Grand Forks is facing a renewed surge of COVID-19 cases, with rising infection rates and active cases again standing out amongst generally declining numbers province-wide.
The Grand Forks Local Health Area (LHA) added 21 infections between June 26 and Wednesday, July 7, according to Karin Goodison, Medical Health Officer at the Interior Health Authority (IH). Seventeen of these cases were active as of Monday, July 5.
Goodison said local infection rates had replicated community transmissions last seen on June 10, when Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry dubbed Grand Forks and two other LHA’s “hot spots” of COVID activity in B.C. As in the June example, Goodison said “several” of the recent cases were linked to Grand Forks Secondary School (GFSS).
There were at least two confirmed cases within Schoool District 51 (SD51) beginning June 27, one of which was tied to the “(GFSS) community,” according to emails by Acting Superintendent Anna Lautard.
Goodison qualified that IH doesn’t know how the virus entered Grand Forks’ LHA, much less the city itself. Instead, she highlighted varying vaccination rates across the LHA. While around 68 per cent of people in the LHA have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, that rate doesn’t necessarily hold from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
“What we tend to see are clusters of people where there’s good coverage and clusters where there’s less coverage,” she said, specifying that “the majority” of recent cases have hit unvaccinated people. “Getting vaccinated protects yourself, the people around you and your broader community against most variants of COVID-19 known to be circulating in B.C.,” she continued.
Even one dose significantly reduces the risk of contracting the virus. The same coverage is just as likely to knock down symptoms and boost recovery in the rare cases where vaccinated people are infected, she said.
It remains “an interesting question” as to why, despite a recent uptick in vaccine clinics, Grand Forks LHA seems to be lagging in coverage. “People should be talking about this.”
Anyone over 12 can book a COVID-19 vaccine through the BC Government’s website at getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca.
Goodison explained that health authorities in B.C. don’t have a metric for what constitutes a community outbreak. COVID-19 simply hasn’t been around long enough for epidemiologists to establish the baseline infection rates that would prop up any such definition, she said.
Outbreaks are declared only in confined, institutional settings like hospitals and long-term care facilities. “If we see one case among a resident in a facility, we’re concerned that could be an outbreak,” she said. “If we have two residents at a facility, that would be an outbreak.”
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) reports active case numbers every week on Wednesday afternoons. Cases are struck from that list after patients recover.
For more information about COVID-19, infection rates in your LHA and COVID vaccines, please consult the BC CDC’s website at bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19.