Record number of new COVID-19 cases in B.C., AstraZeneca clinics coming to Island

The province set a new single-day record for COVID-19 cases as it announced that residents outside the Lower Mainland would start receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine next week.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix reported 1,018 new COVID-19 cases from Thursday to Friday and another 1,072 cases Friday through Saturday — the highest one-day total to date.

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In Island Health, where the past daily high was 55, there were 147 cases in 48 hours.

The new cases pushed Canada’s total past one million, bringing the national number to roughly 1,001,650.

Henry and Dix said a provincial booking system for vaccinations is expected to be available starting next week as B.C. runs two parallel immunization streams to ramp up inoculation. Details of the new system, scheduled to go live Tuesday, are expected on Monday.

As of Saturday, 856,801 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., including 87,455 second doses.

Appointments are being booked for non-Indigenous people 72 and older and Indigenous people 18 and older, as well as those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Clinics for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been available to people between the ages of 55 and 65 on the Lower Mainland, are being expanded. More communities — including Victoria, Nanaimo and Parksville — are expected to be added by the end of next week.

Use of the vaccine on people younger than 55 has been paused after Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization raised concerns about a possible link between the shot and a rare type of blood clot called a vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia.

The clots have been seen primarily in women under 55 between four and 16 days after vaccination. The European Medicines Agency on March 18 estimated the adverse reaction to the vaccine was one in a million but the Paul-Ehrlich Institut in Germany pegged it at one in 100,000.

The province did not say Saturday how people could sign up to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. There was confusion on the Lower Mainland last week as people scrambled to find out how they could get it.

A total of 102,970 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C. to date. Data on hospitalizations and new variants of concern in the province were not available Saturday due to the long weekend, said the province.

Since Thursday there have been 709 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 1,052 in Fraser Health, 147 in Island Health, 149 in Interior Health, 33 in Northern Health.

Dix and Henry reminded B.C. residents Saturday that they should not be travelling outside their community or health authority for recreation or a vacation right now.

“Consider day trips only or staying overnight in a local campground or hotel,” they said in a joint statement.

“We have seen too many cases of people travelling outside their health authority region and not using their layers of protection, leading to outbreaks and clusters in their home community.”

On Friday, groups of people who don’t believe in wearing non-medical masks to help prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus travelled to Vancouver from Victoria for a rally.

Tofino’s Mayor Dan Law also reported tourists visiting his small town for vacation and recreational purposes.

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