COVID cases continue to surge in northern B.C.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region on Friday – tied with Wednesday for the highest number of new cases in a single day.

The province saw a total of 911 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, pushing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 30,884 – including 772 in the Northern Health region. The number COVID patients hospitalized continued to grow, with 301 in hospital across the province – including 69 in intensive care.

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Eleven new deaths were linked to COVID-19, putting the province's death toll from the pandemic at 395, including six residents of the Northern Health region.

"The vast majority of these people (who died) were people in their 70s and 80s – our parents and grandparents," Henry said. "We are in a pandemic storm, and now we are facing a storm surge. It is a cruel irony that when we most need to be with other people, that that is the most dangerous thing to do."

The surge in COVID-19 transmission is being seen all over the world, Henry said.

"There is a seasonality to this virus, that is something we're learning," she said. "We're learning about this virus all the time."

Henry urged British Columbians to not travel to holiday shop – or for any other reason – this year, and instead support businesses in their local communities. And to follow the public health guidances without complaint.

"We've heard stories this week that make me very sad about store and restaurant staff that have faced undeserved aggression," Henry said. "Let's make this weekend a safe weekend."

Henry may have been referring to an incident that allegedly occurred in Dawson Creek this week when a Walmart employee was attacked for asking a customer to wear a mask. See story here.

As the pandemic continues to change, public health measures need to change along with it, she said.

Many other respiratory diseases spread more quickly at this time of year for a variety of reasons, she said. That means that things, like in-person religious services, that could be done safely even a few weeks ago are no longer safe.

"Right now we're seeing much higher community transmission," Henry said. "These locations are not doing anything wrong. (But), despite that, we've seen transmission in churches of multiple faiths."

Health Minister Adrian Dix said he understands cancelling in-person religious services is difficult for people, and thanked faith leaders who have shown their support for following public health measures. He said he's been taking part in virtual services at his own church.

"I understand the sacrifice, but we need it now," Dix said. "I know the month of December is important to many people. Right now, this Christmas, we have to think of ways to celebrate (safely.)"

The number of active cases in the Northern Health region wasn't provided, but on Thursday the B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported 198 active cases in the Northern Health region. There were 25 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the north on Friday, including 10 in intensive care.

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