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Coronavirus: Interior Health active cases soar past Vancouver Coastal despite smaller population

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The Interior Health region is undergoing a rise in COVID-19 cases, and Dr. Bonnie Henry is concerned about the spike in numbers.

During a media briefing on Thursday afternoon, the provincial health officer was asked about the growing number of COVID-19 cases in B.C.’s Southern Interior.

The region ranks fourth of five in B.C. in terms of population, with around 800,000 residents, and Thursday’s data from the B.C. Centre of Disease Control shows that Interior Health has 948 active cases.

Read more: B.C. reports 536 new COVID-19 cases and 7 deaths, as U.K., South African variants detected

For perspective, Vancouver Coastal, which has around 1.25 million residents, has 904 active cases. Fraser Health, which has 1.8 million residents, has the province’s highest number of active cases at 2,077.

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Vancouver Island, which has around 850,000 residents, had 197 active cases, with Northern Health, with a population of 288,000, at 486 active cases.

Read more: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan has highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in Canada

Asked if it was improper gathering during the holiday season that led to the spike in cases, Henry said “that’s one of the big components that we’re seeing in a number of communities across the Interior,” but added the growth is not focused in one area.

“We saw that in the summer; there was a lot of focus on people holidaying. What we’re seeing is more local, where people had come together in small groups … had decided that they could stretch those rules.”

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Henry said health officials are “now seeing transmission in small clusters that are moving through communities. It’s very challenging because it’s not related to large events like we were seeing before.

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“It’s related to people thinking it’s OK if it’s just a few of us. And, unfortunately, it is spreading in all communities now.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Big White cluster grows another 19 cases to 162

The provincial health officer said the region has seen some severe outbreaks, including some in First Nations communities, in Revelstoke and at Big White Ski Resort.

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“Now in the Interior, we are seeing the implications of what could happen in this province if we had all taken those liberties a few weeks ago,” said Henry.

“But it is absolutely reflective of getting together over the holiday season. And that is now putting at risk our long-term care homes. It’s putting schools in a more tenuous position.

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“We can get through this, we can overcome that surge by people paying attention now and going back to not having those social gatherings, making sure you’re staying with your household, monitoring yourself for symptoms … get tested and stay away from others if you’re not feeling well.”

Also Thursday, health officials announced 115 new cases for Interior Health, pushing the region’s total to 4,970 cases since the pandemic began.

The region’s death toll stayed at 44, with 38 people in hospital, including 10 in intensive care.

The number of people in the region who have recovered from the disease as of Jan. 14 was just under 4,000, at 3972.

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