B.C. health officials reported 85 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, including two new cases in Island Health.

Two of the new cases are epidemiologically-linked cases, meaning people who were never tested but were presumed to have COVID-19 because they developed symptoms and were close contacts of a laboratory-confirmed case.

One new death was also reported on Wednesday, bringing B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll to 196.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, and Health Minister Adrian Dix released Wednesday’s numbers in a statement, saying this is the third-highest number of new cases in a day since the pandemic began.

The highest number of cases in a day was back on March 25, when there were 91 new cases, followed by March 23, when there were 88 new cases.

“The majority of these cases are young people in the Lower Mainland and their exposures have been at events in the community. The cases we are seeing today reflect exposures from a week to 10 days ago. A significant number of cases are also linked to travel from out of province,” Henry and Dix said.

There have now been a total of 4,196 COVID-19 cases in B.C. since the start of the pandemic, including 150 in Island Health, 1,273 cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 2,203 in the Fraser Health region, 394 in the Interior Health region, 104 in the Northern Health region and 72 cases of people who reside outside of Canada (temporary foreign workers and visitors)

There are 531 active cases of COVID-19 in the province and 3,469 people who tested positive have recovered. In Island Health, there are four active cases. There have been 141 recoveries and five deaths since the start of the pandemic.

There are now around 1,900 people who have been in contact with positive COVID-19 cases and isolating, Henry said earlier Wednesday.

No new health-care outbreaks and no new community outbreaks were reported on Wednesday.

There are seven long-term care or assisted-living facilities and one acute-care facility with active outbreaks. They are:

  • Holy Family Hospital long-term care facility in Vancouver Coastal Health
  • Richmond Lions Manor long-term care facility in Vancouver Coastal Health
  • Dania Home long-term care facility in Fraser Health
  • Maple Ridge Seniors Village assisted-living facility in Fraser Health
  • Derby Manor long-term care facility in Fraser Health
  • George Derby Centre long-term care facility in Fraser Health
  • New Vista Care Home long-term care facility in Fraser Health
“We need to refocus on measures to flatten the curve of infection and protect British Columbians as we help our province recover. One of the most effective ways to keep people safe is through contact tracing, which starts with each person who has tested positive for COVID-19 understanding who their contacts may be to provide appropriate follow-up and stop further transmission,” Henry and Dix said.

Dix and Henry said the increase in cases is concerning.

“We need everyone to recommit to using the skills we’ve learned. Keep gatherings small, have a designated ‘contact keeper,’ limit time with others, maintain physical distance and always stay home if you’re feeling unwell,” Dix and Henry said.

“We must all keep working together to protect people’s health, homes and livelihoods, and to get our province back on track. We are all in this together, so let’s continue holding the line.”

Earlier Wednesday, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming announced students in B.C. will now be heading back to class on September 10th – two days later than originally planned.

The provincial education ministry says staff will meet on September 8th – the original start date – in order to prepare for the school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Operational guidelines on issues ranging from health and safety protocols to supporting the mental health of students will be issued next week.

Also on Wednesday, Premier John Horgan announced the province would be hiring approximately 500 more contact tracers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Horgan made the announcement with Henry and Dix.

When asked about mandating face masks and coverings on Wednesday, Henry said she doesn’t believe a public mandate is a way to go because it may indicate that other measures, like physical distancing, aren’t needed.

“We’ve said from the very beginning, personal protective equipment, like masks in the community, are the last line of defence and they should be work when you can’t maintain those physical distances,” Henry said.

However, she did say face masks are becoming more normalized in communities.

To see B.C.’s COVID-19 numbers by day and health authority, along with recoveries and testing numbers, visit the B.C. COVID-19 dashboard.

And for a list of COVID-19 public exposures, visit the BC Centre for Disease Control website here.

According to researchers with Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide is now more than 20.4 million, with more than 745,000 deaths.

With files from The Canadian Press

Alexa Huffman