COVID-19 test tube. (Via Getty)

COVID-19 test tube. (Via Getty)

COVID-19 moving out of southern Interior and into the north: IH

IH says vaccinations reaching care homes, Big White cluster hard to control, virus spike in Fernie

Cases of COVID-19 are shifting from the South and Central Okanagan into the north, according to local health authorities.

Interior Health (IH) explained in an updated Jan. 20 that COVID-19 numbers in the B.C. Interior are not going down like they are in other places of the province.

Referencing a rise in cases in the Central Okanagan in mid-December, IH said the virus is now moving north into communities that haven’t been as heavily exposed in the past.

Recently the North Okanagan – Shuswap region, specifically Salmon Arm, has been seeing a rise in cases. In the past week, the BC Centre for Disease Control has reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 in Salmon Arm.

Interior Health chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers compared the spread of COVID-19 to a wildfire, saying it’s moving away from places already “burned”, like the Central Okanagan, and into areas that haven’t yet been exposed.

“In some of the other areas, we haven’t seen a lot of fires. There’s a lot of kindling to go out – there’s still a lot of people that haven’t been exposed.”

Virus still in care homes

In the Central and South Okanagan, two COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care homes have been declared over, but outbreaks in such facilities across the region remain prevalent.

In terms of how its entering care homes in IH, de Villiers hypothesized that it could be a result of residents leaving to visit someone, or inviting in an essential visitor.

However there is hope; by the end of the month, IH hopes to have all staff and residents in long-term care homes in the Interior Health region vaccinated for COVID-19.

“We’re looking forward to… the next group. More people will be encouraged to get vaccinated at that point,” said de Villiers. “It’s Canada, so it’s not mandatory to get the vaccine, but we do strongly encourage this.”

READ MORE: Outbreak at Okanagan long term care homes declared over

As of yesterday, IH has administered 14,211 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes individuals at 117 different care homes in the region.

Big White cases still trending upward

Cases of COVID-19 at Big White Ski Resort continue to climb. On Jan. 19 IH reported the total number of cases on the mountain has risen to 203.

“It’s difficult for us to control because it’s mostly in younger people living and working on the hill. There are some other cases as well, but that’s probably the bulk of it,” said de Villiers.

As these young people often live with other people, de Villiers said it’s hard for them to socially distance themselves.

“We’re trying to keep up with it. If everybody follows the rules, and everybody does what they’re supposed to be doing, we should be able to control it. But it’s not an easy one.”

READ MORE: 28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

One-in-five tests come back positive in Fernie

IH also spoke to a reported spike in COVID-19 cases in Fernie.

According to a Fernie doctor, interviewed by The Free Press, there has been a 20 per cent positivity rate following local COVID-19 tests. IH said they’re working to get to the bottom of this.

“We know there has been some activity, so we do have people working on that to get to the bottom of it, to see exactly what is going on,” said de Villiers.

IH explained if something isn’t defined as a cluster or an outbreak, they will not include it in their daily report, but did confirm there has been an increase in COVID-19 ‘activity’ there.

READ MORE: ‘Horrible’: Number of positive tests in Elk Valley on the rise

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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