But health officials and modeling experts maintain the province is on track to fully reopen in September, saying the majority of those cases are unvaccinated people, and the increase was expected as the province eases restrictions on travel and social gatherings. Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Friday that 78% of new cases recorded between June 15 and July 15 were in unvaccinated people. Eighteen percent were among people who had received a dose, while four percent were among people who had been fully immunized.
University of British Columbia evolutionary biology professor Sally Otto said British Columbia must remain “on watch” as cases rise – but community vaccination rates rise remains the most important tool to keep cases low.
Otto said the largest number of new cases are currently in the interior health region – an area of the province where vaccination efforts are lagging slightly behind. So far, 80 percent of all eligible residents aged 12 and over in British Columbia have received their first dose and 57 percent have received a second dose.
“We are seeing a slight increase in cases of unknown source in BC and I think it is because more transmission events are occurring in vaccinated people who have no symptoms,” she said.
The majority of restrictions on life in British Columbia have been relaxed for weeks. On July 1, the province moved to Step 3 of its phased reopening plan, making masks and face coverings recommended rather than required and removed all restrictions on personal gatherings both indoors and out. outside. Visits to long-term care homes returned to normal on Tuesday, provided visitors received two doses of the vaccine.
British Columbia could move to Stage 4 by September 7, which would allow offices to operate normally and events like concerts and sports games to once again welcome crowds.
“I think we’re still on track to be able to announce significant changes to health measures by Labor Day,” said Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Center.
“We will have more cases as people interact with each other. The key here is to identify them quickly and stop them. And at this level, we are still able to count all their cases and monitor their impact. “
Delta variant circulating in British Columbia
Among the biggest unknowns for the future of the pandemic remains the highly transmissible delta variant that is currently circulating in Canada – although a recent study showed that two doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca-Oxford are almost as effective against the delta variant coronavirus as they are against the previously dominant alpha variant.
Dix said about 25% of cases in the indoor health region are the delta variant, with most occurring in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
About 34 percent of people aged 18 to 29 in British Columbia are fully vaccinated – although a majority of people in this age group only became eligible to reserve a second dose in the last few days in the framework of the vaccine deployment according to the age of the province.
Conway said that while he believes the province will fully reopen by the fall, people should see this phase of the pandemic not as the end, but “the end of the beginning.”
“My biggest concern is that people think ‘I just have to do this for five more weeks and then I get back to normal,’” he said.
“As they see the numbers go up, they say ‘it’s not good’ – well, that’s the new normal. There will be cases of COVID and most experts predict a larger bump in the fall as it gets cooler […] As we see the number of cases go up and down, let’s not worry until we see uncontrolled community spread and we’re not far from that at this point. ”