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Plan to pack away your mask by summer: B.C. health officials

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
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December 09, 2020 - 4:38 PM

The curve appears to be flattening and a vaccine is on its way, but don’t plan on packing away your face mask until next summer, B.C.’s top doctor said today.

After announcing the preliminary vaccine distribution plan, Dr. Bonnie Henry said today, Dec. 9, an additional 619 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last day. That brings the total in B.C. to 39,337 people who've been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 81 people in the Interior Health region.

There are 9,329 active cases around the province, including 338 people who are in hospital, 75, of whom are in critical care or ICU.

Today, another 16 people died from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 559 people since the start of the pandemic. The majority of these people were elderly and in long-term care.

Given that the vaccine is trickling into the province slowly, these people are still in harm’s way for a while.

“It probably takes about 60 to 70 per cent of the population with this virus... that's what the modelling tells us is needed for people to be protected,” Dr. Henry said. “Then the virus has a very hard time finding a new person to infect that isn't already protected.”

That’s when we reach “herd immunity."

“When we reach that place, that is when transmission can be stopped, and my experience with past pandemics is once we reach that place transmission goes down very rapidly,” Dr. Henry said.

“For those who remember H1N1 2009, by the time immunization started, we had a dramatic decrease in our epidemiologic curve, and I am hopeful that that will happen once we reach a certain threshold with this virus in terms of timing,” she said.

“That means we're looking at the summer or into the fall of next year... obviously I don't know all the details and how it's going to work but if everything goes as planned that's where we're looking at. So I think we're going to have a very different and much more social summer.”

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