Is B.C. flooding affecting the province's COVID-19 numbers? Not yet, Health Ministry says
Though flooding and mudslides have displaced thousands of B.C. residents and made travel difficult, the provincial Ministry of Health says it has not seen an impact on COVID-19 testing rates in disaster-affected areas.
"We know that the weather emergency has caused delays in transport and affected people’s ability to travel, and are working to minimize disruptions on COVID-19 testing and care," the ministry said in a statement provided to CTV News Vancouver.
CTV News raised the issue with the ministry after noticing a drop in the number of tests reported both province-wide and in the Fraser Health region in the days since the atmospheric river that triggered landslides and inundated several communities across B.C.
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 Dashboard, the province conducted 10,334 COVID-19 tests on Sunday, 9,641 on Monday, 11,826 on Tuesday and 14,062 on Wednesday (the most recent date for which data was available).
Each of those numbers is lower than the total from the corresponding day during the previous week, though not always significantly lower.
For example, the 9,641 tests conducted on Monday, Nov. 15 - when many of the worst effects of the atmospheric river that struck the province were just being realized - was only about 550 fewer than the number conducted on Monday, Nov. 8, when there were no significant road closures or evacuations in B.C.
In contrast, the largest gap in reported test totals was between Tuesday, Nov. 16 - which saw 11,826 tests - and Tuesday, Nov. 9, which saw nearly 3,500 more.
While these fluctuations were all in the same direction - downward - that doesn't necessarily reflect an inability to access testing due to floods, according to the ministry.
"COVID-19 testing rates fluctuate daily, so it is important to look at the trend over time," the ministry said. "It can be difficult to distinguish a true change in the testing rate beyond the usual fluctuations, and to determine how much of that change is due to one specific cause."
The ministry also noted that new cases, new tests and test positivity had all been declining before the flooding began.
B.C.'s rolling seven-day average for new coronavirus infections has been declining in recent weeks, reaching a three-month low during this week's flooding.
The rolling average for test positivity has also been declining, albeit slowly. It was 3.7 on Wednesday, down from 3.9 the previous week.
"There has not yet been an impact on COVID-19 testing rates in the flood-affected regions, but we are monitoring the situation for any changes," the ministry added.