B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government)

Interior Health leads recent provincial COVID-19 case counts

COVID-19 case counts are rising in the Interior, while falling in other jurisdictions

Interior Health has been experiencing B.C.’s highest daily COVID-19 case counts, even as numbers fall in other health authorities.

While data shows a steady decline in COVID-19 cases provincially, increasing daily case counts in the Interior Health region are causing the rolling seven-day average to climb, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

From the end of June until approximately two weeks ago the rolling seven-day average had plateaued. But that average has since risen following a recent trend of higher daily case counts.

That point was punctuated by the weekend case counts — provincially, a total of 267 over three days, but over half of those cases came from Interior Health — the most of all health authorities — at 155.

As of Tuesday, July 27, Interior Health also has the highest active case count at 415.

In spite of the rising case counts, the province has reached some vaccination milestones — 80 per cent of those eligible have received a first dose, while over 60 per cent are fully vaccinated.

However, there are pockets around B.C. where vaccine uptake is not reflected in the provincial statistics, and can vary by age range.

In the 18-49 age range, vaccination rates of first doses in a few local health areas in the Interior Health region are below or just above 50 per cent. According to the BC CDC’s latest data in that age range, Creston is at 45 per cent, Grand Forks is at 55 per cent, and Vernon is at 60 per cent.

Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed lower vaccination rates in rural areas during an immunization update on Tuesday, during an event that also kicked off a new ‘Vax for BC’ campaign.

“It’s a different challenge, both in the Interior and the North, where there are many smaller communities that are quite physically distant from each other, where there are pockets of people who have not had access to vaccine, where we’ve had challenges like wildfires and smoke and many other things going on,” she said.

“So partly there are some pockets of people who are hesitant about the vaccine, don’t yet have confidence in the vaccine and we’ve seen that in health care workers and in some communities across both the Interior and the North and part of it having the resources and access to vaccine.

“So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on, particularly in the next couple of weeks, is making sure we can get out there to a community, to every community, to answer those questions and to make it convenient for people to get their vaccine.”

Officials provided an update on the province’s vaccination efforts on Tuesday, July 27, during the ‘Vax for BC’ launch — a new campaign encouraging as many eligible people as possible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It will include community events, vax vans and mobile clinics, as well as a province-wide ‘Walk-in Wednesday’ event on Aug. 4, where clinics will co-ordinate 20,000 doses for walk-in vaccinations for anyone 12 years of age and older.

British Columbia has just under one million residents unvaccinated — Fraser Health has the most at 315,748, with Interior Health coming up with the second-most at 199,159 (data as of July 23).

Henry emphasized the effectiveness of being vaccinated through a snapshot of COVID-19 outcomes in a month-long period between June 15 to July 15, noting that 78 per cent of people hospitalized were unvaccinated, and less than five per cent of COVID-19 cases were among fully vaccinated people.

“This is why it is extremely important that we all get both doses of vaccine and now is the time to do that, not only to protect ourselves, but to protect the ones around us,” she said.