The number of new COVID-19 cases in New Westminster appears to have dropped over the past week – but that’s likely because of changes to B.C.’s testing regime.
The newest B.C. Centre for Disease Control data shows 303 new cases in New Westminster between Jan. 4 and 10, with a daily case rate of 52 per 100,000 population.
That’s a significant decline from the previous week (Dec. 28 to Jan. 3), when the BCCDC showed New West with 535 new cases and a case rate of 91 per 100K.
That number, however, may mean relatively little.
In recent days, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has downplayed the importance of the number of new cases as an indicator of the state of the pandemic – in large part because the province's system of getting tested has been overwhelmed. Henry has advised vaccinated people with mild illnesses to simply isolate and not try to get tested (an official advisory that’s reflected on the Fraser Health website for residents of the region, which stretches from Burnaby to Boston Bar).
The stay-home strategy is intended to provide added capacity for provincial testing officials to focus on those vulnerable for more serious illness, Henry said.
The new testing system is likely why New Westminster’s numbers have not continued to climb – and why B.C.'s official number of new COVID-19 infections has not been at record levels since Dec. 30, when the pandemic record of 4,383 cases were detected.
A better indicator of the pandemic picture may come from test positivity rates, which remain high throughout the Lower Mainland. New Westminster’s test positivity stood at 37% between Jan. 4 and 10, essentially the same as the week before (36%). Prior to the Omicron surge, the city's test positivity rates had remained in single-digit territory.
Provincewide, active infections have risen in each of the past 18 government data updates and reached a record high of 36,087 as of the Jan. 11 update.
– with files from Glen Korstrom