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Surge in South Island COVID-19 cases linked to UVic parties, doctor says


Island Health’s top doctor, Dr. Richard Stanwick, confirmed Friday that at least 30 cases of COVID-19 have sprung up in a cluster amongst students at the University of Victoria.

The cases are linked to two off-campus parties this past weekend – involving business school students and varsity athletes.

Stanwick said Friday that the parties may have been larger than ideal, but noted most everyone at them would have been immunized, citing a survey that reported more than 97 per cent of UVic students surveyed were fully vaccinated.

“This is a population who did what we asked of them; they rolled up their sleeves and they got vaccinated,” said Stanwick.

The University of Victoria says it is taking steps to keep people safe, including providing online exams for students in the business program and what it calls “alternate exams” for student athletes.

A big test this winter will be how quickly will the Omicron variant spreads, and how severe the illnesses caused by this latest strain will be.

At the moment, there are only 89 confirmed cases of it Canada-wide. But Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam, says if Omicron replaces Delta as the dominant variant, cases could rise to 12,000 a day before the new year. She urged folks on Friday to keep gatherings small.

“This is another bump on the road and we still don’t know enough about the Omicron variant except it looks like it’s very transmissible,” said Tam.

In B.C., where only a small percentage of the available rapid test kits have been used, the province says it’s considering using them for kids – to help parents decide if they should go to school – but for asymptomatic people who are vaccinated, the rapid tests are not seen as effective or efficient. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said this week that in those cases, rapid tests produce a “low yield.”

But some experts say even if the rapid tests miss positive cases 30 per cent of the time, they still should be used more.

“It’s a missed opportunity for us to not be using these rapid tests, it really is,” said Dr. Brian Conway, the head of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre. “It will allow us to find more people in the community more quickly.”

Stanwick reminded folks Friday that even with vaccines, 10 to 20 per cent of people will get COVID-19, but among vaccinated people the disease will likely only come with mild symptoms.

What's still unknown is how well the vaccines protect against Omicron. We should know that as early as next week. Top Stories

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