British Columbia

B.C. could see 2nd wave of COVID-19 in September bigger than the first, provincial modelling shows

British Columbia's COVID-19 curve is now climbing at a higher rate than the initial outbreak in March, and new provincial modelling shows B.C. could see a second wave bigger than the first by September.

Daily cases could climb to 100 by September, health officials say, as B.C. announces 78 new cases

People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

British Columbia's COVID-19 curve is now climbing at a higher rate than the initial outbreak in March, and new provincial modelling shows B.C. could see a second wave bigger than the first by September.

The province's contact tracing efforts, however, could temper that growth, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday, after announcing 78 new COVID-19 transmissions. 

As restrictions have eased, Henry said, the number of contacts people are having are about 70 per cent of normal, despite the province recommending people keep their contacts to 60 per cent or lower to avoid a resurgence of cases. 

Officials believed B.C. was at 30 per cent of its regular interactions in Phase 1 of its restart plan, when many non-essential services closed.

At the current 70 per cent contact rate, daily cases could climb to 100 by September, according to the modelling.

"We are on an upward trajectory. That is concerning," Henry said. 

"But it's not a predictive model. It doesn't tell us what's going to happen. It tells us what can happen. And right now, we have it within our ability to make the changes we need to bend that curve back down."

COVID-19 modelling provided by the B.C. Ministry of Health on Thursday. Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is at about a 70 per cent contact rate. (B.C. Ministry of Health)

Henry said the province is still seeing very low community transmission rates, and most cases have been linked to local clusters that rapid contact tracing is managing to isolate.

She said contact tracing will be even more critical to preventing spread, as physical distancing measures have weakened in Phase 3.

The province needs to trace at least 75 per cent of the contacts that an infected person has had to maintain control of the virus, modelling shows.

The government earlier announced it would temporarily hire 500 more health-care professionals to work as contact tracers.

A total of 1,878 people in B.C. were in self-isolation Thursday after being exposed to confirmed cases. Henry pointed out the inconvenience to many when one is infected.

She also reiterated Thursday the importance of staying two metres apart, keeping groups small, wearing face masks when physical distancing is not possible and staying home when sick.

Large increase in cases in 20-39 age range

There are now 578 active cases of COVID-19, up from 531 on Wednesday, when the province announced 85 cases. B.C. has seen 4,274 cases to date.

The death toll remains unchanged at 196. Nine people are in hospital, with four in intensive care.

Henry noted the province has seen a rapid increase in cases in young people in recent weeks.

The proportion of cases is now heavily weighed toward people aged 20 to 39, compared to previous phases of the pandemic, she said.

Motorists wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said private parties are a big part of the problem.

"If you are thinking about organizing a party, especially one involving alcohol, where there's no specific limits on distancing ... you should not do so," he said.

Dix warned those attending parties at banquet halls this weekend to expect a visit from environmental health and bylaw officers, who will enforce the 50-person gathering limit.

The province has confirmed 78 cases among children under the age of 10, with two children hospitalized. Henry said children were under-represented considering their proportion of the population. 

Henry also confirmed a new community outbreak at the Okanagan Correctional Centre. 

Three staff members at the centre have tested positive, and officials are implementing outbreak protocols, she said.

About the Author

Alex Migdal

Journalist

Alex Migdal is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. He's previously reported for The Globe and Mail, Guelph Mercury and Edmonton Journal. You can reach him at alex.migdal@cbc.ca.

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