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Huge increase in Interior Health COVID cases come largely from the Delta variant

Interior Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Silvina Mema.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Interior Health Authority
August 05, 2021 - 6:30 PM

The record number of COVID-19 cases in the Interior Health region is attributable, in part, to the surging Delta variant of the disease.

Record numbers of new cases have been recorded over the past two days, with 171 yesterday, Aug. 5 and another 234 today.

The vast majority of the cases in the region – 70 per cent – are from the Delta variant that is more easily transmitted, Dr. Silvina Mema told today.

The good news is that, for those who are fully vaccinated, the symptoms are milder.

Another 25 per cent of the cases are of the Gamma (Brazilian) variant and five per cent the Alpha (U.K.) variant.

The highest number of cases are in the Central Okanagan and particularly in Kelowna, Dr. Mema said. They're often being contracted at social events like weddings and funerals but people are also going out to dinner and bars more, she said.

Seventy per cent of those infected are aged 20-39 and 65 per cent of cases are contracted by people who are unvaccinated. Another 30 per cent have one dose and five per cent have been fully vaccinated.

That five per cent of people who are fully vaccinated may be due, in part, to the fact that vaccines do not offer 100 per cent protection.

“It also depends on the amount of the exposure," Dr. Mema said. "The vaccine may be able to offer you protection if you have an encounter with somebody and the amount of virus you receive is relatively small. But, if you’re exposed to a large enough amount of the virus it may overwhelm your immune system and you may still develop the disease. It depends on how much virus is circulating around. It’s not rare, even with other diseases, to see some circulation among people who are vaccinated.”

The number of new cases has also meant an increase in hospitalizations.

When the outbreak was declared in the Central Okanagan on July 28, there were five people in Kelowna General Hospital with COVID. Today there are 17, Dr. Mema said.

And, while the majority of cases are in the 20-39 age group, that doesn’t mean it’s not attacking older residents.

Two outbreaks have been declared in long term care homes in the Central Okanagan. The one at Brookhaven Care Centre in West Kelowna has grown from eight yesterday to 13 today. The number of residents infected remains the same at four while the number of staff members has increased from four to nine.

There remains four residents of Cottonwoods Care Centre infected with COVID.

The huge jump in case numbers means contact tracers are starting to feel the strain.

“We still do the contact tracing but the times we're spending in conversation with each case is less than we did before, when we had 20 cases in a day,” Dr. Mema said. “This is putting a little bit of a strain in our capacity but we’re still meeting the timelines. We are calling on extra resources from the (B.C. Centre for Disease Control) asking for support.”

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