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B.C. at critical point for bending COVID-19 curve back down: top doctor

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Sep 3, 2020 at 7:04 pm PDT

FILE - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during a daily COVID-19 update on Aug. 24, 2020. (Courtesy Province of B.C./Flikr)
Summary

B.C. is at a critical point, as fall approaches, in the effort to bend the COVID-19 pandemic curve back down

The curve has been trending upwards as cases surged since July, according to the latest modelling data

Part of the increase attributed to testing, as the province is conducting 4,000 to 5,000 a day

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. is at a critical point, as fall approaches, in the effort to bend the COVID-19 pandemic curve back down.

The curve has been trending upwards as cases have surged since July, according to the latest modelling data released by the province on Thursday, when 89 new cases and another death were announced.

Part of the increase is attributed to testing, as the province is conducting 4,000 to 5,000 a day — more than at any other time during the pandemic. Because of increased testing, health officials don’t believe the number of people with COVID-19 who haven’t been detected is as high as it was when testing was limited.

“So we still have it in our hands, in our actions to bend our curve back down. And that is what we need to focus on now. We’re at that limit, we’re at that precipice, if you will, where we need to take the actions to ensure that we can move forward into the fall and keep our curve low,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“Our model does show that there’s a lot of variation. Part of that instability that we call it is because our rates are low. But it also illustrates the importance of reducing transmission from every single case, and that is the things that we all do together.”

Transmission and hospitalization rates remain low.

Hospitalizations remain low

Modelling data from June 24 to Sept. 1 shows B.C. had 547 new cases in the past week, while hospitalizations increased, although they are still down from the early days of the pandemic.

“Our hospitalizations still remain very low,” she said. “One of the important considerations with this pandemic is making sure that we protect our healthcare system so it is there to provide needed health services to everybody.”

The majority of new cases continue to occur in the Fraser Health region, with the likely sources of those infections being local clusters.

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“We’ve now gone down to a median age of 41, and what that reflects is the fact that many of our new cases are in younger people,” Henry said.

The most troublesome age group continues to be those 20 to 29.

“Having said that, in the last week we’ve also seen increases in slightly older populations, including 40 to 49 and an increase in younger children, as well, reflecting transmission that’s happening in communities and homes,” she added.

The modelling shows that during the first part of the pandemic, a majority of cases were in health care settings. Then as B.C. started to relaxed health and safety restrictions and allow businesses to reopen, transmission started to occur more in workplaces, such as poultry plants, agricultural settings, and businesses such as restaurants and warehouses.

More community transmission

In the latest phase, the modelling shows more community transmission at private parties and events, as well as places such as gyms.

Transmission also continues in long-term care homes, where there are currently nine active outbreaks in B.C.

Henry said the data reinforces that there’s no one single measure that can make a difference in all settings.

The modelling data also shows that transmission in B.C. remains low and that the province’s overall pandemic response is better than most other countries and other parts of Canada.

“And if we put that into the context of some of the guidance that we’ve seen come out of Europe in the U.S., where the cutoff for being safe for things like full opening of schools and businesses, they use a measure of 25 per 100,000. And then we can see across B.C. we are well below that,” she added.

The incidence rate in B.C. is at 11.4 per 100,000, although its more than 15 in the Fraser Health region and higher than 18 in Vancouver Coastal.

“So what does this data tell us it tells us that, for the most part, in recent weeks we’ve been able to find that balance, keeping essential services and businesses going, protecting our most vulnerable,” Henry said.

“It also tells us that as we prepare for the respiratory season ahead, we need to continue to work to break those chains of transmission as efficiently and as effectively as possible. And we all play a role in that. It’s not an either-or situation.”

‘Pause high-risk activities’

Henry said British Columbians need to pause high-risk activities.

“And we’ve seen some of that in the past few weeks, especially spending time with groups of people that we don’t know without taking personal precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. We simply have to look at the successes we have seen to show us what we need to do.”

She reiterated advice to consider the personal number of contacts.

“There’s no magic number, but we know the fewer people, the better,” she said.

“If your parents are helping to care for your children, then you will have to consider things like spending less time with friends outside of your household.”

B.C. surpasses 6,000 cases

Henry said the contact rate in B.C. is about 65 per cent of normal. If people start to increase their contact rates above that level, modelling shows that cases could spike far beyond what has been seen.

With the new cases Thursday, the total number in B.C. is now 6,041. Of 1,175 active cases, 34 people are in hospital, including 11 in intensive care.

The death is the 210th in B.C. due to COVID-19.

The province also reported new outbreaks at two long-term care homes, Cherington Place in Surrey and Point Grey Private Hospital in Vancouver.

The outbreak at Maple Ridge Seniors Village has been declared over.

Read the full modelling report:

EMBARGOED Modelling Slides - COVID19 Going Forward - Sept 2020