Health officials announce 92 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., 1 new death
Published Saturday, March 28, 2020 11:47AM PDT Last Updated Saturday, March 28, 2020 4:14PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Health officials in British Columbia announced 92 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 Saturday. There has also been one new death from the pandemic in the province in the last 24 hours.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the new cases at her daily press briefing on Saturday afternoon. The new confirmed cases bring the total number of people who have tested positive for the virus in B.C. to 884.
Ninety-two new confirmed cases represents the largest single-day increase in B.C. so far, but Henry said that's not unexpected given where the province is in the course of the outbreak. She said larger numbers of positive tests reflect, in part, the targeted nature of testing.
Additionally, though the raw number of positive tests has increased, the percentage of new cases is still growing more slowly than the province's initial projections, which anticipated an increase of roughly 24 per cent per day without physical distancing measures put in place.
"We're not seeing the percentage increase climb dramatically," Henry said. "It's 92 over 884. It's a little over 10 per cent. Yesterday, it was about eight per cent. So, looking at the rate of change is something that we're also following. It's not unexpected, it just reminds us that we're in the midst of this right now, and everything that we do is really important to try and keep it at that lower rate."
Henry also announced an additional outbreak at a long-term care facility in the Lower Mainland, bringing the total number of outbreaks at seniors' care homes and similar facilities in the region to 12.
Some 45 per cent of people who have had the virus in B.C. are now considered recovered, Henry said. That equates to 396 people who tested positive and are now recovered.
British Columbia's recovery numbers are significantly higher than those seen in other provinces in Canada. On Saturday, Henry attributed this to two factors: First, that B.C. had earlier outbreaks than other provinces, with many of its early cases found in young, otherwise healthy people working in long-term care homes with outbreaks.
Second, B.C. bases its recovery numbers for people who have mild cases of the coronavirus - including many of those health-care workers - not on two negative tests for the virus, but on going 10 days without any symptoms.
"That has been validated around the world," Henry said of the updated criteria for considering a COVID-19 patient recovered. "After a period of time, when your symptoms resolve, you no longer shed live virus."
People who are hospitalized with COVID-19 or are immunocompromised still require two negative tests to be considered recovered, Henry said.
There are 81 people in hospital with COVID-19 in B.C., and 52 of them are in intensive care.
Those numbers - of hospitalizations and people in intensive care - represent significant increases from where those numbers were on Friday, and Henry said they reflect a slight change in the way the province is counting hospitalizations and intensive care treatment. They also reflect the fact that the situation is fluid and changing quickly, she said.
On Friday, Henry discussed modelling that showed that the physical distancing measures have slowed the growth of expected coronavirus cases.
But Henry said she's only "cautiously optimistic" about B.C.'s trajectory and said the province has not yet flattened its curve. She urged B.C. residents to “double down” on physical distancing and frequent hand washing.
"We've looked at other places where they've eased off on the measures and we've started to see increases again,” Henry said on Friday.
Both Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix repeated this sentiment in their remarks on Saturday.
"We need 100 per cent commitment every day," Dix said, referring to the physical distancing measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
Of B.C.'s 884 confirmed cases of the virus, the vast majority continue to be located in the Lower Mainland. That includes 444 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, more than half of the province-wide total. There are also 291 confirmed cases in the Fraser Health region.
Elsewhere in the province, there are 77 confirmed cases in the Interior Health region, 60 in the Island Health region, and 12 in Northern Health.
These case numbers represent only those that have been confirmed through testing. During Friday's presentation, Henry and Dix provided an estimate of 2,000 to 3,000 total cases in the province, overall, based on modelling comparing B.C.'s outbreak to other regions.
On Saturday, Henry reiterated this estimate for reporters, stressing that it represents a best guess at the current time.
"It is a guess," she said. "It's a guess based on what we've seen in other places looking at a number of different things. What the modellers try to do is sort of triangulate."
Henry said Chinese health authorities were able to estimate the number of undetected or undetectable cases in the community by extrapolating from the number of deaths recorded. Other regions have looked at the hospitalization rate and extrapolated from there, she said.
The BC Centre for Disease Control has developed its own model based on conversations with health authorities from other regions of Canada and other countries.
"The estimates I presented yesterday of somewhere between two to three thousand people being infected with this in B.C. are based on that type of triangulation," Henry said.
Henry said B.C. is not testing everyone in the province for COVID-19. Health officials are focused, instead, on tracing chains of transmission associated with known outbreaks, as well as encouraging everyone in society to maintain physical distance from others to prevent transmission.
"A broad testing of well people in our community right now is not what we're going to be doing," Henry said. "That is a strategy that we will be looking at if and when we come to the down side of our curve, when we're looking again at introductions coming into B.C. from other places."