B.C. sheds new light on where and how COVID-19 is spreading, as health officials announce 68 new cases
As of Thursday, B.C. has 906 active cases of COVID-19 infection
Public health officials in British Columbia provided new information Thursday about where COVID-19 cases have been found in the province and how they are spreading.
At a news conference held Thursday in Victoria, the province introduced a new map breaking down the location of COVID-19 cases within each of B.C.'s health authorities.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix also reported 68 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as well as one more death, a person in long-term care living in the Fraser Health Region.
The death toll from the disease now stands at 204 people.
There are 906 active cases of infection in B.C., up from 896 a day earlier. Twenty-two people are in hospital, seven of them in intensive care.
New map shows where cases found
Henry said going forward, the province will maintain a more granular map of COVID-19 case locations. To date, information has generally been limited to how many cases have been found within each of B.C.'s health authorities.
On Thursday, Henry presented a map she said would be updated periodically showing more specifically where new cases are arising.
Tap on the map for a closer look
Henry said there was a reluctance to release this information earlier in the pandemic because the number of cases was so small that it would make people identifiable in some communities.
"We want to give as much information as we can," Henry said. "It doesn't tell the whole story. it doesn't talk about the people who didn't have a test and it also doesn't reflect, necessarily, where somebody was exposed to COVID.
"And it doesn't reflect those people who have been quarantined all over the province because they've been exposed in one place or another."
How it spreads
Henry was asked about those exposure venues and said while she didn't have exact information, she had a "rough" breakdown about where transmission is happening.
About one-third of cases being seen now, she said, are related to events like parties, clubs and nightclubs. Another third is related to transmission within families. The final third is related to exposure in workplace clusters or outbreaks in long-term care.
She added about 20 per cent of cases overall are related to international travel but that proportion has declined.
"It varies over time," she said.
The important thing, Henry said, is whether experts can trace those cases and link people who have been potentially exposed.
"It's those unlinked cases that we are most concerned about," Henry said. "We still are finding people quickly, we are linking people quickly. Less than 20 per cent of our cases are unlinked. We investigate those very carefully."
No new health care outbreaks
Thursday's update brings the total number of cases detected in the province to 5,372. Of those, 4,253 people have recovered.
Public health officials are monitoring and following up with 2,810 people who are or were close contacts of confirmed cases.
There were no new outbreaks in health care reported Thursday.
There are 11 active outbreaks, nine in long-term care or assisted living, one in acute care and one at a hospital. Overall, a total of 432 residents and 282 staff have tested positive in health-care settings. The outbreak at the Arbutus Care Centre in Vancouver has been declared over.
A new community outbreak has been reported in Elkford, B.C., in the East Kootenay. Henry said it was at a construction site run by Teck Resources and there is no risk to the community.
Seven cases have been connected to the outbreak, Henry said. Six of the people who tested positive reside in Alberta and the outbreak was detected after they returned home.
Henry reported for the first time on suspected cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and adolescents (MIS-C) which she said has been associated with COVID-19 in some parts of the world.
MISC, Henry said, is very similar to Kawasaki Disease, a rare childhood condition. Previously, only cases in which the child tested positive for COVID-19, or was a close contact of someone with COVID-19, would be reported. But now suspected cases are being reported.
B.C. has had eight suspected cases, she said, but none of the children tested positive for COVID-19, had COVID-19 antibodies or had known exposures to COVID-19 cases.
The median age of the children was four years old. Five were male, three were female. All were taken to hospital including two who went into intensive care. B.C. Children's Hospital reported all eight cases.
All have recovered, she added.
"These are serious illnesses," Henry said. "But this is a reflection of the fact that our system works. We have been monitoring this across B.C. and we will continue to monitor it particularly as we move into the coming months, with things like schools opening."
Henry added later that MIS-C can be caused by factors other than COVID-19.
Henry spent some time answering questions about the pending start of school.
She said while there are likely to be some cases resulting from the resumption of classes, she is confident they can be managed with contact tracing and precautions called for in reopening plans.
Henry said the prevalence of the virus in B.C. remains low and contact tracing is working. Officials will continue to watch community spread.
"It's going to be okay. We're going to work through this," she said.
With files from Bethany Lindsay and Ben Mussett