Dr. Charmaine Enns, the North Island medical health officer, recently addressed pandemic concerns during an online meeting with parents of schoolchildren. (Comox Valley Record file photo)

Dr. Charmaine Enns, the North Island medical health officer, recently addressed pandemic concerns during an online meeting with parents of schoolchildren. (Comox Valley Record file photo)

Household and family clusters blamed for surge in North Island COVID-19 cases

North Island Medical Health Officer speaks out on ‘uptick,’ urges vaccination

Northern Vancouver Island’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns is speaking out on the recent “uptick” in detected COVID-19 cases in the local health area.

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The rise in detected cases in the Vancouver Island North Local Health Area has “understandably resulted in anxiety for many community members,” said Enns in statement addressed to the North Island communities. “However, Public Health is not observing evidence of widespread community transmission. Rather, the vast majority of cases are linked to known cases and clusters and are typically the result of close contact in households.

“It is also important to understand that the availability and high uptake of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines has dramatically reduced severe outcomes related to COVID-19 infection and has provided the path out of this pandemic.”

Enns said the purpose of the COVID-19 vaccine is not to eliminate infections, but rather to “decrease serious outcomes from the infection — severe disease, hospitalizations and death.”

She added that a large percentage of fully vaccinated people will not get COVID-19 when exposed to someone who is infectious.

“For the small number of fully vaccinated individuals who do become symptomatic from COVID-19 infection, they will most likely have mild symptoms and are less able to transmit the virus to others.”

As for public health recommendations, Enns confirmed they are evolving as we move towards new phases of this pandemic.

“Fully vaccinated close contacts are no longer asked to self-isolate, instead [they are] being asked to self-monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms develop,” she said. “We encourage fully vaccinated close contacts to return to normal daily activities such as going to school and work. Your local health care providers and public health professionals will provide the needed recommendations and direction to individuals or locations if an intervention is required.

“Essentially, if you are not directed to self-isolate or seek testing and you are not experiencing symptoms, you can carry on with life as normal!”

Enns added that the North Island (Woss-north) has “a high uptake of vaccine in the region. 86 per cent of the population 12 years and older in the Vancouver Island North Local Health Area have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 80 per cent of those 12 and up are fully immunized. These rates are good, but in order to get in front of COVID-19 transmission, especially due to the delta variant, we need a vaccination rate of 90 per cent or greater.”

However, for adults who are not vaccinated, she warned that COVID-19 remains a very serious infection, noting that if you are an unvaccinated adult, you are 10 times more likely to become infected, 57 times more likely to be hospitalized and 47 times more likely to die from COVID-19.

“I strongly urge unvaccinated adults to not only consider their own health but the health of their loved ones, friends and community by limiting the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission through being vaccinated. Experience from other regions has shown that the uptick in cases will subside, but it is important to know that we will continue to hear of cases in our communities.

“We can learn to live with this virus as we have done with other vaccine-preventable respiratory infections by getting vaccinated, staying home when ill with fever and cough and following current public health guidance and recommendations.”


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