Vancouver Island COVID-19 surge partly fuelled by cluster from Courtenay-area religious gathering
For much of the week, Island Health has been home to the largest number of new and active cases anywhere in the province outside of Fraser Health. On Thursday, the Island’s top doctor explained why.
Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical health officer, says there are basically two factors driving the recent surge in cases.
One factor is, essentially, that the Island has been a victim of its own success.
Earlier in the pandemic, when people were following the rules more diligently on the Island than elsewhere, there were more cases on the mainland, so the proportion of people with antibodies for the coronavirus increased more there.
Since the emergence of the more-transmissible Delta variant, that herd immunity on the mainland is helping keep cases lower in spots previously hit harder than the Island, and the Island is currently seeing a relative spike.
The second reason for an uptick in cases is a cluster connected to a religious gathering in the Courtenay area last week, according to Stanwick.
That event has triggered a spike in case counts in the northern part of the Island, fuelling overall island numbers.
But Stanwick says the infections connected to the cluster haven’t been serious.
“The important thing that we’ve learned from this particular situation -- which has largely involved healthy younger adults and individuals between the ages of 10 and 19 – (is) that we've had no hospital admissions,” said Stanwick Thursday. “This may, in fact, be the picture of us dealing with COVID going forward in the future, that we will see significant respiratory outbreaks, but with very little severe consequence.”
Stanwick says he doesn’t think COVID-19 numbers on the island will return to previous lows until February, when he’s hopeful they’ll again hover around 20 to 30 cases per day.
He says he expects to see a spike in cases starting in January because of holiday gatherings and other indoor activities. The wild card in that prediction, of course, is the new Omicron variant.
Stanwick says he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already on the Island, and predicts it will be identified here before Christmas. He says officials should know in about 10 days whether existing vaccines are effective against Omicron.