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COVID-19 positivity rate in small B.C. city ‘as bad as anywhere in the world right now’: doctor

Click to play video 'Fernie experiencing spike in coronavirus cases' Fernie experiencing spike in coronavirus cases
Despite the ongoing health order and travel restrictions, Fernie residents say they're still seeing an influx of visitors from across Canada, as the number of coronavirus cases in the community are climbing rapidly. Catherine Urquhart reports – Jan 21, 2021

Fernie is the latest city in the B.C. Interior to report a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Officials say the positivity rate in Fernie has jumped to 20 per cent in recent weeks but they are not sure what is leading the surge.

Dr. Ron Clark, the top doctor at Elk Valley Hospital in Fernie, told Global News he is concerned they will see a community cluster similar to one at Big White Ski Resort or in nearby Revelstoke.

Clark is urging everyone in the community to follow the rules.

“We’re now in a situation where if we order five tests for COVID, one of them is going to be positive,” he said. “Over 20 per cent of the tests we’re doing now are returning as positive and it’s across quite a wide swath of our population so this is obviously worrisome.”

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Click to play video 'Revelstoke seeing increased COVID-19 activity again' Revelstoke seeing increased COVID-19 activity again
Revelstoke seeing increased COVID-19 activity again – Jan 5, 2021

Read more: Coronavirus — Big White cluster grows another 28 cases

Clark said he thinks everyone should go back to the strict behaviour of when the pandemic began — social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands and staying home if they are sick.

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“We’re getting over 20 per cent positive rates on our testing now — that’s horrible, that’s as bad as anywhere in the world right now and clearly shows that this is absolutely widespread in our community and at the end of this we could potentially have many, many, many, many positive cases, hundreds even, maybe more.”

Clark said he is concerned with this positivity rate, the government will mandate closures again, which will hurt the community.

“This isn’t one or two people,” he added. “This is a lot of people.”

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According to Statistics Canada, the population of Fernie in 2016 was 4,850.

All long-term care residents in Fernie have now received the vaccine, Clark confirmed.

On Thursday, the chief medical health officer for Interior Health, Dr. Albert de Villiers, said in a statement that although COVID-19 is circulating in the area, the current average positivity rate in Fernie is estimated to be between 10 to 12 per cent, not 20 per cent as stated by Clark.

“When it comes to understanding the positivity rate in a community, it is important to look at the average over a number of days,” de Villiers said. “The number of people receiving tests in this community each day can vary substantially, which has an impact on the positivity rate and is why the seven-day rolling average is used. Targeted testing can also contribute to increased positivity as more cases are detected through contact tracing.”

He added there is no area in the Interior Health region where one in five people are testing positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the community cluster at Big White Ski Resort continues to grow, health officials announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Interior Health said another 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been identified, pushing the cluster total to 203.

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The health agency said of the 28 new cases, 22 individuals either reside or work at Big White. It also said that of the 203 known cases linked to this cluster, 126 have resided and/or worked at Big White.

Read more: B.C. records another 465 COVID-19 cases, 12 deaths and 70 in ICU

Click to play video 'Closer look at post-holiday hospital COVID-19 numbers in B.C.' Closer look at post-holiday hospital COVID-19 numbers in B.C.
Closer look at post-holiday hospital COVID-19 numbers in B.C – Jan 19, 2021

The cluster was first announced on Dec. 15, when 60 cases were announced.

—with files from Doyle Potenteau

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