B.C. preparing to ease some COVID-19 restrictions next month

British Columbia is beginning to develop new COVID-19 projections that could allow them to ease some restrictions next month if active cases and hospitalizations if rates continue to fall.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry made the announcement Friday morning, after the release of detailed statistical information showing B.C. has so far succeeded in flattening the curve of cases and avoided overwhelming the health care system.

That could mean the resumption of elective surgeries within a few weeks, as well as some changes that would help sectors of the economy be re-activated.

However, she cautioned that significant restrictions would still be in place for some time — likely until a vaccine has been developed for the virus — and that B.C.’s continued success in avoiding a large outbreak would continue to rely on public health measures rather than developing herd immunity.

A model released by the B.C. government of how critical care cases for COVID-19 could develop over the coming months based on the level of restrictions in place. (BC Centre for Disease Control)

New modelling

Henry said the province was beginning to develop two new models to help with decision-making going forward — one predicting new cases in the short-term assuming no change in current measures, and one simulating what could happen if levels of physical distancing change.

Using data collected in a partnership between the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and Google Mobility Reports, the province estimates current contacts in B.C. are around 30 per cent of normal.

They currently estimate that COVID-19 hospitalizations could remain relatively stable if B.C. went to between 40 and 60 per cent of regular contacts — but anything more would likely result in a new outbreak.

Health officers also are concerned about a second wave of the virus returning in the fall, and have begun ordering more ventilators and adding to its number of acute care spaces as a precautionary measure.

Much like the province’s first release of modelling information, the province did not release projections for the number of deaths in the province, as other jurisdictions have, as Henry has argued that would not be “useful” to officials’ planning.


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