B.C.'s top doctor says the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province is not ticking upwards as rapidly as it had been recently.
"We had been moving up and we've now, cautiously, started to turn that corner," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference on Monday.
She urged people to keep their social circles small and local, particularly as Thanksgiving approaches, to continue the trend.
"We can't start increasing risky contacts right now, because we know we're heading into respiratory (illness) season," she said.
The average daily number of infections stemming from each confirmed case has declined and is now just under one, said Henry, as she presented the province's latest epidemiological modelling data.
The so-called reproductive number "shows us that we have slowly come down in the number of infectious contacts that each case generates," she said.
However, Henry cautioned that some people "shed a lot of virus" and have potential to spread the illness to higher numbers of people.
Kids under 18 remain underrepresented among new cases despite increased testing in response to schools reopening, said Henry.
"What we're not seeing is schools amplifying transmission in the community," she said, noting that seven in 1,000 tests associated with schools result in a diagnosis of COVID-19.
"Many children are requiring a test because they have symptoms, and this tells us that there are other things causing those symptoms that are circulating in our communities right now, including some of the cold viruses and regular things we see this time of year."
The latest data shows 50 out of 1,942 schools across B.C. had recorded exposures to COVID-19 as of last Thursday and Henry said there have been 14 more exposures since then.
The data shows many exposures came early on, suggesting the infections started prior to the start of the school year.
The number of weekly COVID-19 tests completed in B.C. overall is up 15 per cent from last week to just under 532,800.
The modelling data comes as Henry reported that 358 new cases of the illness have been detected in B.C. since Friday.
There are 66 people in hospital and four more people have died after contracting the illness.
Henry noted the hospitalization rate is significantly lower than earlier in the pandemic — a change she said reflects broader testing and also increases in cases among young people.
"We have a consistent, lower number of people in hospital now than we did earlier on in our first wave," she said.
B.C. has reported 9,739 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, of which 1,353 are active.
Henry discouraged travel and said guidance for special gatherings, such as Thanksgiving, Halloween and Remembrance Day, is now posted on the website for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
The Fraser Health Authority also announced Monday that the hospital in Delta is not admitting new inpatients due to an outbreak of COVID-19, though the emergency department remains open and all scheduled surgeries will continue.
The health authority, which operates Delta Hospital, says patients requiring care outside those units will not be admitted "for the time being" to protect them from the risk of transmission.
Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, chief medical health officer at Fraser Health, said 18 patients and 17 staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the outbreak first identified on Sept. 16.
She said seven patients have died after contracting the illness inside the hospital, while several of the staff cases stem from transmission outside the hospital in the broader community.
The outbreak is contained to a single unit and floor and no new patients have been admitted to that area since the outbreak was declared, Brodkin told a news conference.
She said patients who need to be admitted for further care will be transported to a different hospital in the region.
Fraser Health says enhanced prevention and control measures remain in place after being implemented at the start of the outbreak and contact tracing is ongoing to prevent further transmission.
Henry said there are new COVID-19 outbreaks at three long-term care homes, where one staff member in each facility has tested positive.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2020.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press