COVID-19: B.C. flattening curve as reproduction rate falls below one

© DON CRAIG Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on COVID-19

B.C.’s COVID-19 reproduction rate is falling and its growth rate flattening, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported Monday. Henry said that over the last few weeks there had been, on average, fewer infections for each case of the virus.

“Each case is now transmitting, on average, to fewer than one person,” she said. This reproductive rate has to be below one to contain sustained growth of the disease in a community.

“We had been moving up (reproductive rate,) and we’ve now cautiously started to turn that corner. We’ve started to flatten our curve. We’ve started to do the things that we know will help us get through these next few months together. And that was to bend our curve back down.”

There were 358 cases of COVID-19 reported between noon Friday and noon Monday, and four deaths. Three of those deaths were in the Fraser Health region and one in Vancouver Coastal Health, bringing that toll to 242.

There are now 1,353 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 66 of those in hospital, including 16 in intensive care.

Henry said there were 19 active outbreaks in health care, including three new ones.

The Delta Hospital closed to general patients Monday as its COVID-19 outbreak worsened.

Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, chief health officer at Fraser Health, said seven patients had died after contracting the illness inside the hospital. She said several of the staff cases stemmed from transmission outside the hospital in the broader community.

The Delta outbreak was identified on Sept. 16 and so far 18 patients and 17 staff members had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Brodkin said Delta Hospital’s emergency department would remain open and all scheduled surgeries would continue.

The worst health-care outbreak in B.C. has been at Langley Lodge, where 26 people died. The second worst outbreak — at Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver with 21 deaths — was declared over Monday.

The Delta outbreak is contained to a single unit and floor, and no new patients have been admitted to that area since the outbreak was declared.

Henry said children under 18 remain under-represented among new cases despite increased testing in response to schools reopening. Kids under 10 account for less than five per cent of all infections, though there were 22 new cases reported in that age category over the previous three days (and 27 new cases aged 10-to-19.)

“What we’re not seeing is schools amplifying transmission in the community,” she said, noting that seven-in-1,000 tests associated with schools result in a diagnosis of COVID-19. “Many children are requiring a test because they have symptoms, and this tells us that there are other things causing those symptoms that are circulating in our communities right now, including some of the cold viruses and regular things we see this time of year.”

Henry noted the hospitalization rate is significantly lower than earlier in the pandemic — a change she said reflects broader testing and also increases in cases among young people.

“We have a consistent, lower number of people in hospital now than we did earlier on in our first wave,” she said.

While most cases are appearing in people aged 20-to-40, the average death age is 85. Only three people in their 40s have died from the disease in B.C.

The number of weekly COVID-19 tests completed in B.C. overall is up 15 per cent from last week to just under 532,800. There have been over 10,000 tests conducted each day for the last three days.

— From The Canadian Press