More than 95 per cent of residents living at Interior Health’s long-term care facilities have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but the number of outbreaks continues to grow.
Interior Health is now reporting 19 COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities with 13 in the Okanagan. Most have been recorded in the last 10 days.
While the health authority doesn’t publicly post the number of those affected at each facility, medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema said most of the outbreaks are from the Omicron variant, which is more transmissible, meaning health workers are seeing the disease “spread quickly.”
The outbreak at Village at Smith Creek care home in West Kelowna is the largest in the Okanagan at 48 cases — 33 of them residents and 15 of them staff. One death has been linked to this outbreak.
“It’s not unexpected to see that the virus will spread and we are testing seniors that have very mild symptoms, and they are testing positive,” Mema said. “We have a very low threshold for testing, which means somebody has a little bit of a runny nose, or complaints of a very mild sore throat or feeling tired and then we get tested.”
As seniors get tested and positive results roll in, outbreaks are declared and preventive measures get put in place. For example, vaccinated residents who test positive are quarantined for five days while people who are COVID-19-positive and unvaccinated quarantine for a few more days because Mema said they may shed the virus for a longer period of time.
The difference between now and earlier waves of the pandemic, however, is the measures are less restrictive.
“We need to balance these outbreak measures against how severe the disease is,” Mema said.
“We don’t want to restrict visitors, restrict social interactions, isolate seniors when the disease is really very mild for those that are vaccinated.”
Mema said the outcomes that health officials are seeing are, for the most part, very mild for individuals in long-term care homes that are fully vaccinated, which most of them are.
“It is important to say that those that are not fully vaccinated remain at risk even within long-term care facilities,” she said. “So we are seeing that severe outcomes apply more to those will have not received two or three doses of the COVID vaccine.”
Mema added that Interior Health officials will follow the guidance of the province when it comes to vaccinations but as of yet there has been no need for a fourth vaccination to be distributed. People are responding very well to three doses.
B.C. continues to set new records for COVID-19 patients in hospital with 987 reported on Monday.
Sixty-three more people were admitted over the weekend but the number of people in intensive care dropped by one to 129.
Global News has learned 51 people in ICU are not vaccinated and that includes three people under the age of 19.