Most of central Island’s COVID-19 cases this month have been in the Cowichan Valley, but that can change quickly, says Island Health.
The health authority released case count data for the region on Wednesday, Jan. 27, showing how cases in the Cowichan Valley South local health area have impacted case numbers.
Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical health officer, said although the data shows the majority of the mid Island’s cases have been in one area, he noted there’s been an uptick in cases in Nanaimo and as of Wednesday, the south Island will show an almost equal number of cases as the central Island. Stanwick is expecting a cluster of cases to be announced in the south Island.
“We can’t somehow think, oh, it’s just a central Island problem, if we just closed off the Malahat, everything would be fine,” Stanwick said. “This virus will seize the opportunity to spread when given the opportunity.”
Case numbers for the week of Jan. 17-23 showed that of the 142 COVID-19 cases on the central Island, 74 were in Cowichan Valley South, 42 were in Nanaimo and 16 were in Cowichan Valley North. Next highest was Oceanside with five cases.
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— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) January 27, 2021
Asked about providing community-specific data, Stanwick said case numbers are high enough to mitigate concerns about patient privacy.
“We are now reaching numbers where we can in fact, I believe, with confidence, break it down to the level of granularity which would still give people a picture as to where the highest concentrations of cases are at any given time without being concerned about individuals being identified,” the doctor said.
He suggested that uncertainty about vaccine delivery and squabbling about the immunization plan is undermining public health officials’ efforts to convey a sense of preparedness and he repeated provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s calls for people to continue to follow public health orders and to try to do more.
“There’s this COVID fatigue which unfortunately, this uncertainty is now probably feeding into, and that’s why I think Dr. Henry is asking for people who are already following [orders] and doing everything that she’s asking of them to continue to do so,” Stanwick said.
He said B.C. might not be able to handle a third wave of the pandemic and pointed to other jurisdictions where transmission has started happening at such a rapid pace that testing has failed to keep up.
“In Dr. Henry’s mind, we’re getting closer and closer to the point where we do not want to lose control of managing this virus…” Stanwick said. “We are very close to a situation where our health-care system could be extremely strained by this virus, and I think her anxiety is appropriately placed.”