Rising COVID count draws concern from Northern Health

Northern British Columbians will need to bear down to avoid the restrictions now in place in the Lower Mainland, Northern Health officials warned Tuesday amid some worrying trends in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement , officials said they are concerned with the rising number and frequency of new cases and clusters in the region.

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"Recent orders in the Fraser Valley issued by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to address cases in the Lower Mainland are not currently directed at Northern Health; however, we need your support to avoid more stringent measures," they said. "We are encouraging against non-essential travel and are asking people to ensure they are following all of the current orders, guidance, and advice."

On Tuesday, 21 new cases of the virus were announced for Northern Health - a one-day record for the region - pushing the number of active cases up to 64 also a new high. From a low of 16 active cases on October 6, the count has roughly doubled every two weeks.

And the so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that have yielded a positive result for COVID, has averaged 9.6 per cent since November 10 according to an analysis of publicly-available numbers from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

A percentage above five per cent indicates a concerning level of transmission, and puts strain on contact tracing efforts, Henry said in an emailed response to a request for comment from the Citizen

"Our contract tracers are now being stretched to the max, and we’re falling a bit behind. It’s really the last two to three weeks where I’d say we’re in a place where we need to take additional measures, because we’re losing control of our ability to manage each case,"

As well, 11 people were in intensive care with the disease, up two from Monday.

Province-wide, a one-day record 717 new cases were announced Tuesday, with Fraser Health accounting for 484 of them.

There were also 11 more deaths, also the largest daily toll, increasing that total to 310 since the pandemic broke out. Deaths in Northern Health held steady at five after two recently announced fatalities related to an outbreak at a long-term care home in Dawson Creek.

Northern Health issued a series of guidelines to contain the spread:

- Maintaining our social connections are important for our well-being. However, please keep your bubble small and limited to your household and a handful (up to six) close friends or family (your “safe six”).

- When planning your holiday gathering, please avoid travel and choose to celebrate with individuals in your bubble.

- Physical distancing measures are especially challenging for young people. It is important they also keep their bubble small and, as much as possible, limit their interactions to a close group of friends from within their school cohort.

- Essential workers, such as health-care workers and teachers, play a critical role in our communities and therefore it is imperative they also keep their bubble small.

- Remember: The provincial health officer’s orders to household gatherings applies province-wide. This means no more than six people from outside your household bubble should gather in your home.

If you are experiencing potential COVID-19 symptoms, we continue to ask that you self-isolate, and contact your primary care provider or the NH COVID-19 Online Clinic and Information Line at 1-844-645-7811. Visit the BCCDC website for more info about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself, your family and your community: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid

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