bc covid deaths

This is why people are no longer dying from COVID-19 in British Columbia

As of Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m., the province of British Columbia reported its sixth straight day with no new deaths from COVID-19 — something that has yet to happen for even one day in Ontario and Quebec.

And while they were the first province in the country to have a case of the virus earlier this year, they've recorded only 167 deaths and 2,694 cases to date, 183 of which are still active. 

Many have called the province's response to the pandemic the most successful in the country thus far — so how did they do it?

Experts have tried to understand how this happened, and the theories range from early testing, to clear messaging, to early travel restrictions, to luck. 

Back in April, when B.C. had already began achieving success in the face of COVID-19, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters her thoughts on why things were going so well. 

"Part of it was our early testing strategy, having a very wide net for testing, part of it is preparedness, part of it is timing," she said. "Part of it is, frankly, luck."

Dr. Henry first advised against travelling on March 12, which was earlier than other provinces. She also asked returning travellers to self-quarantine for 14 days on that date, and she made it clear that schools would all be closed following March break. 

She was firm in her messaging and decisions since the beginning, and her experiencing working as part of the SARS response in Toronto, on the Ebola crisis in West Africa and co-authoring Canada's pandemic preparedness plan are all thought to have played a role. 

Many think early, aggressive testing is one of the top reasons for the province's success, as they managed to turn testing results around in 24 hours and avoid a testing backlog "by sourcing key chemical reagents for test kits within the province," Stephen Hoption Cann, a public health professor at the University of British Columbia, told Reuters in early April

They also moved quickly to address issues in long-term care homes, which have been the epicentre of other provincial outbreaks

"They took decisive action, did it early without hesitation and communicated effectively," Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist in Toronto, told the New York Times last week. "People listened to her."

But while B.C. has undoubtedly had more success in its handling of the virus compared to other Canadian provinces, the pandemic isn't over yet. 

Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist and assistant professor at the University of Manitoba, told Maclean's that it will likely only be possible to really know what other factors — such as weather or even a population's tendency to do more outdoor activities — have played a role in each province's COVID-19 response once the global health crisis is truly over.

Lead photo by

Hospital CLINIC


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