Home Health COVID-19 Omicron mid-Dec: three COVID updates this week

Omicron mid-Dec: three COVID updates this week

Vancouver Island: 905 active COVID cases (137 new today) | Outbreak at UVic

omicron, virus

Thursday December 16, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [Last update: 9:20 pm]

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends

Next COVID BC update with Minister Dix and Dr Henry: Friday December 17, 2021 at 1 pm.

The full slide presentation style of COVID epidemiological update by Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry along with Health Minister Adrian Dix on Tuesday this week (December 14) was jam-packed with stuff to know about the pandemic for these upcoming last two weeks of 2021.

adrian dix, health minister
BC Health Minister Adrian Dix: due to COVID spread, don’t travel abroad this Christmas season, or even within Canada. [Dec 15, 2021]

The media session on Tuesday began with an advisory about regular weekly updates coming on December 21 and 28.

But suddenly the next day Minister Dix called a late-afternoon session, saying public health orders were under review, even though Dr Henry had previously said there would be no changes.

Politicians taking the reins this time? [See our April 2020 editorial on the dance between public health and politicians during the COVID pandemic]

Now another update has been called for tomorrow, December 17 (at 1 pm), amidst ongoing concerns about Omicron spread, the booster program timeline, and slow availability of rapid tests in BC. Changes to public health orders around gatherings over the Christmas and New Year’s celebration season can be expected.

COVID this week:

Here’s a tight summary of key points from the December 14 epidemiological update and notes from Minister Dix on December 15, as you plan for safe living in the Christmas holiday season:

dr bonnie henry
Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry said rapid tests will be more readily available in BC in January 2022 [Dec 14, 2021]
  • The Prime Minister and premiers agreed on December 14 to prioritize the COVID fight at this year-end, with a federal pledge to provide vaccines and rapid tests to the provinces (see Premier John Horgan’s statement here).
  • The Omicron reality: get the booster shot (third dose) when your invitation comes up (about six months after your second dose), use rapid tests, don’t travel abroad (or even within Canada), keep holiday gatherings small, meet virtually. In BC as of December 16, there have been 135 cases confirmed as Omicron, with the most in Island Health: * Fraser Health: 38 * Vancouver Coastal Health: 20 * Interior Health: five * Northern Health: one * Island Health: 71
  • The booster program is being administered mostly through pharmacies. About 500 pharmacies have been set up in the program so far, with that number to reach about 1,000 in the new year. When people receive a booking invitation it will indicate which pharmacy is available close to their location, as explained by Dr Henry this week.
  • Current COVID vaccines will work against Omicron, but the virus spreads four-times more quickly than the Delta variant.
  • Vaccination stems the tide of infection, hospitalization and death, as clearly shown in BC CDC evidence seen in the December 14, 2021 modelling presentation by Dr Henry.
  • BC is seeing breakthrough COVID infections (including hospitalization and death) in people age 70+.
  • This year’s Christmas season message from Dr Henry: keep your gatherings small, gather only with vaccinated people, open windows for ventilation, wear masks. Nonetheless, an increase in COVID cases is very likely after Christmas and New Year.
  • Wastewater samples are helping BC CDC understand COVID spread. Presence of the virus can be pinpointed down to even the residents of a particular building. About 50 percent of BC communities have been tracked this way already, said Dr Henry. Viral strains in communities can be discerned; she says that helps corroborate what they’re finding through whole genome sequencing and contact tracing.
  • Age profile: New COVID BC data for the week of December 2 to 8 shows highest infection levels in ages 30 to 39, and also kids ages 9 to 11; 505 kids age 5 to 11 showed as infected during that week. There has been no hospitalization among vaccinated children.
  • Vaccination in children ages 5 to 11: As of December 15, according to Minister Dix, only 22 percent of the 7,000 kids age 5 to 11 have been vaccinated, with 37 percent having booked appointments, and 42 percent being registered in the system by their parents or caregivers. “We need to get those numbers up,” he told media. Dr Henry repeated her message encouraging everyone age 5+ to get vaccinated.
  • Same household: Vaccination will help curb COVID transmission among people in the same household.
  • Unvaccinated people in BC are: • 7x more likely to get COVID-19 • 30x more likely to be hospitalized • 50x more likely to need the ICU

COVID outbreak at UVic:

The COVID profile in Island Health shows increasing case counts.

University of Victoria

There has been a COVID outbreak on the University of Victoria (UVic) campus in Saanich; as of December 16 there have been 137 cases (of which 15 are Omicron).

This spread associated with the UVic campus resulted from some UVic students travelling to Kingston Ontario to take part in a rugby tournament with other university rugby players, bringing the infection back to the Victoria area; the actual initial four infections resulted from off-campus social interaction.

But as a result, all on-campus exams were suddenly cancelled on December 12.

Vancouver Island COVID data profile:

Vancouver Island has been less successful with keeping case rates down this fall, compared to earlier phases of the pandemic. The pandemic was officially declared in March 2020.

island health, cases, graph
The highest daily case counts on Vancouver Island have been seen since summer 2021. [BC CDC]

BC CDC statistics at December 16, 2021 show this profile of COVID within Island Health:

  • There are 905 active cases of COVID on Vancouver Island, with 137 of those new today (December 16).
  • Now 40 people are in hospital with COVID (up from 34 last week); seven of the hospitalized persons are in ICU.
  • A total of 135 islanders have died from COVID so far in the pandemic (four of those since last Friday).
  • The positivity rate on Vancouver Island is very high at 7.2 (BC average is 3.7).
  • Of the new cases this week, 88 have been among children up to age 9, and 77 in youth ages 10 to 19.
  • Vaccination in Island Health has seen 1,515,965 doses administered in the past year, of which 677,261 (44.6%) have been second doses.
  • In Island Health so far, 11,321 doses of pediatric Pfizer vaccine have been administered to children ages 5 to 11 years.
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