New COVID-19 modelling projects new cases may continue to rise

Trending in wrong direction

New epidemiology modelling released by the province projects the number of new cases of COVID-19 may continue to rise through the summer.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's said during her Thursday briefing, the numbers are based on assumption recent trends will continue.

Trends, she says, which have been driven by younger people in their 20s and 30s.

"We are on an upward trajectory. That is concerning, but it's not a predictive model," said Henry.

"It doesn't tell us what's going to happen, it tells us what could happen.

"Right now, we have it in our ability to make the changes we need to bend that curve back down. We can bring that down through safe contacts, keeping our distance and keeping our numbers down, and when we can't keep a safe distance, to wear a mask."

Models, which have tracked the coronavirus through the province since its outset, have shown a sharp uptick in the number of cases involving those people between the ages of 20 and 39.

Dr. Henry said in the early stages through the middle of May, there were a large proportion of older people infected, mainly through outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

Once the province started to reopen in mid May, she says that started to shift to younger people as the province got a better handle on long-term outbreaks while younger people became infected mainly through workplace outbreaks, such as poultry plants and correction facilities.

Beginning in mid June, Dr. Henry says there was a much broader increase in younger people, "mainly due to events...driven by people gathering and having social connections."

"We moved from having household contacts and being involved with outbreaks, to having a shift in the connection and exposure sites where younger people were getting exposed and infected."

She pointed specifically to places such as bars, clubs, parties and other social gatherings.

At the present time, those in the 20 to 39 age group account for 35 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province, while making up just 27 per cent of the population.

While the younger age group is driving much of the increase in cases, Dr. Henry says we have to be careful about demonizing young people.

"Most young people are doing the right thing. They are socially responsible, they care a tremendous amount about their communities and their families. We have to be careful about tarring everyone with the same brush."

The good news, Dr. Henry says, is around contact tracing and testing.

She says most cases are in clusters.

"There are very few people we don't have a link to, despite the increasing numbers. That's a testament to work being done by health teams around the province."

The number of tests being conducted is also going up.

Over the past week, she says more than 11,500 tests were performed - 3,800 in the last 24 hours alone.

The turnaround time for most test is less than 24 hours.

Dr. Henry says the province's lab capacity is also good, and continues to build up as we move toward fall.

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