Taking temperature: May 4 COVID-19 update

There are 53 new cases of COVID-19 and 3 new deaths from the virus in BC since Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 2,224. Of those cases, 845 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority region.

There are 77 people in the province with the virus who are hospitalized, of whom 20 are in critical care.

In today’s briefing, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry discussed the ongoing community outbreaks in BC as well as the latest modelling of the province’s pandemic.

Cases continue to arise in connection with the outbreaks at three Lower Mainland poultry processing plants. There are now 35 cases connected to the United Poultry plant, 54 cases connected to the Superior Poultry plant and 7 cases connected to the Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry plant.

The outbreak in the federal correctional facility in Mission continues to expand and there are now 121 inmates and 13 staff who have tested positive for the virus.

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Citing dynamic modelling data that shows what effect different amounts of physical contact could have on the transmission of the virus, Henry stressed that it was important not to increase in-person contacts too quickly.

The public health measures the province enacted in mid-March have reduced in-person contacts to around 30 per cent of what they had been prior to the pandemic. An increase in those contacts to up to 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels would result in an increase in cases and continued hospitalizations, but in a manageable amount, said Henry.

An increase in contact to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, however, could result in a rapid increase in cases that could overwhelm the healthcare system.

Henry also discussed the effectiveness of different kinds of infection control that will form a part of the province’s public health strategy going forward. Most effective is physical distancing, followed by “engineering controls” like plexiglass barriers between customers and cashiers, then “administrative controls” like making it easier for employees to stay home when ill and finally personal protective equipment like face masks.

With the province set to release a more detailed plan for relaxing restrictions later this week, Henry expressed optimism about the potential for increased connections in the near future, but cautioned that doing too much, too soon could have dangerous consequences.

“This is, I believe, the end of our beginning of this pandemic. We do not yet know what’s going to happen, but we know that we have some room to increase our social connections, to increase our school and daycare and childcare,” she said.

“Until we have all of the pieces in place, though, it’s very important that we continue to do what we do right now, because we know it’s working, and it’s saving lives in our families and our communities.”

Stay up to date on UBC information related to COVID-19 by visiting ubyssey.ca/covid-19, the websites of the BCCDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada or the World Health Organization. The province has set up a dedicated COVID-19 phone line at 1-888-COVID19 or you can text 1-888-268-4319. For updates on UBC’s response to COVID-19, visit ubc.ca/campus-notifications/.