B.C. on track to ease more restrictions next week as health officials cite 'dramatic drop' in cases
153 new cases and 4 more deaths, as hospitalizations hit lowest point since Nov. 14
Another 153 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in B.C. and four more people have died of the disease, health officials announced Thursday, as they spoke of a "dramatic drop" in transmission in recent weeks.
There are now 1,910 active cases of the novel coronavirus across B.C., Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry announced during a live briefing.
A total of 176 people are in hospital with COVID-19, she said, including 49 who are in intensive care. This marks the lowest number of patients in hospital with the disease since Nov. 14.
Henry presented new epidemiological modelling on Thursday, showing that many communities in B.C. have seen "little to no cases" of the virus recently.
"Starting in the middle of April, we have a dramatic drop in cases overall," Henry said. She said that was closely followed by a drop in hospitalizations.
However, some parts of the Lower Mainland are still seeing significant transmission, along with outlying hot spots like Grand Forks.
"This reminds us that there still can be transmission if we're not careful," Henry said.
The drop in cases has been paralleled by drops in the test positivity rate and the reproductive rate, which measures the number of new infections that result from each COVID-19 case.
Throughout the province, the average person diagnosed with the disease is transmitting the virus to less than one person, which Henry described as a major success.
She said B.C. is in a good position to move on to the next step of the reopening plan on the target date of June 15.
"I am optimistic in a way that I've not been for a long time," she said.
Watch | Dr. Bonnie Henry discusses possibility of increased case counts
Henry also presented modelling that suggests the number of daily cases could level off or even increase this summer as people begin having more social contact. But she said she doesn't expect the virus to transmit widely in B.C. communities and she has confidence public health can manage a small uptick through vaccinations and other measures.
Meanwhile, Thursday's modelling presentation confirms that COVID-19 variants of concern have taken over in B.C., with the alpha (B.1.1.7) variant first identified in the U.K. accounting for 54 per cent of cases and the gamma (P1) variant first seen in Brazil making up 42 per cent. However, the delta (B.1.617.2) variant first identified in India is growing in prevalence and currently accounts for about four per cent of cases.
Lower vaccine uptake in younger age groups
Just under three-quarters of adults in B.C. have received a first dose of vaccine, while 72.8 per cent of people over 12 have had a shot, Henry said.
A total of 3,823,103 shots have now gone into arms in B.C., including 443,562 second doses. Henry said B.C. is now administering COVID-19 vaccines at a rate of about 325,000 shots each week.
Though vaccination uptake varies across the province, with much lower rates seen in places like the northeast of B.C., Henry said that every region has now hit at least 50 per cent of people over the age of 12 with at least one dose.
The data she shared shows that older age groups have begun to level off at about 80 per cent of people getting their shots, but that levelling off is occurring at lower percentages among younger people.
For example, the vaccination rate for people in their 30s appears to be slowing down at something closer to 70 per cent.
Henry said there are plans to do targeted campaigns to make sure younger people get their vaccine when they're eligible.
When asked when the vaccines might be approved for use in children under the age of 12, she said there are studies underway on safety and effectiveness, and results are expected in the fall.
However, she said, there is solid data showing that for every 20 per cent increase in adults that are vaccinated, the more children and those with compromised immune systems are protected — even if they're not vaccinated.
British Columbians who are eligible to receive a vaccine and have not had one are encouraged to do so now.
As of June 3, anyone aged 12 and over can register in three ways:
- Online through the new "Get Vaccinated" portal.
- By calling 1-833-838-2323. Translators are available in 140 languages.
- In person at any Service B.C. location.
Most people in the province will now be able to receive a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine eight weeks after their first.
Henry said that people waiting for their second dose may have to wait up to three weeks for an appointment, but she has no concerns about the safety of the delay.
Anyone who received their vaccine before the Get Vaccinated portal launched on April 6 would have booked through the old system and would not have been registered with the province's current online registration system.
Those people need to register now to receive an email or text notification of their second dose appointment.
If you're not sure if you're registered, Henry said there is "no problem" with registering more than once.
Canadians who have had a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer, can take either of the two shots as a second dose because they both use a similar mRNA technology, according to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose can choose to either obtain AstraZeneca through a pharmacy for their second dose, or receive a second dose of an mRNA vaccine through a mass vaccination clinic.
Pfizer is still the only vaccine approved for those between the ages of 12 and 17.
With files from Bridgette Watson, Rhianna Schmunk and Justin McElroy