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B.C. to 'soon' stop providing daily virus case counts

B.C.'s top doc says the BCCDC is working on how it will track the virus as an endemic.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at one of her COVID-19 media briefings, with Health Minister Adrian Dix in the background.

Daily updates from the provincial government on COVID-19 case counts will soon be a thing of the past, as B.C. winds down and transitions its surveillance of the virus’ transmission.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday B.C. will be moving to a weekly coronavirus report “very soon” rather than the five-day-a-week updates that have defined the pandemic for two years.

And as the province slowly increases accessibility of take-home rapid tests and tightens access for lab testing, Henry says the BCCDC is working on how it will track the virus as an endemic.

Existing monitoring systems for influenza will grow to include COVID-19, while wastewater testing surveillance will be expanded to include not just COVID-19 but other pathogens as well.

Henry said they will also be examining if they can use routinely collected blood for monitoring purposes.

“These are all things that we're adapting and modifying what we're doing now as we're in this transition phase,” she said.

The government stopped reporting active virus caseloads last month.

While some other provinces completely remove pandemic related restrictions, Henry says B.C. will be moving more cautiously.

“We will make the decisions based on what we're seeing under data that we're seeing here and are pandemic at the time,” she said. “At the same time, I am very optimistic that we are moving to a better place rapidly.”

B.C. has said current restrictions will be reviewed by March 15, with the expectation that they will be loosened somewhat prior to spring break.

When asked how enforcement of current restrictions is being handled — primarily the vaccine passport and masking — Henry said the province “is trying to shift to personal responsibility and business responsibility.”

While health-care workers across B.C. continue to call in sick at above-normal rates, those figures are falling every week.

From Feb. 21 to 27, a total of 13,631 B.C. health-care workers called in sick for any reason. 2,517 of those were in Interior Health. That is down from 17,158 during the week of Jan. 31 to Feb. 6.

“Each week, the number is lower, although it's still above what we would normally expect at this time of year,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

Dix also noted that from Feb. 20 to 26, there were 99 non-urgent surgeries postponed in B.C. — 92 of them in Interior Health.

That is down from 320 surgeries postponed between Feb. 6 to 12 in B.C., 231 of which were in the Interior Health region.

Dix said all health authorities in B.C. are now rebooking postponed surgeries.