12 more die of COVID-19 in B.C. but end of health emergency in sight as 481 new cases recorded over 3 days

B.C. health officials signalled Monday that the end of the province’s emergency response to COVID-19 is in sight as they announced 481 new cases over the weekend and 12 more deaths.

An average of about 160 cases and four deaths have been recorded each day since the last update on Friday.

“These losses are an important reminder of what we have to gain,” Deputy Provincial Health Officer Réka Gustafson said during a live news conference.

There are 199 people in hospital with the disease, she said, including 63 in intensive care — 38 of whom require mechanical ventilators to breathe. The overall number of patients in hospital has dropped by 20 per cent in the last week, falling to its lowest level since Oct. 24.

In all, there are 2,102 active cases of the novel coronavirus across B.C., the lowest number since Nov. 17.

Gustafson said public health officials are starting to plan a move away from managing COVID-19 as an emergency. As cases decline and vaccination rates rise, she said she has hope the virus will soon become “an expertly managed communicable disease that we rarely hear about” like other illnesses.

“We are on a good path to get back to work, to school, to university, to seeing friends, to travelling,” she said.

Addressing questions about B.C.’s four-step plan to reopen the province, Gustafson said “we are on track” to move on to Step 2 on the target date of June 15. That would mean no more travel restrictions within the province, and outdoor social gatherings with up to 50 people.

As of Monday, 74 per cent of adults in B.C. and 72 per cent of people over the age of 12 have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to Gustafson. 

“The results are very encouraging,” she said.

A total of 3,635,795 doses have now been administered, including 314,246 second doses.

Gustafson was asked about the vaccines’ effectiveness against the more infectious delta variant of the virus first seen in India, also known as B.1.617, that is taking hold in Canada, and said the vaccines have proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

The key, she said, is making sure everyone gets a second dose, as that has proven to be the most effective way to prevent serious illness.

New outbreaks have been declared at Kelowna General Hospital and Glenwood Seniors Community in Agassiz.

Vaccination information

As of June 3, anyone aged 12 and over can register in three ways to be immunized against COVID-19:

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