Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C.’s mandatory mask order could be gone as soon as July as COVID-19 infection rates fall and vaccination rises. (B.C. government)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C.’s mandatory mask order could be gone as soon as July as COVID-19 infection rates fall and vaccination rises. (B.C. government)

B.C.’s COVID-19 infections below 200 for second day Wednesday

71% of adults vaccinated, ahead of travel target for June 15

B.C.’s new COVID-19 cases were below 200 for a second day Wednesday, the lowest infection rate in six months, and the province has already reached vaccination rates to allow for lifting regional travel restrictions on June 15.

Public health targets for the next phase of its restart plan, easing of the mandatory mask mandate as early as July 1 are also in reach, but no changes will be made sooner than those dates, Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters June 2. The other key measure is patients in hospital, which have continued to drop with under 250 in hospital and 70 in intensive care, down from 80 on Tuesday. There were four additional deaths in the 24 hours up to Wednesday, for a total of 1,707 in B.C. since the pandemic began.

Dix said he is encouraged by the increase in vaccination rates, with 71 per cent of adults having at least one dose and more than 79 per cent of people aged 40 and up. That is well past the province’s stage two reopening plan to lift restrictions on travel between the Lower Mainland, Interior and Vancouver Island as early as June 15, which called for at least 65 per cent to be vaccinated.

Targeted communities with low vaccine rates such as Rutland north of Kelowna and Fort St. John in the Peace region are also responding, he said, with a whole-community clinic in Rutland Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Asked if B.C. should provide prizes or incentives as some U.S. states have done, Dix said the protection of the vaccine is incentive enough.

“I don’t think it’s an issue of sports tickets or lottery tickets or chocolates or bourbon,” Dix said.

B.C. recorded 194 new confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday, with the hotspot of Fraser Health down to 122 of them. There were 33 each in Vancouver Coastal and Interior Health, four in Northern Health and two on Vancouver Island.

RELATED: What you can do and when in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

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