By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter
On June 4, for the first time since COVID-19 appeared in the north, there were no active cases – 64 people in total had tested positive and 64 people were recovered – a welcome milestone that suffered a setback a couple days later when one additional person was diagnosed with the disease.
“That really reflects the work of communities and the work of public health in the north,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix at a COVID-19 briefing on June 4. “For the people in the north, the fact that the cases we’ve identified and tested positive are all resolved, is good news.”
In the last several weeks, new cases have declined across every region of the province. As of June 8, the single active case in Northern Health was recovering at home.
“We’ve all been doing the right things,” said Henry, “and we need to continue doing them.”
Besides Northern Health, all cases in the Island Health and the Interior Health regions were also declared fully recovered. On June 6, B.C. had one new case for a total of 193 active cases, all in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal regions. Of the total 2,272 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, 167 people have died.
“The last 14 days really have been low levels of transmission in most parts of the province,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry during a technical briefing that outlined the trajectory of cases over the span of the pandemic. Many cases in the north related to people returning from travel and others who attended a conference in the lower mainland, she said.
While the north wasn’t ultimately as hard hit as the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal regions, public health experts were vigilant throughout since an outbreak in a small community could have been devastating.
“One can look back retrospectively and say that was relatively little compared to what we might have expected,” said Dix. “But the risk in the north was always a consideration… the risk of isolated communities, always high.”
At one point, said Henry, there were 25 cases per 100,000 population in areas of the north, and even higher case rates in the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap.
Throughout the pandemic, the Public Health Office and health authorities have refused to identify specific communities where people had tested positive. Instead, the Province encouraged British Columbians to assume the novel coronavirus was everywhere and practice social distancing and handwashing hygiene.
The latest modelling data broke case occurrences down into smaller geographic areas but cases were still not shown community-by-community. The Northern Interior, which includes Prince George and the Robson Valley, had 36 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in total, including four positive cases in the last two weeks.
“We are working on how we can present this data in a way that gives you a better representation of the impact on smaller communities around the province,” said Henry. “We will be having that more granular data available publicly in the coming weeks.”
Some communities were harder hit, she said.
When asked if the province should reopen the economy differently in different geographical regions, Henry said, no. B.C. Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson had suggested a staggered opening to allow for earlier openings in areas with less incidence of COVID-19.
“We’ve done this as a coordinated provincial effort,” Henry said. “We all have the same low risk at the moment.”
While new case rates are limited, people are still moving around and cases are emerging from Alberta and via essential workers crossing the Canada-U.S. border.
“There’s nothing that we would do differently in the north right now than we’re doing everywhere else,” said Henry.
Fran Yanor/Local Journalism Initiative