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Interior Health ‘comfortable’ with reopening as COVID-19 cases drop

Click to play video: 'IH ‘comfortable’ with reopening as COVID-19 cases drop' IH ‘comfortable’ with reopening as COVID-19 cases drop
WATCH: B.C. is relaxing restrictions and while cases in the Interior are on the decline they haven't plummeted as far as in some other regions of the province. Reporter Megan Turcato takes a look at the Interior numbers and what they might mean for the local reopening – Jun 22, 2021

While COVID-19 cases in B.C.’s Interior are on the decline, they haven’t plummeted as far as in some other regions of the province.

Still, Interior Health is painting an optimistic picture of the region’s COVID-19 situation and is feeling comfortable with the provincial reopening plan.

Read more: B.C. reports 56 new COVID-19 cases as seven-day average drops to 90

Provincewide COVID-19 cases have dropped dramatically since the peak of the third wave.

The province is now averaging less than 100 cases a day, down from over 1,000 cases on average each day in mid-April.

Cases are also trending downward in the Interior, but while COVID-19 is on the decline in Interior Health, it hasn’t been stamped out.

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Heading into this week, Interior Health was averaging 25 cases a day, the second-highest number amongst the province’s five health regions.

“Over the weekend there were more cases in the Interior than there were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, so that’s really unusual,” said Sarah Otto, a UBC professor and member of the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group.

“Indeed in our models, all of the other health districts have been declining in cases, but that decline slowed at the beginning of May in the Interior Health [area].”

Read more: COVID-19: AstraZeneca appointment cancellations soar in B.C. following NACI guidance

That data has the UBC professor urging people to get vaccinated.

“The province is opening up because across the province things are good. But in these regions, like the Interior, where it is more like cases are just hovering around, any reopening will cause a spike in cases in that region,” Otto said.

“So, yet again, this is just another reason to just get vaccinated because it is really about protecting the community.”

For its part, Interior Health is working to make getting immunized as easy as possible with drop-in clinics and viewing the region’s COVID-19 situation in a more optimistic light.

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“Just a few weeks ago the Interior was seeing over 50 cases per day and yesterday we only had 14 so there is a significant decline in the Interior,” said Interior Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Silvina Mema.

“It is not unexpected that different regions will come down at… different speed. What is important is the trend and the trend is going down. The slope of how fast the trend is coming down is very fast… and that’s what matters.”

Mema said the cases that are showing up now are not unexpected to health officials and include people who have been in isolation as potential cases and family clusters.

“We are seeing that there are some families that are cases so sometimes we get three, four, five cases that all live in the same residence so it is not unexpected to see those clusters,” Mema said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. health officials reassure people about safety and efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine' B.C. health officials reassure people about safety and efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine
B.C. health officials reassure people about safety and efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine – Jun 22, 2021

Mema points out the Interior is a large area and some communities have seen no cases for a significant period.

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She feels comfortable with the provincial reopening plan in light of the Interior’s current COVID-19 rates.

“Cases are not as severe as they used to be. We have no open outbreaks in the Interior as of now…So we are moving forward with the reopening plan and we have confidence in the plan. We ask individuals and communities to get vaccinated so we can decrease our susceptibility to the virus,” Mema said.

Many are heading that call. Including the dozens who were lined up outside a Kelowna drop in immunization clinic on Tuesday.

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