B.C. health officials said physical distancing will be more effective than other controls, like homemade masks, as the province works on economic recovery and waits for a vaccine.

Health Ministry officials outlined the importance of physical distancing during Monday’s presentation of B.C.’s latest COVID-19 data. Physical distancing was at the top of the hierarchy for reducing COVID-19 transmission hazards.

“Until we have a vaccine, we know it’s [COVID-19] is going to be here in some way. And our job, our role, our goals in the next months is to make sure we learn how to live with this virus in a safe way that protects people,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said.

“This year with so much unknown is going to be unusual.”

A hierarchy of controls for COVID-19. (BC Government)

A hierarchy of controls for COVID-19. (BC Government)

She also said the curve has been “deflected” in the province.

“We are coming down nicely,” Henry said, while presenting the latest COVID-19 data on May 4, 2020.

Henry said the most recent COVID-19 modelling data continues to show dramatic decreases in cases since the province introduced physical distancing and other measures in March to slow the spread of the virus, but it continues to primarily impact people 60 years of age and older, especially males in their 90s.

“Physical distancing has made a difference,” said Henry.

She also said the curve has “flattened” with B.C. doing better in comparison to the rest of Canada.

A look at the case rate in B.C. compared to the rest of Canada. (BC Government)

A look at the case rate in B.C. compared to the rest of Canada. (BC Government)

A look at the death rate from COVID-19 in B.C. compared to the rest of Canada.

A look at the death rate from COVID-19 in B.C. compared to the rest of Canada. (BC Government)

Dynamic compartmental modelling for B.C. (BC Government)

Dynamic compartmental modelling for B.C. (BC Government)

The news comes as Henry announced 53 new cases of COVID-19 over the last 48 hours, including one new case in Island Health.

There were 34 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday and 19 on Sunday.

In Island Health, there are now 124 COVID-19 cases (one more than on May 2, 2020). There are also 845 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,027 in Fraser Health, 177 in Interior Health and 51 in Northern Health.

The province’s total number of COVID-19 cases is 2,224. Seventy-seven people are in hospital due to COVID-19 (up five from 72 on May 2) with 20 in intensive care.

Of the cases in Island Health, 105 people have recovered and three are in hospital. There are no cases in intensive care in the health region. 

There have also been three more COVID-19 deaths in the province in the past 48 hours, all in long-term care. The provincial death toll is now at 117.

There are 23 long term care homes and assisted-living facilities affected by COVID-19 but there are no new outbreaks. A total of 266 residents have tested positive and 168 staff.

Premier John Horgan is expected to announce a strategy for gradually reopening the province’s economy on Wednesday.

“This is, I believe, the end of the beginning of this pandemic,” Henry said.

“We have some room to increase our social connections … but as we start this new phase, we need to keep those principles in mind.”

Henry said the province is continuing to work under the assumption that B.C. is currently around 30 per cent of regular interactions, but that the virus can be kept in check if it stays below 60 per cent going forward.

“We might have increased numbers of cases and some hospitalizations … but they would be manageable. We’d be able to manage that, and there are things we can do to make these contacts safer for people as well,” she said.

“Our challenge, and our work together is to find that sweet spot. Somewhere around increasing our contacts by twice as many as we have now, but without allowing those opportunities for rapid exponential growth in our communities.”

A chart showing the epidemic curve in B.C. (BC Government)

A chart showing the epidemic curve in B.C. (BC Government)

Henry said Monday every area of the province has had some brush with COVID-19.

A snapshot of COVID-19 cases in the province, broken down by region. (BC Government)

A snapshot of COVID-19 cases in the province, broken down by region. (BC Government)

A chart showing COVID-19 ICU cases by health authority in British Columbia (BC Government)

A chart showing COVID-19 ICU cases by health authority in British Columbia (BC Government)

According to Henry, most of the people who got sick with COVID-19 have been people in the 30-60 ages. Men are more likely to be hospitalized than woman with COVID-19. Men also made up almost three quarters of the death of COVID-19 in B.C. 

Charts showing COVID-19 outcomes by age and gender (BC Government)

Charts showing COVID-19 outcomes by age and gender (BC Government)

Outcomes for people with additional risk factors (BC Government)

Outcomes for healthcare workers with COVID-19. (BC Government)

As for healthcare workers, most of the healthcare workers who were affected by COVID-19 had a milder illness, says Dr. Henry. But there was one death.

Outcomes for healthcare workers with COVID-19. (BC Government)

Outcomes for healthcare workers with COVID-19. (BC Government)

As for B.C.’s mortality rate, there was an excess of 170 deaths in March, of which 111 are attributed to the coronavirus.

Mortality rate in British Columbia (BC Government)

Mortality rate in British Columbia (BC Government)

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the ventilator capacity has increased and the intention is to increase it further in the coming months to deal with the potential for future surges.

The provincial ventilator capacity (BC Government)

The provincial ventilator capacity (BC Government)

The provincial bed capacity in B.C. (BC Government)

The provincial bed capacity in B.C. (BC Government)

To learn more about COVID-19 symptoms, visit the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control website. 

According to researchers with Johns Hopkins University, the number of COVID-19 cases globally is over 3.5 million with more than 250,000 deaths. 

With files from CBC 

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix on May 4, 2020, below:

Alexa Huffman