B.C. on track for record new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations by September: scientists

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New COVID-19 cases are on track to “soon” eclipse record numbers if urgent action isn’t taken to curb transmission, according to an independent group of scientists and data experts monitoring the pandemic in B.C.

The BC COVID-19 Modelling Group issued its latest report on Wednesday, which also warned that children would be disproportionately affected in the growing fourth wave.

The report, authored by experts at UBC, SFU and UVic, concludes that getting the province’s vaccination rate to 90 per cent of the population will not be enough to curb surging numbers on its own.

According to the report, case numbers in B.C. have been growing exponentially, doubling every nine days — with growth in all health authorities.

The authors warn that without action to curb transmission, new case numbers could top their April third-wave high by September, and continue rising rapidly throughout the fall.

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With the Delta variant helping spread COVID among the unvaccinated, children are of particular concern, it notes.

Amid loosened COVID-19 restrictions and rising community spread, “transmission within schools could increase sharply without control measures in place,” it warns.

It also disputed earlier assertions from provincial officials that cases had “decoupled” from hospitalizations, noting that the fraction of cases that end up in hospital had remained steady throughout 2021.

“We do not expect this fraction to drop with vaccination since most cases and hospitalizations are in unvaccinated individuals and asymptomatic vaccinated infections are likely not reported,” the report states.

As with overall case numbers, the model projects total hospitalizations would surpass their spring highs by early September without action to curb transmission, and continue rising to exceed available and surge bed capacity throughout the fall.

The report stresses that its model is not a forecast or prediction, noting that multiple factors — government action chief among them — could serve to alter the trend line.

The report calls for urgent action to push first doses of vaccine back up over 20,000 per day until 90 per cent of the population is vaccinated, but says provincial measures to curb the spread of the Delta variant will also be required until that threshold is met.

Even if the province enacted new restrictions next week, the model projects daily case numbers topping 2,000 through much of September.

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