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B.C. is flattening the curve again despite 'second wave,' according to top doctor

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 6, 2020 at 6:54 am PDT

FILE - Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. British Columbia is introducing a new saline gargle test for students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to help make it easier for children and teenagers to check whether they have COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Summary

B.C. reported 358 new cases of COVID-19 over the past three days, as well as four more deaths

Henry said more than 60 schools have reported exposure events, including the first on Vancover Island this past weekend

Case rates remain low among school-age children, with only seven in 1,000 testing positive for COVID-19: modelling data

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — British Columbians are again flattening the COVID-19 curve, according to new modelling data, while school exposures continue and other parts of Canada struggle with a second wave.

“We are flattening our curve,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday as she presented fall data on the pandemic.

“And it’s important for the health of our communities that we continue to do this, so that our businesses can stay open, our restaurants can stay open, so our all-important schools for children can stay open. And it’s through our contact tracing we’ve seen that the majority of new cases are still connected, that we’re not seeing a lot of uncontrolled transmissions.”

Henry reported 358 new cases of COVID-19 over the past three days, as well as four more deaths, all in the Lower Mainland.

Earlier in the day, the Fraser Health Authority announced a partial closure of Delta Hospital, where seven people have died from COVID-19 since Sept. 16 and as many as 36 more patients and staff have become infected.


Henry also confirmed outbreaks at three care homes — Langley Lodge, White Rock Seniors Village, and Chartwell Crescent Gardens — as well as one at Delta Distribution, a packaging facility where 23 employees initially tested positive for COVID-19.

The modelling data shows cases in B.C. have increased since the middle of July. But the majority of cases remain related to local spread through a known case or cluster, although Henry said some continue to be linked to international travel, as well as temporary foreign workers entering the province.

She pointed out the number of cases currently in hospital is lower than in April.

“As you can see, we’ve gone up since our nadir in August, but we’ve levelled off and we have a consistent lower number of people in hospital now than we did earlier on in our first wave,” she said of the data.

Henry also said, even with students returning to schools last month, the majority of cases continue to be in the 20-29 and 30-39 age groups.

“The population under age 10 is about 10 per cent of the population and only represents less than five per cent of our cases,” she added. “And the population 10 to 19, again, is underrepresented, even though we’re doing increased testing in that age group in the past month.”

Henry also said few people under 19 who contract COVID-19 require hospitalization.

“We’ve had no young people who’ve required ICU care and, thankfully, we’ve had nobody die in that age group. The hospitalizations are less than one per cent.”

Since September, when about 500,000 students returned to schools, the province has increased testing rates. About two-thirds of students are using the new spit-and-gargle test.

Henry said more than 60 schools have reported exposure events, including the first on Vancouver Island this past weekend, but none have reported outbreaks.

“So what we’re not seeing is schools amplifying transmission in the community,” she added, although several full classes have been asked to go home to isolate since the start of school.

Henry said case rates remain low among school-age children, with only seven in 1,000 testing positive for COVID-19.

“And, as we know, many children are requiring a test because they have symptoms and this tells us that there are other things causing those symptoms that are circulating in our communities right now, including some of the cold viruses and regular things that we see this time of year that can cause coughs and colds and runny noses and and fevers in children.”

While the province has seen a marginal increase in COVID-19 cases involving school-aged children since the return to school, Henry said those are also levelling off.

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“At this time, most of the school exposures are also related to exposure events that happened outside of the school setting. And we know that from, especially early on, where people were unrecognized and then spent some time in the schools, and so we’ll be monitoring very carefully now that we’ve moved past that first incubation period, and we’ll continue to work with schools to identify any exposures,” she said.

“What we can see, though, is that the proportion of COVID-19 cases by week in school-aged children remains low, at less than 10 per cent, and that has been consistent in the three to four weeks since schools have opened.”

Testing rates have also increased in the province by 15 per cent in the past week, including an average of 10,000 a day over the weekend.

The positivity rate among tests is less than two per cent. However, Henry said the increase in testing has slowed down the time results can be relayed.

Henry said the reproductive number — the number of infectious contacts each case generates — for B.C. is again below one.

“Which is where we want to be.”

She credited measures to close nightclubs and banquet halls and limit the hours restaurants and pubs can serve alcohol for helping flatten the curve again in B.C.

“So our growth rate is decreasing, which means that we are having safe connections in our communities now,” she said.

“So our number of contacts that we’re having where we can potentially transmit the virus has decreased. This is incredibly important. And it’s a testament to the work that everybody has been doing in B.C. It also reflects the fact that public health has been working very carefully with every single case to identify the exposure events to make sure that people who have been exposed, who might develop illness, are isolated safely and supported.”


Henry said the average rate of infectious contacts is currently estimated at 45 per cent of normal.

“That’s where we need to stay.”

The modelling data shows daily case rates surging in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba, but declining in B.C. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a second wave is underway in Canada’s four most populous provinces late last month. Henry, however, called it a second surge.

“We are flattening our curve,” she said.

Of the 9,739 total cases in B.C. since the start of the pandemic, two-thirds have been in the Lower Mainland, with 478 in the Fraser South area over the past 14 days. Richmond has recorded 271 cases overall.

Of the new cases, 130 happened from Friday to Saturday, while 108 occurred during the following 24-hour period, followed by 120 in the one ending Monday.

Deaths in B.C. from COVID-19 total 242.

Outbreaks remain active at 19 health-care facilities.

Henry said the third outbreak at Holy Family Hospital, a long-term care home in Vancouver, has been declared over.

Read the full modlling report:

CovidModellingBriefing_20201005