Responding to COVID-19 and Preparing for Future Outbreaks

Responding to COVID-19 and Preparing for Future Outbreaks

Time frame: 2020 – present

The BC Centre for Disease Control is engaging in critical public health research to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in BC. The BCCDC’s public health experts, scientists, and doctors have rapidly responded to prevent the spread of the virus, help save lives, and protect British Columbians. Led by Dr Réka Gustafson and Dr Jat Sandhu, this three-phased, BC-wide initiative has brought together the provincial health authorities, the BC Ministry of Health, and the experts at the BCCDC to protect British Columbia on a population level.

Phase 1: BC COVID-19 Population Health Survey

The BC COVID-19 SPEAK survey was a provincial survey and tool to help public health experts understand public risk perceptions, personal behaviours and circumstances, acceptability of public health measures, and broader impacts of COVID-19—including social, economic, physical health, mental wellness, and resiliency of communities. The survey solicited information about age, sex, race and Indigeneity, income and education levels, as well as geographic location in order to better identify potential vulnerabilities in specific subpopulations.

This coordinated effort, led by the BCCDC, engaged with the Ministry of Health and each of the health authorities to ensure that British Columbians from all corners of the province, and from all backgrounds, were included and represented. The results of this survey will help public health experts better understand COVID-19, the impact it’s had on our population and potential subpopulations, and inform public health strategies moving forward through the pandemic.

Phase 2: BC COVID-19 Serological Survey

Until a vaccine is developed and deployed, herd immunity is our population’s protection against COVID-19. Through serological sampling, BCCDC public health experts will be able to determine susceptibility and immunity within the general population, which will give a clearer understanding of our population’s level of herd immunity. Experts will be able to assess and better understand transmission, and determine how much of our population is vulnerable, or immune from the virus.

By leveraging the survey data from Phase 1, experts will also be able to assess the risk of spread among subgroups, including those who are particularly vulnerable or high-risk, as well as those who may be better protected, such as children.

This work is anticipated to begin in summer 2020.

Phase 3: BC COVID-19 Sentinel Surveillance

Sentinel surveillance is a key component of protection from future waves and outbreaks. This type of surveillance will act as an early warning system for any increases in community transmission. To be launched in the fall of 2020, this will be particularly important as flu season begins—being able to rapidly identify, contain, and suppress cases of COVID-19 will protect us at a point in time when there is an increase in other respiratory illnesses (like the flu).

This type of surveillance is critical to alerting public health professionals, and allowing them to engage in rapid response wrap-around public health services keep our population safe from future waves.


Results from each phase of the research will be updated here as they are released.

As this is an ongoing project, information is subject to change.

You can support this work through our Emergency Response Fund.

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