Tuesday March 1, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
Something of a reprieve from COVID pandemic public health restrictions lies ahead this spring and summer. That’s as much by socio-political choice as by the epidemiological data.
The highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 (i.e. SARS-CoV-2) is still spreading, but summer may see it wane, Dr Henry implied today. BC will proceed “cautiously”, and ease restrictions based on “our pandemic”.
She emphasized that BC has always had a unique or customized approach to dealing with the COVID pandemic, right from the start.
Easing up for summer:
Today BC Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry said she hopes to make things a bit easier for the health-care system, health-care workers, and young people in their graduation and summer work season.
She noted the evident gaps and challenges within the health-care system that the COVID pandemic has laid bare. Last weekend Health Minister Adrian Dix announced over 600 new nurse training positions in BC.
Make your own decisions:
BC is in a transition phase, said BC’s high-profile PHO today.
It’s a time where people will need to make decisions for themselves and others around them, as we would in any other respiratory season.
Clinics shifting to pediatric focus:
This week Island Health announced that their mass immunization clinics will be shifting to an emphasis on immunization for children ages 5 to 11 years. Children in that age group were the last to be widely served with a pediatric COVID vaccine, as the world awaited test results for that cohort.
At present, 50,289 doses of pediatric Pfizer vaccine have been administered to children ages 5 to 11 in Island Health (65% of that as first doses, 35% second doses); over the past weekend (Feb 25 to 27) there were 2,455 pediatric doses administered in Island Health, so the pace is still robust.
The Omicron wave over this past winter — primarily December 2021 and January/February 2022 — caught BC (and most of the rest of the world) off guard, creating another challenging set of circumstances (mostly overload and fatigue) for health-care workers and everyone else.
Dr Henry said today that the BA.2 Omicron subvariant is present in BC, in varying locations around the province. Meanwhile, the BA.3 subvariant is “not yet in BC”, but Dr Henry says she has observed that BA.3 in other parts of the world seems to be “more transmissible” but evidently “does not have more ability to evade the immune system”.
COVID has taught us that perhaps we didn’t take the annual fall-winter respiratory season seriously enough in pre-COVID years.
Influenza has caused hospitalizations and deaths every winter pre-COVID (notably there were no flu cases recorded in the winter 2020 respiratory season in BC, as everyone was being cautious under public health restrictions).
In all this are reminded that COVID is not over. It’s been known for a while now that COVID has claimed its place in the spectrum of respiratory illnesses that humanity will now have to deal with ongoing.
“We could face a very different virus (in the fall), where everybody faces immune escape,” said Dr Henry today. “Everybody could be susceptible. A booster could be needed for everyone.”
Alternatively, depending on what COVID variant is predominant this fall, a booster may only be needed for targeted groups such as seniors over age 70, seniors in long-term care, and people who are immuno-compromised.
Today Dr Henry repeated her earlier news that the BC Centre for Disease Control will soon shift from daily to weekly BC CDC COVID-19 data reports.
As at February 28, 2022 there were 31,578 COVID test-positive cases reported in Island Health. But the number of total cases is quite inaccurate now (as Dr Henry has pointed out), in that since December anyone with COVID-like symptoms has been advised to consider having been infected with the virus.
To date, 1,372 people have been hospitalized in Island Health with test-positive COVID infection. Presently there are 64 people hospitalized, with four of those in ICU.
There have been 217 deaths due to COVID-19 in Island Health since the beginning of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Adrian Dix today was pleased to announce that backlogged surgeries are getting caught up.
COVID news archive by Island Social Trends (December 2019 to present)