The North Shore has set a new and worrying record with its highest ever number of reported COVID cases.
For the first time, the number of local COVID cases topped 300 in one week, with 316 cases reported for the week ending April 3, according to B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control.
That’s higher than the previous week’s 272 cases and about double the number of cases recorded on the North Shore only two weeks ago.
There were 217 cases reported in North Vancouver and 99 cases reported in West Vancouver for the past week.
Both North and West Vancouver now have an average daily infection rate of over 20 per 100,000 – as does most of the Lower Mainland, including communities of Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey and the Tri-Cities.
Cases in Whistler have also spiked
Cases in Whistler have also soared, with 410 cases reported for the week ending April 3.
The soaring number of infections in that community, which have included cases of the P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, prompted Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, to close the ski resort for three weeks. Whistler Blackcomb has since announced it will remain closed for the remainder of the ski season.
Health authorities have not so far said what has been driving the soaring number of cases on the North Shore specifically, although the P.1 variant has been reported in clusters within the Vancouver Coastal Health region. The P.1 variant has particularly been detected in COVID cases involving younger adults.
According to B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control, adults 20 to 49 make up 74 per cent of P.1 variant cases.
Although variant strains still make up a small proportion of total COVID cases, that number is increasing. Variants of the virus are more easy to spread, and may make people sicker.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said while there has not been an increase in the number of younger people being hospitalized recently, those who are admitted to hospital are becoming sicker.
“We are seeing amongst those (younger adults) hospitalized an increase in the number of people in critical care,” said Dix on Monday.
Staff at Lions Gate Hospital seeing younger patients in critical care
Dix acknowledged that has put pressures on some ICU departments, including the one at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.
Recently, Dr. Kevin McLeod, who works in the COVID-19 ward at Lions Gate Hospital, took to Twitter to voice his concerns about the situation.
Younger patients between 20 and 50 have been coming to hospital much sicker in the past week, McLeod wrote on the weekend.
“Younger people think they are invincible,” he wrote. “That feeling quickly fades when we are blasting you with 100 per cent oxygen and your saturations are sitting high 80’s and all you really hear is a team debating pros and cons of intubating you and hooking you up to a ventilator.”
Dix said there are enough hospital beds available to manage all the patients who need them. But he added the number of very ill patients puts a lot of pressure on hospital staff.
“And when I hear from our ICU doctors or doctors in our COVID-19 wards, that they're seeing some cases of young people who are really ill, that is profound,” he said.
According to B.C.’s CDC, cases of COVID-19 have recently been rising dramatically in young adults, although cases in other age groups – including middle-aged adults, teens and children – have also been on the increase. Positivity rates for tests in Vancouver Coastal Health are now higher than 11 per cent.
The soaring rates of infection on the North Shore come during a week when B.C. has recorded several daily case counts of over 1,000 cases.
B.C. had reported a total of 106,985 cases as of Wednesday with 8,728 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There were 3,019 active cases in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.