Why B.C is flattening the COVID-19 curve while numbers in central Canada surges

When compared to other provinces across Canada, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has been more severe in both provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Meanwhile in British Columbia data is showing that the western province has flattened the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In comparing the number of confirmed cases or number of hospitalizations in these three provinces, it is evident that the novel coronavirus has steadily grown in Ontario and Quebec. However, in British Columbia, hospitalization and active cases have grown very slowly and almost flattened in the past week. 

While many believe that both timing and a bit of luck are part of the equation to slowing down the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases, others believe that leadership may also be a large contributing factor. 

Many are wondering how is this possible and how was this feat of “flattening the curve” was done. British Columbia’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr Bonnie Henry, went on record to say that its “very hard to know exactly why” when asked by reporters. “Some part of it is luck, some parts of it are being prepared”. 

From what is currently known, it was reported that B.C. was able to learn from having a few isolated cases in January and February. Also, the province has been lucky in the sense that it did not have a viral “spreader” of the COVID-19 virus which has been seen in other provinces.

Preparation is key

Another reason that could explain the phenomenon is that the province of B.C. was able to act quickly and “take a lot of measures early” as explained by Dr David Fisman, an epidemiology professor at the University of Toronto. The professor further explained that the lines of communication were able to quickly scale up and implement a unified response relatively quickly.  

In other words, this meant that a coordinated response and message to the public had already been underway before the outbreak and before COVID-19 caught the attention of politicians. 

When compared to other provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, it took the province some time to get everyone on the same page in regards to “flattening” the curve and implementing measures to slow down the spread of the virus. 

Timing of Spring Break

In regards to the timing of spring break, British Columbia was very fortunate that the province had originally scheduled the spring break week for later in the month of March than most provinces. In advertently, this allowed for the province to learn from other provinces and thus act more quickly in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“We learned from Quebec…Their March break was two weeks earlier than ours, and people were coming back…from places like France, and coming home from March break and getting sick” said Dr Bonnie Henry. 

As such, from their observations, the government in British Columbia recommended against all non-essential travel outside of Canada on March 12, 2020, much earlier and more quickly than other provinces. 

Dr Bonnie Henry’s Role

While Dr David Fisman credited the government of British Columbia for their role in implementing early measures to prevent community transmission of the novel coronavirus, he also believes that the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer played a critical role as well. 

“Bonnie Henry stays at press conferences and answers the questions … and doesn’t shade the truth. She’s frank and honest and emotional with people,” said Dr Fisman.

“And given that part of this response depends on being altruistic and doing the right thing to help other people who we will never meet, having a leader who can articulate how we’re all in this together and make a convincing case for why you need to do your part … is very important.”

Additionally, with Dr Bonnie Henry’s experience in overseeing both the outbreak of SARS and H1N1 in Toronto, her knowledge and experience played a key role in helping the province slow down the spread of the viral COVID-19 virus.

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