Growth of COVID-19 in B.C. slows as officials look to easing restrictions
VICTORIA -- The growth of new COVID-19 infections in B.C. has slowed and provincial health authorities are now looking at ways to ease some restrictions on social interactions in the weeks and months to come.
In short, B.C. has flattened the curve on the novel coronavirus pandemic over the past three weeks. The province maintains an infection rate far below regional outbreaks elsewhere in Canada and around the world.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday that officials are now focusing on finding "just the right amount of restrictions" on social interactions "to get our society moving again."
Henry cautioned, however, that B.C. is not out of the woods yet and more British Columbians will die as a result of the disease before it is over.
"This is not the end for us," Henry told reporters from the B.C. legislature. "It's not even the beginning of the end."
Her comments came as health authorities revealed their latest COVID-19 modelling data, drawing a contrast between the trajectory the virus might have taken in the province versus the one it did.
Over the past 20 days, B.C.'s COVID-19 infection curve has stalled well below prior projections that were based on viral outbreaks in Italy and China, rendering those models now largely irrelevant for the province.
While the novel coronavirus continues to exact a deadly toll on B.C. seniors, that too is stabilizing, health officials said, due in large part to the acquiescence of British Columbians to provincial health directives prohibiting physical interactions.
The latest available data show that the average age of B.C. coronavirus patients is 54 years old, though the median age of those hospitalized for treatment is a decade older. Health officials used the median age in their models, instead of the average age, because of the presence of a wide range of outlier cases, including a child as young as infancy and a patient as old as 102 years.
While the majority of COVID-19 cases in B.C. are in people aged 30 to 60 years old, the median age of deaths attributed to the virus is 86 years old, according to the province.
Most of the 1,500 B.C. COVID-19 patients measured in the data are women (811) versus men (689), largely due to the higher number of women working in the health-care and long-term care fields.
Health authorities also found that approximately two-thirds of the province's COVID-19 patients had at least one previous chronic health condition, including cancer, diabetes, heart and liver disease.
The provincial modelling data revealed that B.C.'s coronavirus infection rate accelerated earlier than the rest of Canada but has leveled off over the past 20 days, while cases in Quebec and Ontario, particularly, continue to climb.
The provincial health officer pointed to data from Google and the BC Centre for Disease Control which illustrated how provincial interventions like restricting gatherings and closing schools and businesses put downward pressure on the rate of the spread of the virus.
"I believe this summer we will have way more social interaction than we've had in the past month," Henry said.
Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix credited British Columbians with slowing the infection rate in the province but cautioned that the pandemic was far from over and some social restrictions on things like international travel will not be lifted before 2021.
"Our new normal is going to be modifications of what were seeing right now," Henry said. "I will caution though: it is not going to be the same."
The health minister said he expects non-urgent elective surgeries in B.C. to resume next month.
On Thursday, B.C. health officials announced three more deaths due to the novel coronavirus, bringing the virus's death toll in the province to 78. There have been 1,575 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C.
Meanwhile, the BC Centre for Disease Control has released a new coronavirus dashboard showing the breakdown of cases in the province by region, age distribution and progress of infections.