Times Colonist

Is­land surge lev­els off with 27 new virus cases

- CINDY E. HAR­NETT Health · Canada News · Tofino · Twitter · British Columbia · Vancouver · Nanaimo · Parksville · Qualicum Beach · Ucluelet

Pro­vin­cial health of­fi­cer Dr. Bon­nie Henry an­nounced 911 new cases of COVID-19 on Fri­day, an­other record-break­ing daily count. The bulk of those cases are in the Fraser Health re­gion, but Is­land Health saw 27 new cases.

Many of the new COVID cases on Van­cou­ver Is­land have been in the cen­tral Is­land, where the count grew more than 600 per cent from Nov. 10 to Nov. 20. Of the 183 ac­tive cases on Van­cou­ver Is­land, 112 are in the cen­tral Is­land re­gion, with 45 in the south and 26 in the north.

The cen­tral Is­land was see­ing an alarm­ing num­ber of cases, said Dr. San­dra Al­li­son, med­i­cal health of­fi­cer for cen­tral Van­cou­ver Is­land, which in­cludes Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum, Qualicum Beach, Bam­field, Bowser, Gabri­ola Is­land, Port Al­berni, Tofino and Ucluelet.

The ma­jor­ity of in­fec­tions were traced to multi-gen­er­a­tional so­cial gath­er­ings, mainly around Hal­loween. Peo­ple were get­ting to­gether be­yond their house­hold bub­bles to eat, drink and so­cial­ize, said Al­li­son.

Cen­tral Is­land health of­fi­cials used mul­ti­ple forms of me­dia to get out the mes­sage that cases in the re­gion were surg­ing and res­i­dents needed to keep their bub­bles small.

An Is­land Health mes­sage on Twit­ter said: “Hey Cen­tral Is­land, we need your help” and asked peo­ple to stick within their house­hold bubble, wash hands of­ten, wear a mask in in­door pub­lic spa­ces and avoid non-es­sen­tial travel.

“As the re­sult of a large amount of team ef­fort, we were able to iden­tify and iso­late those cases un­til they de­vel­oped symp­toms and be­came cases them­selves and that re­sulted in this very large peak [of cases],” Al­li­son said.

The Cen­tral Is­land has since not seen a sus­tained in­crease in those num­bers.

“We sus­pect that with the ef­forts of those two weeks that we were able to con­tain those cases,” said Al­li­son. “We be­lieve our com­mu­ni­ties are pay­ing at­ten­tion now. I’m not see­ing the sus­tained num­bers that we saw over those past two weeks.”

The rest of the province, how­ever, is fac­ing a pan­demic “storm surge,” Henry said, as it cracks the 30,000 mark for to­tal cases to date.

There are 301 peo­ple in hospi­tal with COVID-19, in­clud­ing 69 in in­ten­sive care.

Henry ap­pealed to every­one from fit­ness-stu­dio pa­trons to church, gur­d­wara and tem­ple go­ers to re­spect re­stric­tions on so­cial gath­er­ings, which are in ef­fect un­til Dec. 7.

She said out­breaks have oc­curred in in­door set­tings such as churches and tem­ples be­cause of so­cial gath­er­ings be­fore, dur­ing or after events.

As for in­door fit­ness ac­tiv­i­ties such as yoga, gym­nas­tics and dance classes, which are on hold, Henry said she hopes to have guid­ance and new or­ders by the end of next week.

“Our teams have been look­ing at the ev­i­dence about this and look­ing at the sit­u­a­tion around the world and to make sure we get things right, so that when they restart, it can be done safely,” said Henry. “It has turned out to be more com­plex than we re­al­ized.”

There are cur­rently 59 out­breaks in B.C. health care fa­cil­i­ties, 54 of which are in long-term care.

On Fri­day, an­other 11 deaths were an­nounced, for a to­tal of 395 deaths in the province. Most of the peo­ple who have died were liv­ing in long-term care, said Henry.

Not­ing on­go­ing ten­sion over a manda­tory mask or­der for in­door pub­lic spa­ces, stores and shared ar­eas in work­places, Henry asked those who pre­fer not to wear a mask to con­sider shop­ping on­line, or­der­ing in food, stay­ing out­side and stay­ing at home.

Henry com­pared the province’s manda­tory mask or­der to wear­ing a seat­belt or bike hel­met, or fol­low­ing speed lim­its.

“This is some­thing that you do to pro­tect your­self and to pro­tect oth­ers,” she said. “It’s a layer of pro­tec­tion for ev­ery­body and a courtesy to those around you.”

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