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New COVID-19 cases in B.C. could near zero by Canada Day

Last Updated May 4, 2020 at 11:46 pm PDT


B.C. could almost eliminate new cases of COVID-19 by July if everyone continues to follow strict safety measures

Physical distancing has allowed B.C. to put the brakes on COVID-19: PHO

Provincial order banning gatherings of 50 people or more will not be lifted soon, Henry says

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. could almost eliminate new cases of COVID-19 by July if everyone continues to follow strict health and safety measures to reduce transmission, according to new modelling projections released by the province Monday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. has seen a dramatic and sustained decrease in numbers of new cases since control measures were put in place in March.

“Physical distancing, it has made a difference. It has allowed us to put the brakes on COVID-19, but we haven’t stopped the car and it’s very unlikely that we’re going to be able to, at least in the coming months,” she added.

“So this is, I believe the end of our beginning of this pandemic. We do not yet know what’s going to happen. But we know that we have some room to increase our social connections, to increase our work, to increase our school and daycare and childcare. As we start this new phase, we need to keep those principles in mind. They are the playbook for all of us to follow.”

She said increased hand-washing, not touching faces, covering coughs, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, and staying home if sick will have to continue, for now.

The modelling numbers are projections, not predictions, and outline best- and worst-case scenarios.

Henry said current restrictions allow for about 30 per cent of normal interactions.

“If we stay at about 40 per cent, we will keep our numbers low,” she added.

Going up to 60 per cent would still be manageable, but Henry said more interactions increase the possibility of transmission.

“Smaller is better. Outside is better than inside.”

Increasing interactions to 80 per cent could set the province back, with cases increasing rapidly.

“That means if we go back to December, where we were having lots of gatherings where people met, where this virus has the opportunity to take off quite rapidly, we could expect to see just that. That the more potential for transmission between people means that the virus will be able to increase exponentially,” Henry said.

“So our challenge, and our work together, is to find that sweet spot, somewhere around, you know, increasing our contacts by at least half, or twice as many as we have now, but without allowing those opportunities for rapidly exponential growth of the virus in our communities.”

She said the provincial order banning gatherings of 50 people or more will not be lifted soon, and that preparations need to be made for the possibility of second fall wave in the fall.

B.C. is still seeing outbreaks and new cases, she added, so the province is not yet at a point where it can lift all restrictions.

Premier John Horgan is expected to provide an update on the province’s going-forward strategy on Wednesday.

On Monday, Henry reported three more COVID-19 deaths — all in long-term care — and 53 new cases in the previous 48 hours. That brings the total number of deaths related to the virus in B.C. to 117 and cases to 2,224.

She said no new outbreaks were recorded, although 23 remain active at long-term-care, assisted-living and acute-care facilities. There were 13 new cases at care homes.

Outbreaks remain active at three poultry facilities, Henry said, as well as at the federal prison in Mission, while more cases continue to be linked the Kearl Lake oilsands camp in Alberta.

She also said 77 people remain in hospital, including 20 in intensive care. In total, 1,417 people have recovered from the virus in B.C., a rate of 64 per cent.

Henry added much remains unknown about the virus.

“And we’re looking at this in great detail, we’re watching what’s happening in other countries. But until we have a vaccine, we know it’s going to be here in some way.”

Overall, the modelling shows most people affected by the virus fall between the ages of 30 and 60. It has more severely affected men than women, and the majority of people who have died from the virus are 70 and older.

“We also have seen that it’s much more than half of men over age 90 have died, whereas it’s less than 20 per cent of women,” Henry said.

“So this is a phenomenon that we’re seeing around the world that men are more likely to have more severe illness, who require hospitalization and to die from COVID-19, and we really don’t understand why. There’s a lot of work going into trying to understand that phenomenon.”

Almost three-quarters of the deaths have been men.

The modelling also shows that health-care workers  — from dentists to nurses — make of 21 per cent of all the cases recorded in B.C. But only a small percentage were hospitalized.

“So this tells us that most of our healthcare workers, thankfully, were in the younger age group, and were mostly younger and female, and did very well, and did, and have milder illness.”

Chronic health conditions increase the risk of contracting the virus, with just over a third of cases fitting that description.

About 80 per cent of deaths involved people with underlying illnesses, Henry said.

“On a positive note, 110 of the 199 people have been released from hospital and have recovered.”

Henry said intensive care admissions will guide the province going forward.

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