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Experts warn B.C. on track to exceed record highs of new COVID-19 infections come fall

The B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group is calling for increased safety measures to curb the spread
A 60-year-old COVID-19 patient fights for his life, desperately gasping for air as health-care staff provide life saving medical care in an emergency situation in the intensive care unit at the Humber River Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Surveys from the Ontario Medical Association suggest nearly three-quarters of physicians experienced at least some level of burnout when asked in 2021, up from 66 per cent the previous year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A new report from the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group says that new infections of COVID-19 could exceed record highs come September unless actions are taken to curb the spread of the virus.

The group of experts from leading B.C. universities are calling for the province to expand vaccination to 90 per cent of B.C.’s total population, but warn that vaccination alone won’t be enough to avoid a potential crisis. Therefore, the modelling group is calling for measures to reduce contact rates and transmission.

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“Relaxation of measures can take place once vaccine immunity is sufficient to prevent growth of delta infections,” the report states. “It is urgent that action be taken to reduce transmission and expand vaccination coverage, in order to avoid overwhelming BC’s medical system.”

This chart from the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group’s report shows potential peaks of COVID-19 infections to come in the fall if no actions are taken. (B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group photo)
This chart from the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group’s report shows potential peaks of COVID-19 infections to come in the fall if no actions are taken. (B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group photo)

Unlike in previous waves, children will be disproportionately impacted during this wave, the report notes. Children under 10 are nine per cent of the population, but 36 per cent of the unvaccinated population. Children under the age of 12 are expected to suffer higher rates of infection than those 12 and up because they are currently ineligible for vaccination.

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The experts predict that with measures largely removed, community transmission will be higher and that will drive transmission in schools as well. They add that the 2020/21 school year is not a good model for the coming school year.

COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise across the province. The report says that the rate of infection has been doubling roughly every nine days, growing at a rate of eight per cent per day.

“Community Health Service Areas with 70 per cent vaccination have five-fold higher case counts than those with 90 per cent vaccination among those eligible,” the report states.

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With rising COVID-19 infections will come increased rates of admission hospital and ICU. The experts dispute the provincial government’s claim that hospitalizations are “decoupled” from rising infections because a bulk of the new infections are among unvaccinated people.

The experts caution that their modelling data is not set in stone and if the province enacts increased COVID-19 safety measures, they can avoid the worst-case scenario.

But with schools set to come back — and the earliest date for Step 4 in the B.C. Restart Plan — set for September 7, it’s unclear what, if any, measures the province will enact in the coming weeks.


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