COVID outbreaks persist at Interior Health's long-term care facilities | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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COVID outbreaks persist at Interior Health's long-term care facilities

Image Credit: Pikist
September 23, 2021 - 6:00 AM

Residents in long-term care facilities were among the first to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and visitors are subject to strict conditions before entering the buildings – yet Interior Health is dealing with 12 active outbreaks.

The most recent outbreak was declared on Sept. 19 at the Overlander Residential Care in Kamloops. Two other facilities in Kamloops are experiencing active outbreaks, as well as six in Kelowna and one in Salmon Arm. 

Medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison said all of Interior Health’s long-term care residents are vaccinated, as well as a large portion of staff. But a number of factors have contributed towards the ongoing outbreaks.

The health authority experienced “significant” outbreaks at care homes before the vaccine was developed and made available, Dr. Goodison said. Once most residents were vaccinated the rate of outbreaks finally began to decline.

Visitation rules across B.C. were eased on April 1 of this year.

“Now that the most vulnerable among us have received a vaccine, we are safely amending restrictions to give people in long-term care greater opportunities to connect with the people they love," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at that time.

“Things were going very good until appearance of Delta variant,” Dr. Goodison said. “We saw a quick escalation of cases in the health authority.”

READ MORE: New cases of COVID-19 in B.C. shifting north but Interior Health still heavily impacted

While the vaccine has never offered 100% efficacy, Dr. Goodison said it protects less against the Delta variant.

“If (the vaccine)’s only 90% effective then one out of 10 can still get it," he said.

A large proportion of residents living in long-term care facilities are elders, and the vaccine is not as effective on older people, she said, particularly those over 80.

Also, the general population within Interior Health was experiencing the Fourth Wave of the pandemic over the summer months, and Dr. Goodison said any illness spreading around the community will commonly lead to more outbreaks at care facilities.

“If it’s in community, it can be brought in by staff, particularly staff who might not be fully immunized, and visitors who may be infectious," she said.

Hospitalization by age in B.C. between July and August of 2021.
Hospitalization by age in B.C. between July and August of 2021.
Image Credit: B.C. Ministry of Health

On the bright side, with all the residents vaccinated, those who become ill with COVID are experiencing less severe symptoms and a lower fatality rate. Dr. Goodison said the vaccine’s effectiveness of 90% to 95% is extremely effective in preventing infections, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and reducing the number of deaths.

Asked if a more effective vaccine will be necessary to reach herd immunity, she said two-dose system is working effectively for the population at large. Booster shots are only recommended for individuals who don't receive the same effectiveness from two shots as the general population – that includes people who are immunocompromised, taking medication or living with certain types of illness. 

“We know it’s been a really challenging time for people living in long-term care and assisted living,” she said. “We are always watching to see what is happening, and work needs to be done to prepare for what is coming.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 numbers climb slightly in B.C. but dip in Interior Health

A graph of COVID case count by age since the start of the pandemic.
A graph of COVID case count by age since the start of the pandemic.
Image Credit: BC Ministry of Health

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