2021-03-11 Modelling Briefing

Today there was a press briefing about modelling (slides, video).

New Orders

REVISION TO ORDERS: you can now meet up with up to ten friends outside. No change to indoors restrictions.

Also: St. Patrick’s Day drinking has essentially been cancelled.

Dr. Dix reminded us that it’s been one year since WHO declared a pandemic. Dr. Henry went over where we were and modelling to say where we might go.

One slide that surprised me was where the cases had been worst per capita recently:

Yeah, Surrey has been hit hard, but that’s nothing new. But OMG look at Prince Rupert. That’s why they are going to head up and vaccinate everybody there!

This chart shows cases by when the symptoms started (as opposed to when the testing got finished and announced):

Note that it looks smoother than the by-testing-date curves, which I thought was interesting.

Transmission is being driven by working-age people, 19-59. A different way of saying it: “it’s not kids, it’s not retirees”.

Dr. H said there are two cases where most transmission is coming from: small private indoor gatherings (still!) like birthday parties and in workplaces where people can’t separate well like food processing centres.

Note the lavender line (80+) — that has come down quite a bit in response to the aggressive vaccination at long-term care homes.

Percent positivity has been high, but it’s coming down a bit:

There have been a few cases of MISC in kids, but all have recovered:

Deaths per person is historically pretty stable, but there have been about a 5% increase over the historical in Canada. By contrast, the US has a 15% increase. COVID-19 is the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA.

In BC, however, it’s been slight:

We have had a lot of overdose deaths in addition to COVID deaths. 🙁

COVID-19 is now the 8th leading cause of death; overdoses is the 5th leading cause of death. Overdose deaths rank second in terms of years of expected life lost, while COVID ranks eleventh.

Compared to other provinces and countries, we’ve had lower rates than lots of people, while keeping many services (like schools) more open than many others.

Dr. Henry downplayed the Variants of Concern a bit. BC is now sending all COVID+ tests to screening (which takes about a day) to see if they are a VOC, and sending all those to whole-genome sequencing (which takes 3-5 days) to see what kind it is. That means they have a much better handle on what VOC are where (albeit a bit laggy).

She said that she had been very concerned about the increased transmissibility of the variants, but she’s less worried now. Yes, we have to pay attention to them, but we haven’t seen the explosive growth that other countries have seen: what we’ve been doing to keep COVID Classic down seems to have been working to keep the VOCs from exploding.

Most of the variant cases have been in Fraser Health, with a few in VCH, and not much at all elsewhere.

Most are B.1.1.7 (pink) with a few B.1.351s (which look to me like they were almost all several weeks ago (okay, one blue in week 8, which if I count right was two weeks ago).

We do have one cluster of P1, which came from international travel, and I had the impression they thought they had probably put a lid on it.

NB: It looks like the case count of VOCs went down last week, but that’s because they are still processing the data from that week.

BC is still seeing <10% of the cases being VOCs.

The vaccines are getting rolled out, they work, there was a dramatic decrease in cases among both long-term care home residents and workers after 21 days:

Our reproductive number has been hovering around 1:

VCH and FH are the scariest.

We appear to be at about 50-60% of pre-pandemic infectious contact rates. We know we can get down to 40-50%.

Here are the scenarios:

Some are bad, some are good, and really FH and to a lesser extent VCH, we’re looking at you. (<- That’s me talking, not Dr. H.)

Questions:

(Note: these are paraphrases.)

Q: Why are you relaxing the Orders now? A: Because the VOCs aren’t exploding, which shows we can handle it.

Q: There is currently an outbreak at Cottonwood long-term care home, and it turns out a lot of the health care workers weren’t vaccinated, why not? A: Some are new staff — there is turnover — some weren’t available that day, some had understandable concerns about the brand new vaccine. As we’ve been vaxxing more and more, people are getting more confident in the vax. And we go back periodically and get the people who weren’t vaxxed. We’ll get them.

Q: Can kids sleepover indoors over Spring Break? A: No. Indoors bad, outdoors good.

Q: How are we doing in BC w/Long COVID? A: I don’t have that information, that’s distributed at the clinician level. One thing to know is that any time you go into ICU, it takes a while to recover. We are studying this, we’ve got special clinics, we are going to be part of the big studies, we are paying attention.

Q: What about the adverse effects due to AZ? A: They are looking at like two cases in one specific lot to see if it’s related to that lot, AZ has been very safe in all the other lots, and besides we don’t have that lot and we don’t even have AZ from AstraZeneca Corp, the batch we just got is from Serum Institute of India.

Q: Ontario is giving AZ via pharmacies, we gonna do that? A: Yes, absolutely, we have been partnering with pharmacies since like 1999. HOWEVER, because we have such limited supplies, we are going to reserve those fridgeable vaccines for three risky industries:

  • food processing industry
  • work camps
  • farms and nurseries, where ppl living in crowded conditions

We expect to get more AZ in April, and will look at how to expand then.

Q: Will you allow the outdoor Visaki parade this year? A: Not like it has been in the past. We’re working to see how we can celebrate important religious events safely.

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