COVID-19: Good news as B.C.’s reproductive rate falls below one

Despite stubborn hospitalization rates, each case of COVID-19 in B.C. is now transmitting, on average, to fewer than one person

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The reproductive rate that determines how British Columbia is faring in the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen below one for the first time in months, the provincial health officer said on Thursday.

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This means that for every 100 cases of the disease it is being passed on to fewer than 100 people, and so can slowly dwindlet.

“For the first time in several months across the board we’ve dipped down below one,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“What we have been seeing is sort of bouncing around at one, which means for every person who’s infected, they infect one other person on average. Now we’re seeing that below one. That’s good news, but it’s just below one, which means that we have right now a fragile balance. We’re going down slowly.”

There were 596 new cases of COVID-19 reported over the past day and eight deaths. There are now 4,451 active cases of the disease in B.C., of which 438 are being treated in hospital including 130 in intensive care

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Henry’s COVID-19 modelling update showed a vast difference in infection and health outcomes between vaccinated people and unvaccinated.

For example, 60 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 in October were from among the 10 per cent of people aged 12 and over in B.C. who had not received at least one dose of vaccine. Also, 72 per cent of hospitalized cases in the same month were among unvaccinated, as were 90 per cent of all cases in intensive care.

“When we look at vaccination progress, we can see that we’ve made tremendous progress across the board. So we are at about 90 per cent coverage of people over the age of 12 and that is fantastic,”Henry said.

“But it also reflects that that small percentage of people left still has a tremendous burden on our health-care system.”

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She said that half of the 2,200 COVID-19 deaths so far were in unvaccinated, and those who were vaccinated and died tended to be older people.

Henry said the rate of infection in those aged 11 and under was continuing to fall, after spiking when children returned to school at the start of September. Data showed that the rate of infection is especially high in the Northern Health region where vaccine hesitancy is also high. The percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive in Northern Health at the moment is 18 per cent compared to four per cent on average across the province.

Henry said that COVID-19 was now a preventable disease and the risk of getting very sick from the virus was dramatically higher for people who are not yet vaccinated.

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She said that hospitalization rates in B.C. were “stubborn” and were not falling despite the rate or transmission falling below one. This is because the Delta mutation of COVID-19 that is dominant in the province caused more severe illness than the virus that first arrived in B.C. in January, 2020.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver school board has joined Surrey schools in a decision to not impose a mandatory vaccination order on teachers and staff.

dcarrigg@postmedia.com


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