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Bonnie Henry has 'hope' sports and religious services can resume in 'coming weeks'

First death from COVID-19 in B.C. was announced one year ago tomorrow.
Bonnie Henry looking pensive
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry readies to give an update on the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry hinted March 8 that she may soon relax her health orders that ban playing sports and taking part in religious ceremonies.

"In the coming weeks, we hope to see the return of sports, and religious ceremonies," she said. "The focus will be, in the next few weeks, to meet both the specific needs of different faiths around the celebrations, and to ensure that public health measures and safety precautions remain in place."

When asked if church services could happen at Easter, Henry answered, "That is our goal." 

She added that Ramadan and Vaisakhi are also coming up in April, and that she hopes that they will also be able to take place with in-person gatherings this year.

"My only qualifier is, you know, we're still in the middle of this pandemic," she said. "We're in the last miles of this marathon, yes, but we still have a lot of transmission in our communities. So we want to make sure it's a careful and thoughtful, phased approach. So it may not be what Easter celebrations have been in the past, but there will be celebrations and, unless things go off the rails, we are planning for them to be in person."

Henry has advised the presidents of all public colleges and universities to prepare for a full return to on-campus education this September. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix, however, said the metrics that chart the spread of COVID-19 in B.C. are "persistently high." 

The BC Centre for Disease Control detected 1,462 new infections in the three days since the last provincial update: 545 on March 6, 532 on March 7, and 385 on March 8.

This raises the total number of people known to have contracted the virus in B.C. to 84,569, with 78,237 of them, or more than 92.5%, considered to have recovered because they have tested negative for the virus twice. 

The vast majority of the 4,854 people actively battling COVID-19 infections have been told to self-isolate, although 240 are in hospital, with 66 of those with sickness severe enough to be in intensive care units.  

There were 11 deaths in the past three days, which raises the province's death toll from the virus to 1,391, since the first death was recorded in the province almost exactly one year ago.

The first death from the virus in B.C., a man in his 80s who was a resident of the Lynn Valley Care Centre, was also the first COVID-19-related death in Canada. Health officials announced the death on March 9, 2020, and said that it had taken place at some point on either March 8 or 9. Back then, B.C. had 32 known cases of the virus and the province was a week away from the first restrictive public health orders.

"This past year has challenged us," Henry said on March 8. "We've learned that we are stronger and far more resilient by supporting and encouraging each other along the way."

Here is the breakdown of where the 1,462 newly infected people reside, by health region:
• 407 in Vancouver Coastal Health (27.8%);
• 802 in Fraser Health (54.8%);
• 72 in Island Health (4.9%);
• 79 in Interior Health (5.4%); and
• 102 in Northern Health (7%).

There have been 144 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C. that health officials describe as "variants of concern," for a total of 394 cases. Of those, 87 are active, with the remaining people being considered to be recovered. This includes 363 cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant and 31 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant.

Dix said earlier today that people had made around 1.7 million calls to health regions to try to book vaccination times for people eligible (over 90 years old, or over 65 years old for Indigenous people). He added in the afternoon that about 10,000 people have booked appointments. About 82,000 people are in the eligible categories to book appointments but Dix said that around 26,000 of those have already received shots. 

Health officials vaccinated 22,059 new people in the past 24 hours, and provided second doses of vaccine to another 60. In total health officials have provided 333,327 doses of vaccine to 246,402 people, meaning that 86,925 people have had two doses.

One new outbreak at a seniors' home is at the Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna. Henry said that some of those infected in the outbreak are people who have received two doses of a vaccine. 

"This serves to remind us that while we are very confident that the vaccine is very effective in preventing particularly severe illness, and death, it doesn't necessarily mean that all transmission will be stopped," she said. "We need to be mindful right now. We still have high levels of transmission in our communities."

One outbreak at a seniors' home was declared over during the weekend – Royal City Manor in New Westminster, which had been a particularly large outbreak, with 133 cases and 31 deaths, according to government data up until March 2. 

None of the ten active outbreaks at seniors' homes is in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. 

The five active outbreaks at seniors' living facilities in Fraser Health are:
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Chartwell Carrington House in Mission;
• Holmberg House Hospice in Abbotsford;
• Revera Sunwood in Maple Ridge; and
• Shaughnessy Care Centre in Port Coquitlam.

The outbreak at Glacier View Lodge in Courtenay is the only outbreak at a seniors' home in the Island Health region.

The only outbreak at such a facility in the Northern Health region is at the Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert.

The three active outbreaks at seniors' living facilities in Interior Health are:
• Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops,
• The Florentine in Merritt; and
• Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna.

There are also eight active COVID-19 outbreaks at B.C. hospitals. They include:
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Dawson Creek and District Hospital in Dawson Creek;
• Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody;
• Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna;
• Mission Memorial Hospital in Mission;
• Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey; and
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver.