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Island Health MHO says limiting contacts key in curbing jump in COVID-19 cases on island

Island Health is urging everyone to hold the line, with COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island trending in the wrong direction.

The region saw 34 new cases on Wednesday, marking the highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic.

North Island medical health officer, Dr. Charmaine Enns, says while vaccines are here, they’re in small numbers, and we don’t have nearly enough doses to vaccinate the entire population.

She said “the moment we get it, (vaccine) goes into people’s arms.”

The vaccines are earmarked for high priority populations, so it’s being administered to staff and residents at long-term care facilities on the island this week, and some remote First Nations communities.

But the arrival of vaccines is giving people a false sense of security, Dr. Enns said: “I think there’s also this, ‘Oh, good, relief, we’re going to see an end to this.”

She continued, “It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the coronavirus isn’t going anywhere and the only way to stop this pandemic truly is going to be with vaccines and with population immunity.”

Dr. Enns says we’re at a “dangerous intersection” of more cases and the start of vaccines in small numbers, and people letting their guard down as a result.

“Just to remind people, we don’t need to do anything different, we just need to be doing the same that we have done throughout the pandemic to keep the rates low, and that’s just to really remember that this is person-to-person, so if we want to reduce transmission, we have to really limit our social gatherings. As much as we can (strictly) go to work, go to school, (and) stay in our household, we’ll be far better off in managing transmission.”

Dr. Enns says we’re seeing more infections because of how people’s actions at Christmastime.

“This is a reflection of people coming together over the holidays,” she said. “Let’s remember that COVID-19 is transmitted person-to-person, this is about people being close together over prolonged periods of time, and droplets being transmitted.”

Dr. Enns says the concern lies not just with the number of cases, but the number of contacts each case has. 

“I think that might be a reflection of people just growing weary of the pandemic,” she added. “Up until now, we’ve (been) averaging about two contacts per case, which really limits the likelihood of transmission happening. We’re seeing more contacts per case with our recent cases.”

Dr. Enns says if you feel any of the symptoms, reach out to a local call centre and arrange for testing.

“If we can identify you as a positive case, and then your contacts, we can stop transmission quickly in that process,” she said. 

Symptoms include one or more of a cough, fever, loss of taste or smell, or shortness of breath, especially if they linger longer than 24 hours.

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