Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, works on a daily summary at her office in Victoria, April 18, 2020. (B.C. government)

COMMENTARY: COVID-19 modelling useful, but not a crystal ball

B.C.’s chief health officer explains risk of relaxing too soon

By Dr. Bonnie Henry

VICTORIA – Now that we are well and truly into our COVID-19 pandemic response, many people throughout British Columbia and Canada have similar questions and concerns.

How bad is it going to get? How long do we have to be physically distant from others and put aside our regular routines? When can we get back to work, see our loved ones and book social events? I understand the anxiety and frustration that comes with this uncertainty.

One of the tools we in B.C., as well as other provinces and the federal government, have used to understand these issues is modelling. In late March, British Columbia was the first province to share its modelling. We contributed to the national modelling in early April, and have now released our latest report.

RELATED: B.C.’s latest COVID-19 modelling shows curve flattening

RELATED: Summer parades, fairs off the table for 2020, Henry says

COVID-19 hit the world like a Category 5 hurricane. The most recent B.C. modelling shows us that in the face of this storm, we have made considerable progress in our province. We have experienced significant damage, but are still standing strong.

I want each of you to know that this is for one reason: The immense efforts that you have taken to ‘batten down the hatches’ by being physically distant from others and following the orders and restrictions in place, are truly making a difference.

I also want everyone to know that we are in the eye of the hurricane right now, and to fully weather this storm, we must remain 100% committed.

The modelling from B.C. and elsewhere clearly shows that if we relax our measures too soon, we will face more severe and unnecessary damage.

So how does our modelling help? To begin, we must understand that modelling is not a crystal ball. Instead, it is a useful tool to understand the many situations that we in B.C, as well as people around the world, are in, and the many approaches being taken to flatten the curve. Here in B.C., we also use dynamic modelling to assess what is happening right now, in our province and around the world. This helps guide our decision-making for the future.

We are only as strong as our weakest links in society, so modelling also allows us to look over our shoulders at past indicators to see how we’ve done in our attempt to protect people. We can decide what we need to prepare for, and what we can fix right now. Modelling also helps us determine how much longer we need to protect our communities with physical distancing.

It is important to understand that all models are inherently imprecise, because they use assumptions that are based on imperfect data, and there is no way for us to know for sure what’s going to happen tomorrow. What we can attempt to see from modelling, though, is how we might influence the curve of a model ourselves, every day, by being extra careful about our physical distancing and other proven measures like cleaning our hands, covering our coughs and staying home when sick.

In B.C., we are committed to updating our modelling regularly so that everyone can see whether our efforts are successful, day to day, and what our possibilities are compared to other places in the world. We will continue to publish our ongoing epidemiologic curve, case counts and our test-positive rates each day on the BC Centre for Disease Control’s website.

In our latest presentation, we provided even more data: we have shared the demographics and the epidemiology that tell us who has been affected most by this virus – the age ranges, the locations and various types of epidemiological information – to help everyone get a better picture of who, where and when people in B.C. have been affected.

We are being transparent and open with this information because, as I know well, we all need hope and we all want to know how our actions are making a difference.

I also want to remind everyone that physically distancing from others does not mean being alone or without aid. Reaching out online and allowing community members to help in these challenging times can make a world of difference.

We want everyone to stand united and stay strong. Every British Columbian has a part to play in flattening the curve and making a difference. Let’s all continue together to be safe, be calm, be kind and do the right thing.

For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit: www.bccdc.ca or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.

For the provincial health officer’s orders, notices and guidance, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/phoguidance

For non-health related information, including financial, child care and education supports, travel, transportation and essential service information, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19

Or call 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Dr. Bonnie Henry is B.C.’s provincial health officer.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services for Comox Strathcona Waste Management. Black Press file photo
Comox Strathcona cutting tax requsition for region’s waste management

Staff also expect to transfer savings associated with COVID-19 to reserves

Coral Gaurk and Chelsea Masters of Little River Childcare are hosting a “stuff the bus” fundraiser for the Knights of Columbus Christmas Hampers in the Thrifty Foods/Campbell River Comon parking lot on Saturday, Dec. 12 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Photo contributed
Stuff the Bus for Campbell River’s Christmas Hamper Fund

Little River Childcare is hosting a “stuff the bus” fundraiser for the… Continue reading

The City of Campbell River sits on the shore of Discovery Passage and is back by the mountains of central Vancouver Island and Strathcona Park.
Funding available for downtown Campbell River building safety changes

Funding is available for property owners and business operators interested in changing… Continue reading

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until at least Dec. 7 due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Klahoose First Nation’s COVID-19 response working

Community testing comes back negative after week of lock down

Campbell River’s emergency shelter is opening again on Dec. 4, 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Campbell River Emergency shelter opens today

20 of 22 beds available due to COVID restrictions

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Most Read