COVID-19 modelling: Every region in B.C. seeing fewer than 10 cases per 100K people – except one

The rate of daily COVID-19 cases has fallen below 10 infections per 100,000 people in every region in British Columbia except one, according to the latest modelling data.

The numbers show that only the Grand Forks local health area, in the province's West Kootenay region, experienced a higher case rate during the week ending on June 7. The area recorded just under 16 infections per 100,000 during that time.

"In some of those small communities, the case rates can be quite high even though the numbers are small," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. "But this reminds us that there still can be transmission if we're not careful."

Meanwhile, several local health areas of B.C. recorded zero cases that week, including the Bella Coola Valley and northern Vancouver Island. Most areas of Vancouver were below five cases per 100,000 people, with the exception of the city's northeast.

By comparison, there were 23 local health areas across B.C. recording upwards of 20 infections per 100,000 people in the week ending on April 10.

Thursday's modelling data also revealed the reproductive rate – the number of additional COVID-19 cases generated by each new infection – has fallen below one in every health authority region of the province for the first time in months. B.C.'s rolling weekly average has dropped to 161 per day, down from a record of 1,130 back in April.

Henry credited the province's immunization program, as well as the public's co-operation in abiding by COVID-19 health orders and guidelines, for the progress.

"Community transmission, hospitalizations and deaths are all declining as immunizations go up," she said. "The key to our success is everybody, it's all of you. First, to lessen the spread and then to get immunized."

The dramatically reduced transmission rates already allowed the government to relax several COVID-19 restrictions last month, and Henry indicated the public can expect more measures to be lifted next week. Health officials will be addressing the province's next steps at a news conference with Premier John Horgan on Monday.

The latest modelling also included projections suggesting that B.C. could see COVID-19 cases increase over the coming months, depending on the public's rate of infectious contacts and how many more people get vaccinated.

The worst-case scenario included in the projections involves "lower vaccine uptake" and a contact rate of 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels – which would mean a steady increase in cases through July before they begin to decrease again in August.

Even in that scenario, Henry said COVID-19 cases are "not going to be widely transmitted in our communities the way that we've seen before."

When COVID-19 transmission began to skyrocket back in March, as the province entered its record-breaking third wave, B.C. was lacking sufficient vaccine protection, Henry said.

"With the immunization and the protection that we have in our communities across the board, and with the public health measures that we know work … we can manage a slight increase in cases as we move forward over the next few weeks," she added.

Deaths remained relatively low during the third wave as well, something health officials credited to the targeted immunization of vulnerable seniors when vaccine supplies were low.

B.C. has now administered 3,823,103 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, including enough first doses to cover about 75 per cent of the adult population.

One of the government's targets for entering the next phase of its restart plan was getting 65 per cent of adults partially vaccinated.

The next step, which is likely to begin early next week, could involve opening up non-essential travel across the province, expanding the allowable size of outdoor personal gatherings, and reopening movie theatres.