RICHMOND, B.C. -- Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says early adoption of measures like wearing masks and staying physically distant helped keep the COVID-19 caseload relatively low in his city.

New data released by the province shows Richmond has the lowest number of cases, per capita, in all of Metro Vancouver.

Brodie says he noticed people in Richmond changing their behavior as early as January, around Chinese New Year.

“By that time, which was far earlier than the major alarm and the shut down, probably two months before, the crowds at events were noticeably smaller,” Brodie said. “I believe that a big part of it was the fact that we have a very large Chinese population in the City of Richmond, that they were aware of what was happening in the infected areas of China and that they knew the dangers that were being faced.”

Dan Coombs, a professor of mathematics at UBC, is less convinced of that conclusion. While the data does indeed show that Richmond has a lower number of cases per 100,000 residents than other cities, Coombs says it’s difficult to say if early adoption of COVID-19 measures is the reason.

“It had the potential to be a useful thing,” Combs said. “I wouldn’t say there was anything wrong with that, but, scientifically, it’s hard to know what the actual downstream effect of that was.”

He adds there are some other takeaways from the new data. Both South Vancouver and the North Shore had a high concentration of cases, but Coombs says those areas also have a high number of long-term care facilities.

“You would have to subtract those numbers out to get a sense of the general community transmissions in those specific areas,” he said.

Elizabeth Borycki, a health information science professor at the University of Victoria, has a different take on the data. She believes having this kind of information allows officials to compare measures used in different cities and see what’s working and what’s not.

“It’s a lovely way of sort of saying, ‘You know, where are the best practices? What can we do to find out what they are and then try to apply them in other areas so we can achieve the same kinds of results?’” Borycki said. “I think a lot of this is very important because if we encounter other types of disease in the future once this pandemic is resolved and other ones emerge … we can take this information and pass it on to the next group of individuals to prevent the spread of other types of diseases.”