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Comox Valley tops weekly list of B.C. COVID-19 new case hotspots

Region’s medical health officer stresses the importance of vaccinations
The Comox Valley has been a hotspot for cases in recent weeks. Image, BCCDC

The Comox Valley has been the hottest of COVID-19 hot spots in recent weeks.

The community shot to the top of the list in B.C. for new cases. The BC Centre for Disease Control releases weekly counts each Wednesday based on the number of cases in subregions throughout the province.

Last week, its map for cases between Nov. 28 and Dec. 4 showed 161 cases in the Comox Valley, more than any other subregion. By comparison, Surrey had 147, the Central Okanagan has 156 and Kamloops has 114, areas with notably higher populations. Vancouver is broken into six subregions, which ranged between 23 and 31, but which add up to 170 cases.

The previous week, the Comox Valley stood at 80, while for several weeks previous, the numbers ran in the 20s and 30s, through November and October, with one week hitting 42 cases. In September, the case numbers were running in the teens.

By comparison, the week for the end of November and early December in 2020 showed four cases for the Comox Valley.

According to school tracker website, there have been several cases on COVID-19 that have hit schools in recent weeks, and multiple cases have been linked to a religious youth conference in the Comox Valley in late November.

RELATED STORY: COVID cases linked to Courtenay youth conference

In response, on Dec. 10 the Comox Valley Regional District shared on social media a statement from Dr. Charmaine Enns, the region’s medical health officer, about the increase of detected cases in recent weeks.

“This has understandably resulted in anxiety for many community members,” she writes. “The current cases are occurring against a background of a highly vaccinated population. Community cases do not mean the same now as they did in the pre-vaccine phase of the pandemic. The majority of cases are linked to known cases and clusters.”

Many, she continues, are the result of close contacts within households, adding that hospitalization rates remain low.

Enns also notes there is little natural immunity from previous infection at the population level and that the current Delta variant is transmitted more easily than the original strain, which is “especially problematic” for people who are not vaccinated.

She also explains the purpose of the vaccine is not to eliminate infections but to reduce the chance of severe illness, hospitalizations and death.

“For the small number of fully vaccinated people who do become symptomatic from COVID-19 infection, they will most likely have mild symptoms and are less able to transmit the virus to others,” she writes.

The letter also includes data on vaccination numbers in the area, with more 93 per cent of people 70 and older fully vaccinated, and 96 per cent with at least one dose. For people 12 years old and up, the fully vaccinated rate is 85 per cent, with 90 per cent having had one dose, while clinics for kids five to 11 are being held now. As well, Enns notes unvaccinated adults are eight times more likely to contract COVID-19, 32 times more likely to be hospitalized and 52 times more likely to be placed into critical care.

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