Vancouver-Westside seeing low COVID-19 case numbers, low vaccination rates

The UBC Vancouver area is currently experiencing some of the lowest rates of COVID-19 in British Columbia, according to BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) data leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week, and more data officially released this week.

Before the May 6 leak, the BCCDC did not consistently release neighbourhood-specific data to the public on COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates. The new information paints a telling picture of the infection rates in the neighbourhood that includes UBC — Vancouver-Westside.

Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC have declined to provide UBC-specific data throughout the pandemic.

The two sets of data — the first from the final week of April, and the second from the first week of May show that Vancouver-Westside has seen low numbers of COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates, but may be seeing a slight increase according to most recent data.

COVID-19 cases in Vancouver-Westside

As of most recent data, Vancouver-Westside has a per capita COVID-19 rate of 10–20 cases per 100,000 people. This shows a slight increase in cases from the last week of April, in which the neighbourhood had a rate of five to ten cases per 100,000 people.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the public health authority in which UBC is located, experienced a nine per cent test positivity rate as of May 6, 0.2 per cent less than the provincial average. However, Vancouver-Westside had a rate between three and five per cent that week, among the lowest in the Lower Mainland.

As of May 6, the rate of spread is 0.7 new cases per patient; any value over 1 would spell an increase in spread and any value under 1 would mean a decrease. This 0.7 value means that cases should continue to decline for the time being.

Vaccination rates

Vancouver-Westside has the lowest vaccination rate in the province, with less than 20 per cent of the neighbourhood’s population having received their first dose. This is likely due to a large proportion of the UBC population not yet being eligible to receive a shot. However, the BC Government has announced that everyone between the ages of 18 and 29 will be eligible to book their first dose this weekend.

Furthermore, the BCCDC estimates that more than 80 per cent of VCH cases in the first week of May were variants of concern. Of that roughly 57 per cent were the B.1.1.7 UK variant and 43 per cent the P.1 Brazil variant, the latter of which most severely affects young people.

More data coming from the province

According to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, this information was initially withheld from the public to avoid complacency and prejudice. Authorities feared that data revealing increased COVID-19 spread in predominantly marginalized communities would lead to an increase in discrimination. They also feared people in low-spread areas would ignore restrictions, counteracting their effects.

However, the BCCDC admitted to CBC News that greater transparency may be desirable, and Deputy Health Officer Dr. Réka Gustafson has since stated that more data will be released going forward, a statement that VCH reiterated to The Ubyssey. The most recent report is one example of such change.

Public health authorities urge everyone — including those living on or near campus — to continue obeying public health measures and to get vaccinated once they have the opportunity.