B.C. experiencing a 2nd ‘ripple’ of COVID-19, says Dr. Bonnie Henry, as cases confirmed at Mulgrave School

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is experiencing a “second ripple” of cases of COVID-19 and she is looking at bringing in new measures to help curb the spread of the virus.

At the beginning of the pandemic, health officials and epidemiologists predicted a second wave of the virus, possibly connected to colder weather. Now, modelling predicts a pattern of cases more like ripples or “moguls,” as Henry has previously called them, that will spike upwards when enough people in a population become complacent around physical distancing measures.

“I think we’re probably in our second ripple,” said Henry, speaking to CBC’s The Early Edition on Tuesday morning.

“Partly, it’s because our testing has gone up and we’ve had contact with larger numbers in younger people. And I think people needed a bit of a release during the summer. It was very extreme measures that we took in March and April, and it was very concerning for people.”

On Tuesday cases were confirmed among staff and students at a private school in West Vancouver.

In a letter to parents, the head of Mulgrave School, John Wray, wrote that the exposure occurred while Grade 9 students were away from campus for an off-site day camp experience.

Vancouver Coastal Health is now conducting contact tracing and those students and staff are self-isolating for two weeks. The students were all part of the same learning group, and the camp activities took place outdoors, with physical distancing measures in place.

“We have had such a successful start to the year. This event may feel like a setback, but such exposures are expected and we have faith in the system that Vancouver Coastal Health has put in place,” wrote Wray in the letter.

Additional restrictions under consideration, Henry says

Henry said B.C. residents must focus on keeping that ripple relatively low, especially as students return to school. Asked whether the province would consider reimposing restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, she said she is currently looking into what measures could be brought in.

“We’re looking at that carefully and what are the measures that we can take to reduce the riskier environments — and we’ll be looking at that in the next few days,” she said.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix previously asked B.C. residents to pull back on social interactions as the fall approaches, but have not imposed new, formal public health orders on gatherings.

B.C.’s restrictions began to ease in mid-May, as public health orders were gradually lifted. B.C. entered Phase 3 of its pandemic response plan in late June, allowing for travel within the province.

By mid-July, cases had begun to climb steadily upwards, and B.C. recorded its highest single-day jump in new cases on Aug. 28. 

B.C. health officials are scheduled to provide an update on B.C.’s latest COVID-19 numbers at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.