Health officials announced Friday that the latest COVID-19 wave may be on the downward path in BC.
Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix shared the latest modeling data at a morning news conference, saying they believe the peak of local infection could occur last weekend. Daily cases have recently reached record-breaking levels, mostly due to how prevalent the Omicron mutation is.
CTVNewsVancouver.ca is now streaming the news conference live
The COVID-19 case data in the latest wave does not paint a complete picture of how many people are infected with the disease because BC struggled with its testability. Highly reliable PCR tests are reserved for people who are at risk of serious illness, vaccinated or at risk of preterm labor. Rapid tests, however, are still difficult for most people to access.
As a result, officials said Friday that PCR testing – and therefore counts of reported cases – represents not only a subset of the community, but a high-risk subset with high test-positivity rates. Officials said positive PCR results were declining, saying specific case numbers were not as important as the overall trajectory.
Officials have suggested that transmission is still three to four times the number reported daily.
“We have been on the strength of our PCR tests for several weeks now,” Henry said.
“But it makes sense to us because we’re monitoring PCR testing over time. It reflects changes and patterns over time.”
Additional data shared by health officials has shown that the trajectory of the Lower Mainland is similar to that of other urban centers, where Omicron is dominant, only a few weeks before the latest wave begins a downward trend.
“We can now say with a little bit of confidence that this model shows a continuous decrease and that model reflects what we are seeing in other jurisdictions,” Henry said.
Officials said it was not a big surprise how quickly BC could reach its peak in this wave, showing that the Omicron variant has a shorter incubation period and a shorter illness period.
Another way that health officials track trends in local cases is through wastewater testing. Wastewater screening at five Metro Vancouver plants shows virus detection is down.
Throughout the epidemic, wastewater has been used as a warning sign for COVID-19 in the community and will fill in the gaps when testing is over capacity.
“When we look at wastewater surveillance, it doesn’t depend on who gets tested,” Henry explained. “It’s really a measure of how much virus is in the community.”
Henry said surveillance indicates the peak of the virus in the first week of January, which he said is “very similar” to PCR test data.
Modeling data released by BC health authorities on January 14, 2022. But even when cases are declining, the same cannot be said about hospitalization.
“We are still at a point where our hospitalization rate is rising,” Henry said. “New hospitals (these are) still a concern.”
Officials explained that rates would be delayed compared to infections and that it could be about a week or two before that number declines.