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B.C.’s COVID-19 rapid response paramedic team deployed to Williams Lake, B.C.

Click to play video 'Paramedic team deployed to small B.C. community with surge of COVID-19 cases' Paramedic team deployed to small B.C. community with surge of COVID-19 cases
WATCH: A team of specialized paramedics has been sent to a community in northern British Columbia to help deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases. – Dec 10, 2020

For only the second time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, B.C.’s rapid response paramedic team has been deployed to respond to “high levels of COVID-19 positive patients” in a rural B.C. community.

BC Emergency Health Services (BC EHS) told Global News that one critical care paramedic and one primary care paramedic were sent to Williams Lake in B.C.’s Central Interior on Saturday.

The deployment, set for six days, will see the specialized team support local paramedics in both the transport of patients to higher levels of care and 9-1-1 medical responses.

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COVID-19 hospital outbreak in Williams Lake – Jan 19, 2021

Read more: Coronavirus outbreak declared at Canim Lake, First Nations community issues lockdown

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The first time the paramedic team was deployed was to Fort St. James in December.

Interior Health has also implemented a High Acuity Response Team (HART) based out of Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

This is the hospital where patients requiring a ‘higher level of care’ may be transferred from the Williams Lake area, officials said.

A COVID-19 outbreak remains active at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake, with ten staff members testing positive, as of Monday. The hospital outbreak was declared on Jan. 13.

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“Interior Health would like to assure the community that it is safe to come to the hospital for medical care when it is needed,” IH said in a statement at the time.

“A team including infection control practitioners, microbiologists, medical health officers and communicable disease specialists are overseeing the site to ensure all safety protocols are in place.”

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On Monday, staff and physicians working in the hospital’s emergency department and COVID-19 unit were vaccinated, IH said.

Read more: Coronavirus vaccines arrive in remote First Nations across Canada

It’s unclear exactly how many active cases of COVID-19 there are in the Williams Lake area, or how many infected patients are hospitalized in the region.

The most recent BC Centre for Disease Control data available shows 31 cases in the Cariboo-Chilcotin between Jan. 3-9, but Williams Lake mayor Walt Cobb wants local numbers to be released to the public in real-time.

“Our First Nations Health Authority is able to give out the information, but Interior Health won’t or can’t,” he said.

“We don’t know how many cases are actually in Williams Lake.”

Cobb said the local government is being left “in a bind” and is unable to help COVID-19 positive people during their quarantine period, without more information.

“If they have to be isolating and they are alone, they are elderly, they are going to need food, we have to find a way of getting that to them,” he said.

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“The stress is not knowing, I don’t know how I can help,” Cobb added.

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Interior Health said COVID-19 outbreak locations and case counts are released Monday to Friday.

“Unfortunately, numbers are not provided about COVID-19 cases in individual hospitals,” an unnamed Interior Health spokesperson said in an email.

Read more: Coronavirus: Kelowna, B.C., church handed second violation ticket for defying mass gathering order

Surrounding First Nations communities, such as Canim Lake, are also experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks or clusters, with Williams Lake the central health care hub.

There has also been a shelter-in-place order given for Canoe Creek Band south of Williams Lake, which will remain in effect until Jan. 25, according to a statement.

On Saturday, the city increased its Emergency Operations Centre response to Level 2 for better coordination of response efforts, Cobb said.

Read more: B.C. mayor blasts ‘racist rhetoric’ directed at First Nation amid COVID-19 outbreak

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson issued a video update to the community on Sunday, and Cobb also committed to daily press releases and video updates to keep the public informed.

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