In a week that B.C. has broken records four times for highest daily COVID-19 numbers, Fraser Health’s top doctor is reminding people that “even small gatherings are risky right now.”
Dr. Victoria Lee told reporters Thursday (Oct. 22) that as of the day prior, Fraser Health’s cases accounted for 70 per cent of the total provincial cases.
Fraser Health, she said, has more than 1,400 active cases.
“The context there is that we are still doing better than many parts of Canada and other countries, however, we cannot let our guard down. The majority of the new cases are linked to known cases and clusters,” said Lee.
“Community-related clusters and outbreaks have been connected to private gatherings, social events, such as weddings and work places. Transmission from these events can also spread to health services and health facilities and I think from we have seen, so far, even small gatherings are risky right now.”
In Thursday’s briefing from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced 274 new cases in the past 24 hours, with 203 of those in Fraser Health.
“Weddings, funerals and other life events need to be small, as small as possible,” Henry said, noting the gatherings should be limited to one household only, and at max a pandemic bubble of six or fewer.
On Monday (Oct. 19), Henry in her briefing said “there’s a number of different reasons” why cases in Fraser Health, specifically south of the Fraser, are so high.
“Some of it is spread within large family groups, inadvertently, but there’s also a large number of essential workers,” explained Henry, “so many of our poultry producing plants, the fruit-producing plants, the large congregate living settings for farm workers, many health-care workers and others, truckers and other essential services are people who live or work in those areas.”
In Surrey, there have been 1, 814 cases in the city between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, with 809 of those in September.
Through to the end of July, there were just 521 cases, and by the end of August, there were 1,005 cases reported.
As for rate of COVID-19 cases, Surrey is seeing 200-plus per 100,000.
The BC Centre for Disease Control has been releasing monthly data on case breakdowns by municipality since the end of July.
Lee said she acknowledges there have been “a lot of sacrifices and people are mostly doing the right thing.”
What the health authority is seeing now, she said, is “transmission in different types” of households and events, such as weddings, gender reveals and funerals.
Asked if those events are happening in homes or at businesses, Lee said it was “a mixture.”
“Some of them are occurring at home and some of them are occurring in other settings, in businesses.”
She said some of those events are taking place “over multiple days with multiple groups of people,” adding that Fraser Health, and the rest of B.C., might be seeing some of the impacts of the Thanksgiving weekend.
With that, she said people might also not be interpreting the provincial health orders in the way that they should be.
“Oftentimes, people believe they are doing the right thing, however, I think it’s interpretation of some of the rules that exist as well as the potential for spread,” she explained.
“When you have six different people that you see every different night, then it is again, multiple different contacts. It’s not the consistent six that we should be sticking to.”
Lee did note that Fraser Health is the largest health authority in B.C., serving 1.8 million people, with 20 municipalities.
She said the health region is a “mostly” urban and suburban population, with a small rural population.
“And COVID has, whether it’s in Canada or elsewhere, seems to have spread much more easily in urban settings.”
Fraser Health’s rate of cases, she said, is 53 per million per day, while the Canadian average is 62 per million per day.
“It’s not surprising in terms of our population size and the types of spread that we are seeing in the community, but it doesn’t mean it’s not concerning. It is quite concerning because of the rapid increase of the number of community cases that we have.”
– With files from Katya Slepian