B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she is now concerned as the number of new COVID-19 cases are on an upwards trajectory.
The province reported 102 COVID-19 cases over the past 72 hours, with new virus cases in every single health region across B.C.
A large portion of these were attributed to a series of social gatherings in which young people, particularly those in their 20s or 30s, have been gathering and partying in more than one group.
In particular, a series of clusters has been detected in the Kelowna region where parties and gatherings have thus far led to over 60 positive cases in the past week.
As B.C. entered Phase 3 of the reopening plan, allowing for travel within the province this summer, Dr. Henry says more cases were expected but that people are no longer connecting in safe ways.
“We are at a turning point. We right now show some concerning upward trends in our infection rate and our reproduction rate. We are on the edge,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry at a briefing on Monday.
At the height of the pandemic in B.C., each COVID-19 patient was reported to have had no more than three or four contacts, making it easy for public health officials to trace contacts and make sure those who was exposed to the individuals could self isolate.
However now, Dr. Henry says some people are up to 20 to 30 contacts, and the average number of contacts per person is back up to 11 or 12, meaning the virus is at risk of spreading to more and more people who may be carriers but are oblivious to that fact.
The province is now on the verge of a rebound in cases as the transmission curve is no longer flat, prompting more urgent calls for enhanced physical distancing and hygiene measures.
According to Dr. Henry, B.C. is currently at an estimate of 65 to 75 per cent of normal contact rates which, modelling suggests, could mean greater transmission if that rate is not brought down to below 70 per cent.
In light of these rising transmission rates, Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging young people to be her voice on social media and encourage their peers to keep sticking to the measures that have thus far helped the province successfully keep COVID-19 rates low.
Those who are exposed to the virus must stay away from others until they are done with their 14-day incubation period. Anyone who has symptoms or thinks they may have been exposed to the virus is urged to call 8-1-1 and get tested.
“We can contain this but we need people to be aware of it and take preventive measures and stop that next party where someone inadvertently brings it in and spreads the virus,” said Henry.
Later this week, the province is expected to announce new restrictions and guidelines for clubs and bars to prevent outbreaks and exposures at those businesses.
This is because, according to Dr. Henry, alcohol lowers people’s inhibitions, making it difficult for them to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.