Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem update B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination timelines at the B.C. legislature, March 18, 2021. (B.C. government)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem update B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination timelines at the B.C. legislature, March 18, 2021. (B.C. government)

B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate remains high, 15 deaths on weekend

556 cases to Saturday, 598 to Sunday, 631 on Monday

B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate continues at a rate provincial health officials consider a high risk for community infection, with nearly 1,800 new cases from Friday to Monday.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 556 new cases in the 24 hours up to Saturday, 598 up to Sunday and 631 as of Monday, March 22, with 15 deaths related to the coronavirus over the three days. One earlier death was reclassified as a COVID-19 death, bringing B.C.’s total deaths from the pandemic to 1,437.

The health care system has gone nearly a week without a new outbreak, and those at Chilliwack General Hospital and Florentine care home in Merritt have been declared over.

Active outbreaks, which can be declared with one or more positive tests in residents or staff, remain in effect at four long-term care or assisted living facilities and seven acute care wards in the province.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix warned against relaxing restrictions as B.C. rolls out its vaccination program to younger age groups and front-line workers in grocery stores, schools and large workplaces and camps.

Henry said B.C. has recorded 1,240 cases of the U.K. virus variant so far, mostly in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions. That variant is “much easier to spread with even minimal contact in indoor spaces,” increasing risk for indoor gatherings.

Weddings, birthday parties and other gatherings outside household “bubbles” should be held outside or not at all while the infection rate continues high, Henry said.

Public health teams are testing for the Brazil variant, with an additional 20 cases identified in two clusters in the Lower Mainland. B.C. has seen 41 cases of the South Africa variant of concern, but none in recent days.

RELATED: B.C. prepares for steep increase in COVID-19 vaccinations

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