New cases of COVID-19 in B.C. shifting north but Interior Health still heavily impacted | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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

FILE PHOTO - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
September 21, 2021 - 1:37 PM

The worst of the fourth wave of COVID-19 in B.C. is shifting away from the Interior Health region into northern B.C.

But the Interior Health region still has higher infection rates and more cancelled surgeries than the rest of the province and the strain on the health-care system continues to grow.

“I think we’re in a very difficult place in many parts of the province,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news briefing today, Sept. 21. “We’ve all been doing this for 18, 20 months now so our teams our tired and there’s a moral distress we feel when we are seeing people who are suffering from a preventable illness now.”

READ MORE: Mandatory vaccines for nurses making hospitals even more unsafe: union

In the Northern Health region, there are currently 41 new cases per 100,000 population, Health Minister Adrian Dix said during the news conference.

In comparison, the Interior Health region is recording 19 new cases per 100,000. While that’s much better than in the north, it’s still far higher than Fraser Health at 11 news cases per 100,000, Vancouver Coastal with nine new cases and Vancouver Island with seven new cases.

That has forced heath authorities to postpone hundreds of non-emergency surgeries, with the Interior Health region bearing the brunt of that burden.

Of 511 surgeries postponed in the last week, 176 were in Interior Health, 167 in Northern Health, 87 in Vancouver Coastal, 47 in Fraser Health and 34 on Vancouver Island, Dix said.

Over the past two weeks, almost 80% of people hospitalized with COVID were unvaccinated and, as of Sunday, 138 of 156 people in ICU beds were unvaccinated.

READ MORE: Anti-COVID-19 vaccine protestors enter Salmon Arm schools

To an effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated, Dr. Henry said there is no evidence the vaccine causes any harm to pregnant or breastfeeding women and they may suffer more severe illness if they do get COVID.

She also pointed out that for people who have already been sick with COVID, the immune response to having COVID varies greatly so those people should be vaccinated as well. Those suffering long-term effects from COVID have had their symptoms improve after being vaccinated, she said.

The Northern Health region has some of the lowest vaccination rates in B.C., but Dr. Henry noted there are also pockets of low vaccination in Interior Health, which is mostly below the provincial vaccination rate that has now reached 87% of those over the age of 12 who have received at least one dose.

In rural areas it can be a matter of timing and access to vaccines, Dr. Henry said. In communities that haven’t yet been hit by COVID, there can be a sense of complacency so people can’t be bothered getting vaccinated.

“There are some communities where there’s a real resistance and fear about vaccines,” Dr. Henry said. “There’s also some communities where some leaders – faith leaders and community leaders – are actively against vaccination.”

She lashed out at social media sites deliberately spreading disinformation.

“There’s a small proportion of people who are still in denial even when they’re in hospital in ICU that it actually is COVID,” Dr. Henry said.

“In some cases, and particularly on social media, there is some very pointed disinformation, intentionally misleading information, that is sent out there by certain groups of people to incite fear about the vaccines. Really, what we need to do is to have venues, to have places, where people can actually get credible information that helps allay some of those fears.”

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