British Columbia

Luck and early preparation flattening B.C.'s COVID-19 curve, but officials urge residents to 'not let up'

Provincial health officer says B.C.'s curve, which appears to be flattening in comparison to provinces like Ontario and Quebec, is tentatively on the right track, thanks to luck, timing and measures implemented early on.

B.C. recorded 63 new cases over a 48-hour time period, and 1 additional death

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry listens during a news conference regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19, in Vancouver, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

B.C.'s provincial health officer announced 63 new coronavirus cases in the province on Monday, bringing the total number of identified cases to 1,266.

The update reflects two 24-hour time periods, with 26 new cases recorded between Saturday and Sunday, and 37 new cases recorded between Sunday and Monday.

One more person has died, said Dr. Bonnie Henry, bringing the total number of dead from the virus to 39.  There are currently 140 people in hospital in B.C., with 72 people in intensive care.

Henry said that B.C.'s curve, which appears to be flattening in comparison to provinces like Ontario and Quebec, is tentatively on the right track, thanks to luck, timing, and measures implemented early on.

"We were one of the first provinces to have cases. We spent a lot of time doing wide testing. Some parts of it are luck, some parts of it are being prepared," she said, explaining that the key metric is the percentage of new cases, which seems to be bending.

But Health Minister Adrian Dix urged that with a number of religious holidays coming up, it's key that people remain diligent with physical distancing.

"We have to be 100 per cent all in. We say it on a regular basis … but we simply cannot let up now," he said.

"This is a key week for us especially leading into the long weekend."

Hotspots could challenge response

The person whose death was announced on Monday was in their 40s, had tested positive for COVID-19 and died in their home, said Henry, a set of circumstances she called "doubly tragic."

Still, the majority of deaths in B.C. are linked to long-term care homes. There are currently 210 cases linked to those facilities, in the Vancouver Health and Fraser Health regions. Three of the outbreaks have been declared over, meaning there have been no new cases over two successive incubation periods.

Henry also said she wouldn't recommend that people pull family members out of long term care homes, but that the focus should remain on ensuring those facilities remain as safe as possible.

"I know it's a very difficult and challenging thought for people. For many families, it's not an option," she said.

"Right now, it's not time to disrupt people's lives in that way."

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry explain why B.C.'s curve may be flattening:

Dr. Bonnie Henry says luck, preparation and the timing of the province’s later spring break are factors in slowing down the pace of COVID-19 cases. 1:19

Henry also announced a third outbreak in a federal correctional facility in Mission, where two people have tested positive.

"These hotspots are concerning. They can quickly challenge our response," said Henry. "We must be steadfast in holding the line." 

B.C. currently has 620 ventilators distributed across the province, with 55 additional ventilators acquired from the federal supply.

Dix said the province has received a "small supply" of personal protective equipment from a new supplier, and that it is currently undergoing testing.

On Monday Henry also published an editorial, the first of its kind during the pandemic, defending her decision not to release information about where in the province cases of COVID-19 have been detected.

"It would be irresponsible to mention only a few communities and give people outside those areas a false sense that they are not susceptible or at lower risk. Every health region in British Columbia has people with COVID-19. Every community and home town — no matter how large or small — is at risk," she wrote.

"So, while I understand the desire to know and understand what the COVID-19 situation is in your community, I need to emphasize that knowing where the positive cases are does not protect you, your family or your community. The actions you take will do that."

The breakdown by region is as follows:

  • 586 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region

  • 450 in Fraser Health 

  • 79 in Vancouver Island Health 

  • 128  in Interior Health

  • 23 in Northern Health

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

About the Author

Michelle Ghoussoub

@MichelleGhsoub

Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. She has previously reported in Lebanon and Chile. Reach her at michelle.ghoussoub@cbc.ca or on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub.