VCH medical health officer outlines COVID-19 statistics

Dr. Geoff McKee hosts online broadcast for Powell River and lower Sunshine Coast

Powell River region has had fewer than five COVID-19 cases and there are currently no active cases to report, according to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) medical health officer Dr. Geoff McKee.

In previous information provided to the Peak on July 3, VCH did not specify if the cases in Powell River were active or if the patients had recovered.

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In a half hour-long Facebook broadcast on July 7, McKee outlined Sunshine Coast statistics and took a number of questions from viewers of the forum.

McKee said provincially, there has been a flattening of the curve.

“It speaks to the willpower and the great work that British Columbians have done to not only flatten the curve but to suppress the curve in many ways,” said McKee. “The numbers have gone down quite dramatically.”

McKee said in the past, there have not been specific numbers of COVID-19 cases shared related to some of the smaller communities. He said there have been confidentiality issues, and where there are small numbers, health authorities have to be careful about sharing them.

“Even if we’re not using names, it can be challenging,” said McKee. “But now that we are a few months in, I want to share some numbers and these have been reflected in some of the articles that have been posted in Powell River and the Sunshine Coast.

“In general, the rural parts of Vancouver Coastal Health have seen very few cases. In fact, it has been about three per cent of the total cases seen in VCH.”

McKee said on the lower Sunshine Coast, not including Powell River, there have been six lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all of 2020 and in Powell River, fewer than five, in all of 2020.

“I can’t give the exact numbers because often in epidemiology where we are doing any kind of population surveillance, we tend to suppress numbers under five because when they get really low they can identify people,” said McKee. “But that at least gives you a sense.

“What I will say is there are currently no active cases that we are following in these regions. We’re not aware of any cases that we are following at the moment.”

McKee said VCH knows about cases that get tested, but there may be other cases where people haven’t been tested. He said earlier on in the outbreak, there were more restrictive testing guidelines, so this just gives an idea of what the case numbers look like. He said he thinks this reflects how low the case numbers are in the community.

“I really think this highlights the exceptional work by everyone in the community to implement control measures and protect themselves, their families and their communities,” said McKee. “I continue to be impressed by the work that folks are doing and I think it really shows how we control things throughout the province and the communities.”

He said irrespective of the numbers, British Columbians need to continue to be vigilant and take precautions.

“There will continue to be risks until we get a vaccine or treatment so it’s important to continue to follow the public health measures,” said McKee.

“We have very low levels of community transmissions throughout the province and at this point we can restart many things in a safe way. However, we still need to take precautions and listen to public health advice.”

Some of the general guidance that people need to adhere to include things like staying home if sick and getting tested, said McKee. He added that there have been various changes in the testing guidance, which stipulates that anyone with any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and these can include mild symptoms, can get tested. He said it is not recommended to test asymptomatic people at this time.

“I recommend anyone that has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 not only stay home from work or school or other things, connect with your health-care provider or call 811,” said McKee.

He reminded listeners that good hand hygiene is important, as well as limiting contacts and physically distancing from others outside of people’s households.

“Make sure to use common sense and to go to that new normal, not the old normal,” McKee said.

McKee then took a number of questions from people watching the Facebook broadcast.

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