Small group gatherings are safer as flu season arrives amid the spread of the Delta variant, says Henry



People who want to have large family reunions should plan outdoor events, says Dr Bonnie Henry

Now schedule small group gatherings over the holidays as a “peak period” of risk begins for both the pandemic and other respiratory illnesses, says the BC provincial health officer. “Now that we start to see other respiratory viruses – as we go through the period of maximum risk over the next few months – we cannot afford to have gaps in protection,” said Dr Bonnie Henry. “This pandemic is still here. “

On Tuesday, the province reported 500 new cases of COVID-19, including 76 to Island Health, for a total of 4,301 active cases in British Columbia. There were 613 active cases on the island.

Henry urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or a booster if they are eligible, to register children aged five to 11 for their vaccines pending approval, to wear a mask in all spaces public and to get the flu shot.

The reproduction rate for COVID-19 – the number of people a person positive for COVID-19 will infect – is just below one, which is encouraging but also precarious as the respiratory disease season arrives with the more highly transmissible and fatal Delta variant, said Henri.

The reproduction rate was 1.06 at Island Health last week, compared to the provincial average of 0.81. “We know that the Delta virus spreads much more easily and is more transmissible and causes more serious illness, especially in young people who have not had very serious illness for most of this. pandemic – that has changed now, ”said Henry. The province has hospitalization and intensive care rates of five and 10% among young people diagnosed with COVID-19, which is “much higher” than before, she said.

The most severe cases of COVID-19 put a strain on the health care system as more people end up in hospital and need intensive care, she said. “If we don’t keep doing the things we know to work, we can see cases increase, epidemics increase and hospitalizations increase. It is especially important for all of us to remain vigilant now. “

There were 426 people with COVID in the provincial hospital, including 124 in intensive care on Tuesday. Of five new deaths, three were at Island Health.

Before the winter break, Henry advised keeping the indoor groups small and making sure everyone is vaccinated, Henry said.

Those who wish to reunite with more families or friends should plan outdoor events, which are less risky, she said. “Go sledding, snowshoeing or hiking – we have a lot of things we can do outside safely, even in the winter months. “

Henry said there have only been four confirmed cases of the flu in the province so far, but the virus is circulating in the community.

She noted that any resident of British Columbia over six months of age is eligible for free access to the flu shot, which is mainly distributed through pharmacies, although some workplaces and schools also offer vaccination programs.

Like the COVID-19 vaccine, influenza vaccines protect both individuals and their contacts, especially those who are elderly or have weakened immune systems, she said. “We have seen the devastating effects of COVID-19 and it is made worse if we also have the flu. “

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said at least 485,049 flu shots have been administered so far, while just over 86 percent of British Columbians aged 12 years and older are fully immunized with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Henry warned that there are communities facing “very serious outbreaks” that may not welcome visitors now or during the holidays, noting outbreaks in a number of health authorities, including Vancouver Island.

The BC Center for Disease Control map shows a daily case rate of just over 20 cases per 100,000 – the highest on the island – in the local health authority region of Western Ontario. Vancouver Island, which includes the towns of Gold River and Tahsis.

“So check before you go,” said Henry, adding that respectful travel requires being fully immunized, having a vaccine card ready to access events and discretionary facilities, and wearing a mask in all locations. indoor public, from shops to ski slopes.

Henry said British Columbia will receive a limited amount of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine as early as next week, which will first be offered to healthcare workers on leave due to a prescription requiring them to be vaccinated. to continue working in health care.

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