B.C. ‘cautiously optimistic’ about COVID-19 forecast, but warns hospitals could still be overwhelmed

B.C.’s top doctor says she is optimistic that social-distancing measures put in place are helping to “level off” the spread of the novel coronavirus, but warns hospitals could still be overwhelmed by a rapid increase in cases.

On Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry released modelling data that shows what could happen under different scenarios as the pandemic continues.

According to provincial data, B.C.’s transmission rate has dropped from 24 per cent to 12 per cent due to physical distancing and travel restrictions.

“That tells us we are cautiously optimistic. We are levelling off,” Henry said.

“I am recognizing we are still having ongoing transmission in our community. We are doing a lot of testing and we are seeing cases arise. It is the next two weeks where we would like to see flattening and then decreasing after that.”

Henry says this is a model, not a projection.

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To prepare for possible scenarios, the province has looked at spread in China’s Hubei province, northern Italy, and South Korea.

British Columbia has more than 1,200 ventilators available and an additional 120 have been ordered since inventory was done on March 5.

According to the province, 348 ventilators are currently available in B.C.’s 17 large hospitals, which have been designated as COVID-19 hospitals.

“What we are trying to do is establish our system so everyone gets the best chance to prevent death,” Henry said.

According to the province, transmission rates in South Korea have been lower than those in B.C. Using that scenario, the province has enough room in intensive care units and enough ventilators.

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