With the school year barely underway and a possible provincial election in the offing, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in B.C. on Thursday moved decisively in the wrong direction.

Health officials reported 165 new cases of the disease in yet another single-day record. The previous record of 139 was set a week earlier.

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The uptick put the province at 1,705 active cases — also a new record.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also reported one new death, bringing B.C.’s total to 210.

Henry attributed the spike to a combination of factors, including more testing, more effective contact tracing and the fact that cases reported Thursday were a reflection of transmissions up to two weeks in the past.

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A further 2,949 people were reported to be in isolation due to potential exposure.

“This is going to be our most challenging year,” said Henry, adding that with rising cases it was more important than ever for people to “stick to six” people in their social bubbles.

New test for youth

Henry noted that there had been several cases reported in B.C. schools, “as expected,” but that no “outbreaks” had been recorded in school settings.

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She said the province had also developed a new “made-in-B.C.” test for youth, which no longer involves a nasal swab.

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces innovative mouth rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces innovative mouth rinse COVID-19 test for kids

“This is a new saline gargle … you swish it around a little and then you spit it into a little tube,” she said. “It’s an easier way to collect it for young people.”

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The test will be available at COVID-19 assessment centres, and can administered by parents rather than health-care workers, she added.

The single silver lining in Thursday’s statistics was a slight decrease in hospital cases, with 57 patients down from 60 — 22 of them in intensive or critical care.

However, the province reported two new health-care outbreaks, one at Delta Hospital and one at Peace Arch Hospital.

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Nearly 75 per cent of B.C.’s 7,663 total cases have recovered.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said that the province has hired 153 of its planned 600 new contact tracers, with more than 150 more in the interview or offer phase.

The province remains on track to catch up on surgeries postponed due to the pandemic, he added.

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The Island Health region should be caught up by the end of February, Interior Health by May, Northern Health by June, Vancouver Coastal Health by August and Fraser Health by the end of December, 2021, said Dix.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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