Six new cases of COVID-19 reported in Island Health since Friday, B.C. warned of ‘explosive growth’ potential

Six new cases of COVID-19 reported in Island Health since Friday, B.C. warned of 'explosive growth' potential
Province of BC
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provide an update on COVID-19 on July 20, 2020.

Update on July 21, 2020: The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued a data correction. There have now been 140 cases in Island Health.

B.C. health officials reported 102 new COVID-19 cases over the past 72 hours, including six new cases in Island Health.

The Island Health region has now had 142 cases since the pandemic began compared to 136 on July 17. It’s the highest number in the health authority since April 20.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said people have increased their contacts by 20 or 30 people in some cases, from a low of three to four, so it’s time to “pay attention now.”

Henry says she’s concerned the province is at a “tipping point” and it’s more challenging for public health workers to do contact tracing when an infected person has socialized with a greater number of people.

B.C. had a total of 51 new cases from Friday to Saturday, 19 from Saturday to Sunday and 32 from Sunday to Monday. No new deaths have been reported.

“We do have the possibility of having explosive growth here in our outbreak, if we’re not careful,” Henry said.

There have now been 3,300 COVID-19 cases in B.C., including 1,042 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,713 in Fraser Health, 142 in Island Health, 280 in Interior Health, 69 in Northern Health. There have been 54 cases among residents outside of Canada (visitors and temporary foreign workers.

A total of 253 cases are active. There are 16 people in hospital with COVID-19 (down two from July 17), with four in intensive care.

Four of the new cases reported over the weekend are epidemiologically-linked.

Health Minister Adrian Dix did note that while there have been no deaths since Friday and the hospitalization rate has remained steady, deaths and hospitalizations tend to lag behind new infections.

He also said the while 102 new infections might not be large in comparison with numbers reported in other parts of North America, “it is a lot more than we are comfortable with.”

“It is, I think, a sobering reminder of how fleeting success can be when we turn our backs on COVID-19,” he said, adding British Columbians need to recommit to measures such as physical distancing.

“There’s a place for common sense but right now there’s a need for COVID sense and to use it.”

Henry reminded British Columbians that gatherings should be limited to six people, mostly outdoors, and people should know who they’re connecting with as well as have a “contact keeper” in case someone in a group becomes ill, she said.

READ MORE: Passenger plane that landed at Victoria airport had COVID-19 on board

Henry and Dix also presented the latest epidemiological modelling on Monday, saying the reproductive rate is now higher than one.

The latest modelling suggests that the numbers of new cases reported daily are rising and could continue to rise over the summer. But there is still a large amount of uncertainty over projections for the rest of the summer because numbers remain relatively low.

B.C.’s overall death rate among confirmed COVID-19 patients is six per cent, but that percentage increases dramatically among those infected in long-term care homes and hospitals, according to Henry.

The statistics presented Monday showed that 20 per cent of COVID-19 patients in long-term care and 22 per cent in acute care units of hospitals have died of their illness. The death rate drops to 0.5 per cent in the remaining COVID-19 patients.

As people B.C. expand their social circles and more businesses open up in Phase 3 of B.C.’s reopning plan, the new modelling suggests that each new infection is generating an increasing number of additional infections.

In April and May, when the strictest measures were in place, each new COVID-19 patient infected less than one other person. That measure has now risen to more than one new infection from each patient.

The modelling suggests that everyone needs to be cautious about how many other people they are interacting with — if the average person’s number of contacts increases to 70 or 80 per cent of normal, the number of infections could increase dramatically.

Right now, the average person’s contacts are at about 65 to 70 per cent of normal, which Henry described as concerning.

“We run the risk of rapid rise,” she said.

Serology tests suggest that fewer than one in 100 people in B.C. have been infected to date, which means the vast majority are still susceptible to infection.

Henry said Monday she’s particularly concerned about the number of new cases that appear to have resulted from parties and larger public gatherings.

That includes 60 cases that have now been linked to multiple exposure events in Kelowna at downtown and waterfront bars and private gatherings in the time around the Canada Day long weekend.

“There are hundreds of people exposed over the last few weeks,” she said of events mostly involving young people at private parties in Kelowna, where more than 60 cases have now been connected.

“We know the more people get ill the more chances, even young people, will have severe illness (and) will end up in hospital and unfortunately some people will die,” Henry said, adding it could include members of the community who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities to whom the virus is transmitted.

Most new cases confirmed this weekend were people in their 20s and 30s, Henry said.

“We are starting to see people who are testing positive in last few days having a large number of contacts again,” she said.

“We are no longer having safe interactions.”

Also on Monday, Dix and Henry presented results from an online survey ofover 394,000 British Columbians.

The survey indicated younger people between the ages of 18 to 29 are experiencing more mental health and financial concerns.

Many are not working due to the pandemic in jobs including arts and entertainment, accommodation, food services and retail.

Overall, 62 per cent of respondents indicated they’re concerned about the health of a vulnerable family member.

The survey also suggests only 67 per cent of people stay home from work when they’re sick, and Henry said there’s a need to address the reasons behind that.

To see B.C.’s COVID-19 numbers by day, testing numbers and recoveries, visit the B.C. COVID-19 dashboard. 

According to researchers with Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide is now more than 14.6 million, with more than 608,000 deaths. The U.S. continues to have the highest number of deaths and cases.

Read B.C.’s latest epidemiological modelling below: 

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix on July 20, 2020, below: 

With files from CBC and The Canadian Press

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