B.C. Centre for Disease Control image showing COVID-19 case counts for local health areas in Island Health. (BCCDC image)

Low COVID-19 case count has Nanaimo well-positioned for the fall, doctor says

Even if risks increase, they will remain low, says Dr. Mike Benusic

More COVID-19 cases are coming in the fall, along with a need for more testing, but the mid Island is well-positioned to be able to handle it, says the region’s medical health officer.

Dr. Mike Benusic, Island Health’s new medical health officer for central Vancouver Island, spoke to Nanaimo city council this week about COVID-19 in the area with the fall school semester about to begin.

“Comparably, B.C., especially Vancouver Island and even more so, the greater Nanaimo area has done remarkably well when it comes to keeping the cases of COVID low,” he said. “I think that really just speaks to the response at all levels of government.”

He said Canada’s rate of COVID-19 cases per million people is about 3,300, B.C.’s rate is is about 1,050 and Vancouver Island’s is about 200, with Nanaimo even lower, at about 150 cases per million.

He rejected suggestions that the Island’s low case numbers are due to lack of testing, noting that there have been 50,000 tests on the Island with 99.6 per cent of those tests coming back negative.

“We’re doing a lot of testing and if there was more COVID-19 within the community, we would surely be picking it up,” he said.

He said a B.C. Centre for Disease Control serology study suggested that there are eight undetected COVID-19 cases for every detected case, and said if that is true on Vancouver Island, there is only a 0.2 per cent infection rate.

Benusic said with the Island’s low rate of COVID-19 and very little community transmission, he believes “we are well-poised” to carefully re-open schools and other segments of society and balance risks. He suggested increased risk is manageable because he said even if risk of COVID-19 infection were, for example, doubled, it would still amount to a small risk.

“If you’re starting off with a baseline low risk within the community, you’re going to be in a very good position to keep that transmission low,” he said.

Benusic said Island Health received a “surge of calls” in August from people reporting COVID-19 symptoms. It created more work, he said, but was a blessing in that it helped prepare staff for an anticipated increase in testing once the school year starts.

In Nanaimo, he said people who call in generally get an appointment the same day or the next day, and said the lab is averaging 16 hours to turn around results. After a positive test, the communicable disease team works “rapidly” to contact people, make sure they’re isolating, identify their contacts and follow up.

“What we’ve been doing every day now is looking across what we call the test-trace-isolate pathway to make sure that we have ample capacity throughout that,” Benusic said.

READ ALSO: Stay informed about COVID-19



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Vancouver Island dance classes billed as female empowerment tool

New Comox Valley business focuses on ‘promoting positive body image’

Restored boat on display in Sointula, honouring the past

A 34-foot gillnet fishing boat built on Malcolm Island in 1948 is the newest museum addition

Langford racing enthusiast back in driver’s seat of life after surviving aggressive cancer

70-year-old David Smith finishes mid-pack in Canada 200 race at Western Speedway

Duncan family overwhelmed with 14 puppies

Chocolate lab litter may be one of the biggest ever

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Police seek ‘high-risk sex offender’ last seen in Victoria

Scott Jones is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for being ‘unlawfully at large’

Ride-hailing service nearly ready to start up in Nanaimo

Lucky to Go planning to launch Oct. 1

Three Vancouver Island photographers place in BC SPCA 2020 Wild-in-Focus photography contest

Out of 956+ submissions province wide, both winners place in separate categories

Victoria gets new collegiate baseball team, training facility

Golden Tide coach wants to see as many local kids play for the HarbourCats as possible

Hospice worker and patient butt heads in upcoming Nanaimo theatre production

Yellow Point Drama Group presents ‘Grace and Glorie’ at Cedar Community Hall

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Most Read