How superspreader events have contributed to B.C.’s recent COVID-19 surge

Click to play video '“Superspreader” events help BC post new one day record for COVID-19 cases' “Superspreader” events help BC post new one day record for COVID-19 cases
B.C. set a troubling record Wednesday for the number of new COVID-19 cases, topping 200 for the first time. – Oct 22, 2020

As B.C. had a record-high number of new daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, health officials have noted that many new cases stem from superspreader events such as weddings and funerals.

“A wedding is meant to be a time of celebration, yet weddings and other important life occasions are a significant source of community transmission; transmission that has spread to health-care facilities, workplaces, and schools,” reads a joint statement from the B.C. government on Wednesday.

Click to play video 'B.C. sets new record for daily COVID-19 cases' B.C. sets new record for daily COVID-19 cases
B.C. sets new record for daily COVID-19 cases – Oct 22, 2020

“Now is the time to keep these celebrations small and to plan for bigger family gatherings at a time when we are no longer putting our seniors, elders and others at risk.”

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More than 70 per cent of new cases over the past five days have been in the Fraser Health region, notably in Surrey, Langley and Delta.

“Some of it is spread within large family groups inadvertently, but there’s a large number of essential workers,” Henry said Monday.

Carolyn Colijn, an infectious disease modeller in Simon Fraser University’s department of mathematics, said she thinks the record numbers are not driven by a marked increase in testing, and signs are “consistently pointing in the direction of increasing community transmission and rising cases.”

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“I think this is really continued transmission in the kinds of places we know COVID can spread,” she said.

What is a superspreader event?

Superspreader events have popped up across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forty-nine out of 63 guests who attended a recent wedding in Calgary contracted COVID-19.

Click to play video 'Wedding professionals fear ‘superspreader events’ will impact industry' Wedding professionals fear ‘superspreader events’ will impact industry
Wedding professionals fear ‘superspreader events’ will impact industry – Oct 21, 2020

A Hamilton spin studio recently reported 61 cases of COVID-19, one of the biggest outbreaks of the coronavirus attributed to a business in Canada.

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A study out of Hong Kong found that around 19 per cent of COVID-19 cases were responsible for 80 per cent of transmission events, while 69 per cent of cases didn’t infect anyone.

Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness recently told Global News not everyone who tests positive for the virus will infect others.

Click to play video 'What is a superspreader event and are gyms still safe?' What is a superspreader event and are gyms still safe?
What is a superspreader event and are gyms still safe? – Oct 14, 2020

However, Furness added that in certain conditions, one person can cause many others to get sick, leading to superspreader events.

“A superspreader event will tend to happen when people are sharing airspace indoors for prolonged periods of time with poor ventilation … That describes restaurants, bars and gyms to a large degree,” Furness said.

Read more: Top doctor says B.C. in ‘second wave’ of COVID-19, with 499 new cases over three days

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Henry said earlier this week that B.C. is in its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She reminded British Columbians that they can help control the trajectory of the outbreak by keeping social interactions low so schools and scheduled surgeries can continue.

The province is warning more enforcement can be expected in the coming weeks if individuals and businesses don’t adhere to safety protocols.

“I think the answer, unfortunately, for now has to be we need to be toning down and really pulling back from some of those crowded indoor gatherings,” Colijn said.

— With files from Catherine Urquhart, Nicole Brumley and The Canadian Press