B.C.'s top health officials gave a COVID-19 modelling update Friday, providing more insight into where the disease is spreading in the province.
Dr. Bonnie Henry presented the data alongside Health Minister Adrian Dix during a morning news conference, revealing that transmission is still happening overwhelmingly among 20 to 49 year olds.
B.C.'s seven-day average showed that those aged 20 to 29 have seen the most dramatic drop in cases in the past week or so. But Henry said that age group is still where the highest rate of transmission is happening.
"We did see a steady decrease leading up to the Christmas break, but then a rapid increase related primarily to social events that were happening over that break," she said, adding that people between the ages of 20 and 49 are "driving the pandemic."
Henry said social gatherings and interactions as well as workplaces are where transmission is happening most in that age category.
People aged 50 to 59 saw a slight increase, as did those aged 70 to 79.
"Really importantly, we are finally seeing a concerted and continuous decrease in transmission and cases in people over age 80," Henry said.
"That is very gratifying for us as it reflects the protection we've been able to provide people, primarily in long-term care."
Also notable, school-aged children have not been testing positive as much as older populations, which health officials have repeatedly cited as a reason for keeping schools open.
From Sept. 7 – which is when schools opened – to Jan. 31, 4.8 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in B.C. have been children aged five to 12. Another 5.9 per cent of cases have been youth aged 13 to 18.
Children aged five to 12 make up 7.7 per cent of B.C.'s population, while those aged 13 to 18 make up 6.2 per cent.
Officials compared the curve of cases recorded in B.C. among all ages to those aged five to 18. While there was a slight increase in cases in that younger age category, that only began in late October, which is when positive tests in the entire province spiked.
Where is COVID-19 spreading?
Now that it's been more than a year since B.C. recorded its first case of COVID-19, provincial health officials are able to look at the spread over a 12-month period.
Cumulatively, COVID-19 hotspots by population have been recorded in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions since January of last year. But some other areas outside the Lower Mainland have also seen high case counts, based on the size of their community.
According to the latest modelling data, these areas have seen more than 2,000 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 12 months:
- Howe Sound
- Bella Coola Valley
- Burns Lake
- Fort Nelson
While the Fraser Health Region as a whole has seen the most COVID-19 cases over the past 12 months – with 6,908 cases per 100,000 recorded – the region has seen fewer cases per capita in the past week.
In fact, four other health service areas in the province recorded more cases daily per 100,000 people than the Fraser Health Region did.
"What we've seen recently is a steady decreasing in Fraser Health, which is really great news, but an increase in some of the other health authorities, particularly the Interior and the north," Henry said, adding that Vancouver Coastal Health has also seen increases recently.
What's happening with the COVID curve?
As health officials have said on numerous occasions over the past couple days, the COVID-19 curve in B.C. is slowly trending downwards.
Cases reached record-high levels in November, when the highest daily case count in the entire pandemic reached 911 on Nov. 27. Since then, cases began decreasing, with a slight uptick after the winter holidays.
The data shows, however, that cases have started decreasing again slowly.
"We did see a bit of a blip again early in January related to transmission over the holidays and we've now flattened and slowly started to decrease," Henry said during the briefing.
Even so, Henry announced restrictions on social gatherings will continue to "buy time" for the province while vaccines are being distributed.
"Right now we need to stay the path," she said Friday.