.
Currently, people in their 60s throughout the province are being invited to book their third shots six months after their second dose, along with clinically vulnerable people.
“Our rollout continues to be robust,” Dix said. “Twenty per cent of the eligible population [has] already received their third dose.”
A total of 147,371 vaccinations are projected to be given between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2, according to Dix, and he urged anyone who has received an invitation to book their shot.
Current COVID-19 restrictions
Henry revealed the latest round of public health orders at a Tuesday news conference.
- No indoor organized gatherings of any size, including weddings, receptions and parties.
- Bars and nightclubs closed.
- Maximum of six people per table at a restaurant, pub or cafe.
- Gyms, fitness centres and dance studios must be shut down.
- Seated events like concerts, sports games and movie theatres are down to 50 per cent capacity.
Swimming pools can continue to operate but staff must scan proof of vaccination QR codes before allowing users in. Hotel pools are exempt.
Personal gatherings are still limited to your household plus 10 guests or one additional household. Everyone in the house must be vaccinated.
The new rules do not include restrictions around travel within B.C. ahead of Christmas. The province has emphasized the need to balance families’ mental health with reducing the spread of the virus.