B.C. could hit 3,000 new COVID-19 cases a day if contact trends don’t go down: health officials

COVID-19 variants are driving virus transmission to the point where the province could hit 3,000 new cases per day, if trends continue.

New provincial modelling shows even if social gatherings drop off over the next few weeks, B.C. would still be on track to hit 2,000 new cases a day.

The province has restrictions in place banning social gatherings, events and indoor dining, but so far the province’s “circuit-breaker” has not driven cases down.

The Fraser Health region continues to drive transmission. The modelling shows the health authority could see 1,500 cases per day by the end of April if indoor social contacts remain consistent.

Surrey continues to be one of the key COVID hotspots in the province. The average daily rate of cases in the city is around 46 new cases per 100,000 people. Abbotsford is the second highest hot spot in Fraser Health, with 35 new cases per 100,000 population. Anything over 20 out of 100,000 is noted as a hot spot by the province.

Variants now make up an estimated 65 per cent of all new COVID cases in the province. This is a massive surge from just nine weeks ago when variants first took hold in the province.

The P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil, now makes up 49 per cent of the province’s variant cases. The B.1.1.7 variant, originally detected in the U.K., makes up 50 per cent of the variant cases.

The B.1.1.7 variant continues to be dominant in Fraser Health, making up nearly 75 per cent of all the variant cases in the province. The P.1 variant dominates spread in Vancouver Coastal Health, making up about 70 per cent of variant cases that health region.

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The recent surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 has been linked to people aged 40 to 59 years old. Hospitalizations are highest among those aged 60 to 79, but are followed very closely by those 40 to 59.

Overall case counts continue to be driven by those aged 19 to 39. People aged 40 to 59 are the second most common group for transmission.

The Howe Sound local health area, which includes Whistler, continues to be the highest point of transmission in the province. The region is at nearly 80 new cases per 100,000 population.

The Peace River South region, including Dawson creek, is second in the province at 60 new cases per 100,000.

Windermere and Revelstoke, in Interior Health, have also been noted as hot spots.

On Wednesday, the independent BC COVID-19 Modelling Group did released its own modelling. The contributors to the report include UBC mathematical biologist Sally Otto, Dean Karlen from UVic and TRIUMF, Caroline Colijn from SFU and Jens von Bergmann from MountainMath.

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The independent modelling found the growth of variants of concern (B.1.1.7 and P.1) have driven recent rise in cases and transmission must be reduced by at least 40% to control case growth.

The researchers also found hospitalization numbers are projected to rise above capacity in May, unless virus transmission is brought under control and that the vaccination program needs to target those with the most contacts so that infection and hospitalization rates can be reduced over the next two to three months.

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