With COVID-19 surging, now is not the time to travel or gather indoors

Island Health is urging people to avoid the high-risk activities that have pushed COVID-19 cases to an all-time high throughout our region.

With the upcoming long weekend and important religious holidays that normally bring friends and family together, Island Health is calling on everyone to closely follow the Orders and guidelines put in place by the Provincial Health Officer.

We acknowledge the global pandemic continues to be an extremely challenging experience for so many and people are understandably experiencing COVID fatigue. However, with daily case counts at current levels and the growing prevalence of variants of concern on Vancouver Island, we cannot afford to let our guard down and undo the progress we have collectively made.

Island Health’s Public Health team has noted some concerning trends recently, including:

  • A significant increase in the number of close contacts to COVID-19 cases. This includes people reporting non-essential travel, large social gatherings, and multiple social groups;
  • An increase in individuals attending work and social events while symptomatic;
  • All three variants of concern have now been identified on Vancouver Island and the number of presumptive variant cases within Island Health being sent to the BCCDC for confirmatory testing has more than tripled in recent days. These variants have shown to be more easily transmissible and can lead to more severe illness;
  • Contact tracing has shown the variants were brought to the Island Health region through non-essential travel to other areas of B.C. and beyond;
  • The average age of COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital within Island Health has dropped to 55.7 years so far in 2021. This is down from 68.6 years throughout 2020;
  • Throughout March 2021, cases in individuals aged 19-39 represent 45 per cent of all COVID-19 cases within Island Health;
  • Indoor gatherings with people outside your immediate household present an unacceptable risk at this time. Throughout March 2021, more than 60 per cent of COVID-19 cases within Island Health have been linked to a known cluster. In the majority of situations, these clusters can be linked to an indoor gathering;
  • Throughout March 2021, approximately 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases can’t identify where they acquired the virus.

We know that social connection with family and friends is critical to people’s well-being, and there are many safe ways to maintain these connections. Choose the same 10 friends or family members to gather with outdoors. Some outdoor activities to consider include walking, hiking, biking, golf, beachcombing, picnicking, horseback riding, playing at the park, canoeing, kayaking, Frisbee golf, or having an Easter egg hunt.

Please continue to:

  • Wash your hands often;
  • Wear a mask in public settings;
  • Do not travel outside your city, unless it is essential for work or medical reasons. This virus moves with people;
  • If you develop any sign of illness, even mild, please stay home from work or school and get tested. 

Island Health is making good progress with its vaccination program, with more than 16 per cent of the population immunized with a first dose of vaccine. While the end is in sight, it is too early to let our guards down. Let’s all continue to do our part to protect our families, loved ones, friends and our communities. Making exceptions and bending the rules gives the virus the edge and will make it that much harder to get to the brighter days ahead. Let’s all do our part and be COVID smart!

For more information on COVID-19 within Island Health, including information on case numbers and how to access testing, visit www.islandhealth.ca/covid19.

The latest information on B.C.’s three-week circuit breaker, Provincial Health Officer Orders and guidelines is available here.