After B.C. public health officials released the latest COVID-19 monthly data tracking the rapid increase in infections, there was a new note of urgency as they acknowledged B.C. is now facing faster coronavirus spread than Ontario.
Premier John Horgan took to social media after the latest monthly results were released this week, showing the rapid increase traced mainly to gatherings in private homes, parties and community mingling at sports events. A key concern is that the spike in November has stretched testing and contact tracing capacity to its limit, even as more people are hired and transferred to help.
“We need to maintain capacity in our health care system, keep our schools open, and ensure we can continue many other essential activities in our communities,” Horgan said on his Facebook page Nov. 13, emphasizing the limiting of adult social activities and non-essential travel ordered for B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
Data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control indicates younger people are leading in the recent surge in cases, but not school-aged people. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said results since schools opened in mid-September have guided the latest orders restricting activity in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions.
“We’ve seen transmission where people have been going to the gym, for example, and all the right measures are being taken at the gym, but they’re congregating before or after,” Henry said at a briefing for reporters at the B.C. legislature Nov. 12. “We’ve seen it in hockey arenas, we’ve seen it at some youth football games, we’ve seen it with old timers hockey leagues where the sport itself is fine, but it’s the gathering together afterwards and those are the household and community private party or events.
“The other thing this shows us is that young people, particularly school-age young people, very few transmissions or exposure events that lead to cases from schools or day cares. And we do still see in the older age group it’s related to health care, which again reflects transmission in our long term care homes.”
Henry used the example of one infected person at a fitness class, one of the activities suspended until late November in the Lower Mainland. That one exposure led to 67 cases in two fitness studios, and six school exposures where family members or people who worked at a school went there when they were potentially infectious to others. Broad precautions are taken, even if actual transmission hasn’t been detected.
As of Nov. 5, there have been 261 school exposures in B.C.’s 1,942 schools, more than three quarters of which are elementary schools.
As confirmed infections have risen to more than 500 a day province-wide, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 is showing a similar rise. Community infections have also led to senior care home outbreaks, with six more in just two days Nov. 11 and 12.
Henry said B.C. is likely dealing with the seasonal behaviour of the coronavirus, which didn’t transmit as much when temperature was warmer, humidity lower and people spent more time indoors.
“This is not unique to B.C.,” Henry said. “We’re seeing it across the country. We’re seeing it in Europe and all of the northern hemisphere, where it’s becoming much more challenging.”