Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry thanks an Island Health nurse after joining staff for the first round of COVID-19 vaccine, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)

Vancouver Island records 44 new cases over Christmas, one new outbreak

Dr. Henry asks B.C. to "toast the year to come" quietly, at home

  • Dec. 29, 2020 12:00 a.m.

In the five days between Dec. 24 and 29, Vancouver Island had 44 new COVID-19 cases, and zero deaths. This brings the Island’s total number of cases to 893 since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been 11 deaths.

There was one new outbreak in a Nanaimo care home where one resident tested positive. Vancouver Island currently has three outbreaks, all in care homes.

The province had a total of 2,206 new cases over Christmas, and 74 deaths.

The first known case of the COVID-19 UK variant was identified in a Vancouver Island resident who returned from the U.K. on Dec. 15, before that border was closed to stop the spread of that highly contagious strain.

B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has been doing genome sequencing on positive tests, looking to map the mutation of the virus. When the variant was identified in the U.K., the BCCDC went back and tested each positive case over the last few weeks. There could be more people with the variant already in B.C.

Dr. Henry said cases like this reiterate why it’s so important for international travellers to follow the mandated 14-day quarantine.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak declared at seniors’ care home in Nanaimo

READ MORE: B.C. reports 74 COVID deaths over Christmas holiday break; total number of cases tops 50,000

The variant does not seem to cause a more severe illness, but the specific mutation appears to more easily attach to the receptors at the back of throats and noses, making it far more infectious. Standard tests will identify COVID-19, but will not specify whether it’s a variant or not.

Almost 12,000 people have been vaccinated in B.C. with the Pfizer vaccine so far. Moderna vaccines started arriving Dec. 29, and will be primarily used in remote communities without the infrastructure needed to store the Pfizer drug at hyper cold temperatures, including some places on Vancouver Island.

One last ask Dr. Henry made of British Columbians is to have a quiet New Year celebration.

“The turning of the calendar to 2021 is something I know we are all looking forward to,” she said, but urged British Columbians to “toast the year to come” with their households, connecting virtually with others, and staying close to home.

“To give people in healthcare the reprieve they need, we need to make our entire holiday quiet,” she said, reminding people of the current health order that prohibits any social gathering or event with people outside of their households.

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North Island Gazette