A new map of British Columbia charting people confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 shows the highest concentrations of the virus in the communities in and around Vancouver.
On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry released the most-granular statistics to date on where people who contracted the coronavirus in the first eight months of this year live.
Central Surrey and Abbotsford, southeastern suburbs of Vancouver, each had more than 450 residents with confirmed cases. North Vancouver, the neighbourhoods of Downtown and South Vancouver, and the region covering the central Okanagan tourist destination of Kelowna all registered more than 200 cases during this period.
Dr. Henry said the map only tracks where infected people live, not where they may have contracted the virus, and that many of the hotspots seem to be driven by the outbreaks in long-term care facilities and food-processing plants. For example, the eastern Vancouver suburb of Mission recorded 158 cases, but, as Dr. Henry noted, it also includes an outbreak at the medium-security federal prison where 120 inmates were infected.
“It is one piece of information that can help people at a community level; I do say, again, it doesn’t tell the whole story,” Dr. Henry said.
Richmond was one of the most-populous communities with the lowest caseload, registering just 103 cases in the small districts labelled on the map as Local Health Areas by the various health authorities. Richmond’s low numbers mirror a previous data dump from the province in June showing case counts across larger regions overseen by the health authorities.
These two sets of data show that Richmond, where more than half the population is ethnic Chinese, has by far recorded the lowest percentage of COVID-19 cases per capita in the Greater Vancouver area. In the past, Dr. Henry has ascribed the precautions taken by the Chinese community, such as high rates of wearing masks, as contributing to the low transmission in the city.
(While early cases in the province were linked to travellers returning from China and Iran, official data then showed strains traced to Europe, Eastern Canada, Washington State and other parts of the United States became responsible for most of the COVID-19 infections in British Columbia.)
In Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced one new death of a resident of a long-term care home and 68 new confirmed cases over the past day, bringing the province’s total active infections to 906.
According to Dr. Henry’s rough breakdown, about a third of B.C.’s new cases are related to house parties or nightclubs, bars or restaurants. Another third come from people getting infected by family or friends, she said. And the rest come from workplace clusters, outbreaks in the nursing-home sector, or domestic and international travel.
Dr. Henry said, regardless of which community you live in, B.C.’s case counts are low and public-health officials are finding less than 20 per cent of new cases are from community spreading not linked to other known cases.
“Across the province, the rates of prevalence … are very low relative to any other jurisdiction in the world,” she said.
With schools set to return soon, this should give people confidence that children and their families will remain safe, she added. Administrators, health authorities and teachers also learned “really practical operational things about what worked and what doesn’t work,” during a small period of classes in June, Dr. Henry said.
B.C. had been reluctant to share more detailed data about where people who have the virus are living because of concerns over privacy.
“Early on, we gave broader geographic areas because there were such small numbers that people would be identified if we knew somebody had travelled to a certain area or come back from a cruise ship, for example,” Dr. Henry said.
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