New B.C. COVID cases continue to decline

New cases slowing, but coming long weekend will be critical

New COVID-19 cases dropped again Thursday, although there were two more deaths reported since Wednesday.

There were 34 new cases since Wednesday, when new cases were at 45, bringing the total to 1,370. Hospitalizations are also down slightly – 132 compared to 135 Wednesday, although intensive care numbers are slightly up – 68, compared to 61 Wednesday.

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The lowest daily increase this week was 25 on April 7.

There were two additional deaths, bringing the total to 50. Of the total confirmed cases of COVID-19, about 63% of those infected have recovered.

British Columbia will enter a critical period this weekend in its efforts to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-18 virus.

Daily case numbers over the past few days have suggested B.C. is approaching a critical inflection point in getting the spread of the virus at a plateau point.

But the Easter long weekend could frustrate the efforts British Columbians have collectively made over the past month, if people do not continue to self-isolate this weekend.

With an Easter weekend coming, sunny weather and encouraging signs that B.C. is close to flattening the curve, people may be tempted to have backyard barbecues, take their boats out fishing, hold Easter egg hunts, host big family dinners or otherwise celebrate the long weekend by getting together with others.

That could undo much of the progress made to date to contain the virus, and prolong the containment measures now in place.

“We are not over the hump yet,” said public health officer Bonnie Henry, who urged people to stay home this weekend. "We just need people to hold the line."

Earlier today, the federal government publicized a national model of the pandemic in Canada that estimates there could be 500 to 700 deaths by April 16 across Canada.

Asked why the provincial modelling also doesn't project death rates, Henry said the rates in the federal model are not projected deaths, and suggested it's "not particularly helpful" to try to predict things like death rates.

"Those are models," she said. "They are a range of possibilities of what could happen. It's not projecting what is happening. Death data is not something that is easily projected into a model because scenarios can be different."

To date, the death rate in Canada from the virus is 2.2%, and intensive care admissions 6%, according to the federal model.

Based on total confirmed cases and total deaths, B.C.’s death rate appears to be higher than the Canadian average – about 3.6% as of April 8 - but its intensive care numbers are slightly lower: 4.6%.

B.C.’s death toll is skewed by the fact that the first two major outbreaks were in long-term care homes. The elderly are especially vulnerable to viral infections.

"We have a high proportion of deaths in those outbreaks," Henry said. "That doesn't reflect the general transmission of this virus in our community."

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said 30 of the 50 deaths in B.C. were in long-term care homes.

That's one of the reasons that there are such grave concerns over the fact that long-term care workers in B.C. often work at multiple care homes, raising the risk of spreading the virus between them.

The government has issued an order that requires long-term care home workers to work at only one facility. That will have an impact on the amount of money those workers will earn, so the government is providing a top-up to ensure they don't experience financial hardship as a result of the new order.

Dix said it is estimated that that top-up could cost the government $10 million per month.

Given that COVID-19 cases are less concentrated in some areas, and appear to be flattening in general, Henry was asked if there may be a relaxation of some of the current restrictions, based on things like geography.

Henry confirmed she is looking at an approach that would lift restrictions in some areas.

 "We will be tailoring as best we can to what's happening in the different areas that we know of," she said.

She added there will be more to say on that next week.

Here are the daily case counts for April 9, compared with numbers from April 8 in brackets:

New COVID-19 cases: 34 (45)

BC Total: 1,370 (1,336)

Hospitalized: 132 (135)

Intensive care: 68 (61)

Recovered: 858 (838)

Deaths: 50 (48)

Confirmed cases by region:

* Vancouver Coastal Health: 626

* Fraser Health: 508

* Island Health: 82

* Interior Health: 130

* Northern Health: 24

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