The sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be abating in New Westminster, as local case counts have dropped for the second week in a row.
Between May 8 and 14, the city saw 19 new COVID cases in the official public count, down nearly 30% from 27 new cases the week before. The decline follows a surge in April that saw local case counts hit a 10-week high.
Official public case counts don't reflect the actual number of COVID-19 cases in B.C., since the vast majority of people have not been eligible for testing since the beginning of 2022, when case counts shot up dramatically in the face of the original Omicron wave.
Locally, though, New Westminster's trend line had generally been on a downward trajectory from January until April, when it spiked again — meaning that, among the small group of people actually eligible for official PCR testing, the number of cases is now on the way down again.
With the decline, the city seems to be following a provincewide pattern. This past week, the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group said it was seeing a decline in the second Omicron wave around the province.
“What we are seeing — which is great news — is signs that the BA.2 wave is declining,” said modelling expert Sally Otto, an evolutionary biologist and mathematical modeller at the University of British Columbia. “We’re seeing [the decline] in the wastewater, we’re also seeing it in the number of cases over age 70."
But she did sound a note of caution, saying the decline means numbers have dropped from sky-high levels to almost sky-high instead.
Metro Vancouver test positivity rates coming down
As of the latest BCCDC COVID data, test positivity in New Westminster stood at 19% — down slightly from 20% last week, when it dropped from 26% the week before.
New Westminster's test positivity rates are much better than the opposite side of 10th Avenue, where southeast Burnaby sits at 32%. But other parts of Burnaby are lower, with the southwest quadrant at 22%, northeast at 21% and northwest at 19%.
In the Tri-Cities, Port Moody/Anmore/Belcarra has the lowest positivity rate, at 14%, with southeast and southwest Coquitlam both sitting at 17%, Port Coquitlam at 19% and North Coquitlam at 23%.
Neighbouring Gilmore/Shellmont/East/Hamilton in Richmond, meanwhile, has dropped to just 8%.
Surrey's positivity rates have also dropped, with North Surrey coming in at 11%, Whalley at 12% and Guildford at 14%.
Who can get a COVID-19 PCR test in B.C.?
Testing for COVID-19 is only available to those who meet the eligibility criteria.
According to the Fraser Health website (as of a May 16 update), testing is recommended for people who have symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection and who fall into one of the following categories:
- People for whom testing is clinically indicated (people who are pregnant, hospitalized or moderately to severely immunocompromised).
- People with conditions that put them at high risk.
- People 70 years of age or older who are fully vaccinated, with three or more chronic conditions that increase the risk of severe illness or hospitalization.
- People 50 years of age and older who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and who have three or more chronic conditions that increase the risk of severe illness or hospitalization; or people 50 to 69 years of age who have not yet received their booster dose and have three or more chronic conditions that increase the risk of severe illness or hospitalization; or people age 70 years and older who have not yet received their booster dose and have one or more chronic conditions that increase the risk of severe illness or hospitalization.
- Individuals who self-identify as Indigenous.
- Individuals who live or work in high-risk settings.
Where can I get a COVID-19 rapid test in B.C.?
If you aren't eligible for public testing but you want to know if you have COVID-19, rapid antigen tests are available for free through participating community pharmacies for all adults aged 18+.
To find a New Westminster pickup point near you, check out this list by neighbourhood.
Students in kindergarten-to-Grade 12 schools around B.C. have also been given one five-test kit apiece through their schools.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is no longer collecting reports of positive cases from at-home tests, so rapid test results are not reflected in official case counts or positivity numbers.
– with files from Cindy Harnett, Times Colonist