COVID-19 positivity rate hits all-time high in B.C. amid fewer tests

Click to play video: 'Interior Health expects rise in COVID-19 cases following holidays' Interior Health expects rise in COVID-19 cases following holidays
Projections going into the holidays show coronavirus numbers are trending in the right direction in British Columbia. And we have the potential to flatten the curve significantly if we keep up what we're doing. But as Keith Baldrey reports, we're on the eve of two tests that could spiral us in the opposite direction if we don't follow the rules – Jan 6, 2021

Though fewer British Columbians were tested for COVID-19 over the holidays, the positivity rate has reached an all-time high.

Data provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control through its online COVID-19 dashboard shows that B.C.’s seven-day average positivity rate is 8.8 per cent, as of Dec. 30.

The Interior Health region is in line with provincial trends as its positivity rate was also 8.8 per cent as of Dec. 30, which is the most recent data available.

Read more: Coronavirus: B.C. positivity rate ‘concerning’, but threshold for restrictions not useful, says SFU epidemiologist

The per cent positive is the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive. The rate helps public health officials understand community transmission and formulate testing strategies.

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B.C.’s COVID-19 positivity rate has steadily climbed since an average of only 1.2 per cent of tests performed came back positive in early October. Interior Health’s rate has also climbed since its average low of 0.3 per cent in early October.

Click to play video: 'Should you get tested for COVID-19?' Should you get tested for COVID-19?
Should you get tested for COVID-19? – Dec 17, 2020

The Northern Health region has by far the highest positivity rate in the province at 15 per cent, while Vancouver Island has the lowest at 2 per cent. The Fraser Health region sits at an average of 10.5 per cent of samples testing positive.

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The increase in positive tests comes as fewer samples are actually being collected.

Data collected by the BC Centre for Disease Control shows B.C.’s 7-day rolling average test positivity rate is at an all-time high. BC Centre for Disease Control

Last month, B.C. recorded its highest number of tests on Dec. 15 with 15,200 new tests performed, but that number dropped by almost half to just 8,003 tests completed on Dec. 30.

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Read more: Vancouver data analyst believes B.C. COVID-19 positivity rate closer to 10%

Interior Health reached a daily high on Dec. 5 with 1,669 samples collected, but just 881 tests were performed on Dec. 30.

Graphs show daily COVID-19 case counts are declining, and the curve is bending, but B.C. health officials have warned fewer people getting tested could be driving the downwards trend.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said case counts will likely climb this week as the holidays are over and more people might opt to get a test.

Click to play video: 'Behind the positivity rate of B.C.’s COVID-19 testing' Behind the positivity rate of B.C.’s COVID-19 testing
Behind the positivity rate of B.C.’s COVID-19 testing – Oct 28, 2020

“Partly it’s people don’t want to be tested and have to isolate before this holiday, which is worrisome because we know that people are getting together — some people — and even if it’s just your household … you may bring this into your household and spread it to them,” Dr. Henry said on Dec. 29.

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Meanwhile, testing turn-around times have improved.

The B.C. average is 20 hours to get your test results back, as of Dec. 30, and the turn-around time is similar in Interior Health.

At its peak in early October, the average test turnaround time in B.C. was 55 hours.

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