Sunday February 7, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends
As the COVID-19 pandemic grinds into a second year in BC and around the world, here on Vancouver Island we’ve had a comparatively gentler ride — at least in terms of the epidemiological numbers.
It’s been commonplace now to hear the daily COVID case statistics in media everywhere, and for many people (most certainly journalists) to attend the virtual COVID update teleconferences given by BC Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry.
Most people have worked hard to follow the public health orders that have taught us to physically distance, wash our hands frequently, wear a mask in indoor spaces and anywhere that 1 to 2 metres of physical distance can’t be maintained, and stay home if we’re ill.
BC Public Health Orders in place since November 19, 2020 (and extended by Dr Henry on February 5, 2021 to the end of February or beyond) require people to socialize only with members of their own household; those have not been followed precisely by all people — spikes have been seen following the incubation period after Christmas and New Year.
Dr Henry said that parties or gatherings for Super Bowl Sunday today were off the table, but it looks like a spike in case numbers could be coming in the next week or two based on breaches of that order.
Concerns about variants:
Additionally, Dr Henry is very concerned about the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (aka COVID-19), which are increasingly believed to be more contagious and causing more severe illness, as outlined by BC’s top doctor on Friday. The variants confirmed in cases in BC so far are B.117 (UK) and B.1351 (South African).
So far, 750 whole genome tests have been done by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC). Dr Henry was excited to report on Friday that a process of screening for a ‘marker’ that gives a heads-up as to the likelihood of a variant is now being done by the BC CDC. That will catch more of the variant strains in COVID tests.
So far, 28 variant cases have been detected in BC — 19 of the B.117 (14 directly from travel and five that were close contact of those people) and eight of the B.1351 (acquired locally, which is worrisome to public health officials, because it means the strain is already circulating).
Wear masks, don’t socialize outside your household:
It was only this past week that masks have now been mandated in BC for all scenarios (other than at one’s desk with a barrier) in middle and high schools. As well, teachers in elementary schools may now wear masks while children are not required to (but may wish to).
People are still asked not to travel unless for essential reasons such as work or medical appointments. Outdoor activities are safe if physical distancing is maintained, but it’s the ‘before and after’ social activities which are leading to cases of COVID transmission (such as at the Whistler ski resorts where a high number of cases (457) have resulted during January 1 to February 2 due to social interactions.
Vaccines in BC:
Vaccines have been administered in BC (now 149,564 administered from a supply of 156,250 as the course of first-and-second doses continues with the present supply of mRNA-type vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna).
Dr Henry said on Friday that there have been 205 “adverse events” (reactions to the vaccine) in BC, with 55 of those considered serious (anaphylactic shock) but all recovered.
The island COVID profile:
Here’s where case numbers stand on Vancouver Island (Island Health Authority) at February 5, 2021:
There were 28 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 1,783 cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic on Vancouver Island. Of those, 270 cases are presently active including 18 people being hospitalized (five in ICU). There have been 102 hospitalizations in Island Health to date.
Said to have recovered (i.e. testing negative after having tested positive for COVID) are 1,481 people in the Island Health region. Some people’s health is impacted beyond the active infection period, becoming known as long-haulers (see Mayo Clinic description of the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection including impacts on lungs, heart and brain).
A total of 187,882 tests for COVID have been conducted to date, including 961 just in the last 24-hours to mid-day February 5.
So far 27,900 vaccines have been supplied to Island Health (from what BC Health received from the federal government); those are Pfizer (15,600) and Moderna (12,300) mRNA type vaccine products which are said to require a two-dose administration for best results (based on the clinical trial data that was reviewed by Health Canada).
BC has now stretched the time interval for administration of the second dose to 42 days, to help deal with supply constraints. So far, 22,723 doses have been administered by Island Health.
So far during the COVID-19 pandemic, 20 people on Vancouver Island have died from the infection (including one this past week, and two the previous week).
The average daily case count now (second wave of the pandemic, which started mid-November 2020) in all areas of BC is higher than it was in the first wave of the pandemic (spring of 2020).
- In the last week of January, the daily Island Health case count started in the low 20’s (20 on Jan 25 and then 22 on Jan 26), jumping up considerably for the rest of the week (45 on Jan 27, 30 on Jan 28, and 29 on Jan 30). All of that was about two weeks from return-to-work-and-school.
- This past week, in Island Health the daily case count has been in the high-20s (28 on Feb 1, 27 on Feb 2, 26 on Feb 3, 27 on Feb 4 and 28 on Feb 5).
Health Minister Adrian Dix last week urged British Columbians to adhere to the public health protocols, recognizing that most people are experiencing ‘COVID fatigue’.
Dix said that BC is still on course to have 10% of British Columbians vaccinated by the end of March, which of course depends upon supply. So in the short run, people are asked to “maintain actions to hold the line”.
In the first year of the pandemic (to January 31, 2021) about 56% of cases on Vancouver Island have been in the central Vancouver Island area (988 cases), with about 28% (493 cases) in the south, and about 16% of cases (286) in the north.
In the south Vancouver Island area in the first year (to January 31, 2021) there have been 80 cases in the Western Communities (including Langford, Colwood, Highlands, Metchosin, Sooke), as reported in the BC Centre for Disease Control modelling on February 5, with 87 in the Saanich Peninsula area and 290 in what BC CDC is calling ‘Greater Victoria’ but on their map indicates Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt and View Royal.