British Columbia

COVID-19 cases in B.C. could hit 12,000 a day without stricter health measures, modelling report warns

The B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group forecasts a wave of new cases in the fall linked to a rise in delta variant cases among children and youth. It warns that if no action is taken to prevent infections, new case counts could soar to around 10,000 to 12,000 per day.

Delta variant could lead to steep rise in cases, especially in children not eligible for vaccine, report says

Health-care workers are pictured at a COVID-19 testing centre at Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge, B.C. An independent modelling group is warning of a steep rise in cases without public health measures in place. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

An independent modelling group says it expects hospitalizations from COVID-19 to continue to rise in B.C. and is warning of the long-term impact of the delta variant.

In a report published Wednesday, the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group forecasts a wave of new cases in the fall, linked to a rise in delta variant cases among children and youth.

It warns that if no action is taken to prevent COVID-19 infections during the fall, new case counts could soar to around 10,000 to 12,000 per day.

The group, which includes experts from the University of B.C., Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, said if that was to happen, B.C.'s hospitals would be overrun with bed shortages.

They found that, contrary to Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's claims, hospitalizations were not "decoupling" from case numbers.

"The fraction of cases requiring hospitalization has remained relatively consistent throughout 2021," the report reads.

"We do not expect this fraction to drop with vaccination since most cases and hospitalizations are in unvaccinated individuals."

Children could be disproportionately affected

As cases spike in unvaccinated individuals, the report warns of negative consequences for children under 12 who are not yet eligible for a jab.

"Children under 10 are nine per cent of the population, but 36 per cent of the unvaccinated population," the report reads.

"High community transmission in the context of vaccination is likely to lead to large numbers of infections in children."

The B.C. Teachers Federation said in a statement Thursday that it wants a provincewide mask mandate to start the school year, as well as ventilation improvements and cleaning of all high-touch surfaces during the school day.

"Given what we know about the highly contagious delta variant, we need to err on the side of caution and return to schools with everyone wearing masks," said federation president Teri Mooring.

"Vaccinations are integral to safer schools, but can't be our only line of defence."


 

The report says even if 90 per cent of the province's population was to be vaccinated rapidly, immunity to COVID-19 grows slowly and immunization itself would not be able to avert the sharp rise in cases.

It concludes that public health measures, like mandatory masking, should be brought in and only relaxed when 90 per cent of British Columbians have been vaccinated.

With files from Akshay Kulkarni

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