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)

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

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Harvest Food Bank’s Zero Waste program. (Travis Winterwed file photo)
Zero waste program continues to drastically help the North Island

The zero waste program means that Save-On Foods no longer throws anything out.

Black Press file photo
Investigation at burned Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

“it’s believed that the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby is the deceased”

The Rein Forest Riders fence in Hyde Creek was damaged by a vehicle on the night of Jan. 15. (Lynn Iskra Facebook photo)
Port McNeill RCMP looking for suspect who damaged Rein Forest Riders property in Hyde Creek

“it’s certainly unfortunate, and it’s going to be a tough one because nobody saw anything.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Most Read