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COVID-19 cases up again, but masks optional in most of B.C.

New COVID-19 infections in B.C. at 11-week high.
Mask required - gk
Signs outside Swan Laundry in Vancouver say customers must wear masks even though the province's mask mandate ended July 1

Most new COVID-19 infections in B.C. continue to be in the Central Okanagan, and that is why it is only that part of B.C. that has a mask mandate for indoor public settings, according to provincial health officer Bonnie Henry. 

The province's top doctor dropped the province's mandate that all British Columbians wear masks in public indoor settings on July 1, when there were 49 new cases province-wide. In the past 24 hours, the province recorded 464 new infections. 

The last time that a daily total of new COVID-19 infections in B.C. was that high was more than 11 weeks ago, on May 19.

More than 59.2% of B.C.'s new infections were in the Interior Health region, while in the larger Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, there were 12.9% and 15.5% of the new cases, respectively. 

Henry, on August 6, returned to advocating strongly that all British Columbians wear masks in indoor public settings, but she did not make it a health order. 

On June 28, Henry called masks the "last layer of protection," and said, "if you're immunized, you may not need to rely on that last layer of protection."

Her message today, however, was: "In no way did we ever say that is not appropriate [to wear masks in public settings.] I have said repeatedly, and continue to say, 'People must, and should, wear masks in indoor public spaces, particularly when you're around people, if it's crowded indoor spaces, where we know this virus can be transmitted. That remains the recommendation that remains in place, that remains what people should be doing, and it is mandated in the Central Okanagan rate now."

Many businesses across the province continue to require that all customers wear masks, but because it is not a public health order, they have more explaining to do to customers for why they are requiring the measure. 

Henry continued to urge everyone to get vaccinated, and she said that data as of the end of July showed that deaths among vaccinated people are "very rare," and that only about 5% of infections are in people who are fully immunized, with about 4% of hospitalizations being in that fully immunized group. 

New data, released August 6, included that the number of people actively battling COVID-19 infections in B.C. has risen by 345 overnight, to 2,411 – the highest total since June 4. The vast majority of those actively battling COVID-19 have been told to self-isolate, although 52 are in hospitals, with 24 of those in intensive care units (ICUs). The number of those hospitalized fell by six, compared to yesterday, while the number of those in ICUs rose by three.

Health officials were not aware of any new COVID-19-related deaths. That leaves B.C.'s death toll from the pandemic at 1,772.

More than 97.2%, or 147,627, of the 151,839 people known to have contracted COVID-19 in B.C. are considered by the province to have recovered because they have gone 10 days after first feeling symptoms, and are therefore thought to not be infectious.

In total, provincial data show 3,790,394 British Columbians have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 3,195,128 people being fully vaccinated, with two doses of vaccine. Another 7,582 doses of vaccine have been provided to people who either have since died, or who reside outside B.C. That adds up to 6,993,104 total doses provided, and Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province's seven millionth dose of vaccine would have been provided soon after the data was last tallied.

Total vaccination doses per day have been dropping, and was 28,042 yesterday. That's the lowest number of new doses in a day since April 6, when there was an uncharacteristically low total of 18,466 doses provided in a week when the norm was more than 30,000 doses per day.

The government estimates that current vaccination levels translate into 81.8% of the eligible population being vaccinated at least once, and 68.9% of the eligible population being vaccinated twice.

The B.C. government's most recent estimate of the province's total population is 5,147,712, so that means that slightly more than 73.6% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 62% of the province's total population has had two doses.

One new COVID-19 outbreak at a seniors' home in B.C. is at Discovery Harbour in Campbell River.

There remain five seniors' living facilities with active COVID-19 outbreaks:
• Kootenay Street Village in Cranbrook;
• Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna;
• Brookhaven Care Centre in West Kelowna;
• Holyrood Manor in Maple Ridge; and
• Nelson Jubilee Manor in Nelson. 

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom