Previous pandemic success may have contributed to fourth wave death count: Island Health

Previous pandemic success may have contributed to fourth wave death count: Island Health
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Following a ‘cluster’ of cases in Victoria’s vulnerable street community in September, it appears the worst fears weren’t realized.

Health officials and service providers confirm that rather than continuing to climb, case numbers have dropped dramatically.

“At its worst, we had about 56 active cases in the Our Place sites, we’re now down to six active cases which I think goes a long way to show how housing has been effective,” said Our Place Society Director of Communications Grant McKenzie.

It’s part of a trend that has seen the entire South Island’s active case numbers drop significantly in the past two weeks.

The hot spot on the Island is now the Alberni-Clayoquot region, which includes Port Alberni, Tofino, and Ucluelet. An outbreak has now been declared at Tofino’s hospital and local First Nations leaders say the situation is approaching a crisis.

“I think the situation is quite dire I think all of us really feel the premier and Bonnie Henry opened the province way too quickly and there wasn’t enough precautions,” said Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council President Dr. Judith Sayers.

Island Health says imposing more restrictions on specific regions like they have in Northern Health, remains on the table should the situation worsen.

“This is why we’ll be carefully monitoring the situation in different locales but clearly, if it’s needed, we will do it,” said Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick.

Ahousaht First Nation has declared an outbreak and the Ucluelet First Nation has declared a state of emergency. While Sayers is awaiting data on how many community members have died from the virus in recent weeks, she says it has claimed lives.

The fourth wave is proving to be the deadliest of the pandemic in Island Health. Through the first year and a half of the pandemic, a total of 41 people died from the virus in the health authority. Roughly the same number of people, 39, have died just since September 1, 2021.

Stanwick says unlike Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health, the island had such low transmission rates in previous waves the unvaccinated population here had very little protection from ‘natural immunity’ prior to the fourth wave.

“The combination of us being quite successful early on and the arrival of the Delta variant likely accounts for the increased deaths,” he said.

With vaccination rates continuing to slowly climb higher and case rates starting to stabilize, the hope is that the worst of the fourth wave is over.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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