As top doctor Dr. Bonnie Henry receives international attention for her efforts to fare the spread of COVID-19 among British Columbians, the provincial health officer is preparing for the likelihood of a second wave of the novel coronavirus in the fall.
Health officials have been tracking the spread of the contagious respiratory illness since early February, when the first case was confirmed in B.C. That data is today allowing Henry and her team of experts to prepare a number of contingency scenarios in case the virus resurges in the fall.
“The whole plan is making sure that we don’t ever have to go back to shutting everything down like we did in March,” Henry said during a news conference earlier this week.
British Columbia has been home to roughly 3,053 test-positive cases of COVID-19 with an 88 per cent recovery rate. A total of 187 people have died, many of those being seniors in long-term care facilities.
Across Canada, more than 107,300 people have contracted the disease with 8,773 of those losing their lives.
Over the past several months, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have provided monthly modeling and projections of the virus – oftentimes pulling data from countries with similar populations– to offer insight into possible outcomes from the various social contact restrictions set by the province.
Now, B.C. has enough in-province data to use, Henry said.
“We know so much now about being able to control these outbreaks and control the spread in the community that we won’t need to shut down all hospitals and that we won’t need to stop things like surgeries the way that we did in March.”
Henry has warned British Columbians that pre-COVID normalcy in daily life will not return this summer, and likely not until there is a vaccine readily available. Meanwhile, many concerns remain among the most vulnerable populations – such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – despite the province entering Phase 3 in its economic restart plan.
In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts, proving the difficulty and unpredictability of containing spread among asymptomatic people, meaning those who are infected but don’t show symptoms.
As much as health officials work to flatten the curve, relying on the adherence of British Columbians, there is seasonality to respiratory viruses that may not be avoidable due to climatic conditions – in other words, the return of colder weather – starting in the fall.
Henry and Dix have said they will not hesitate to bring back restrictions that have since been lifted if transmission rates start increasing again.
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