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BALDREY: COVID-19 spreads to all corners of British Columbia

Don’t look now, but COVID-19 is everywhere. It was not always like this.
Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a recent COVID-19 briefing.

Don’t look now, but COVID-19 is everywhere.

It was not always like this. For much of the fall and this winter, about 90 per cent of all daily cases of the virus were located in Metro Vancouver, primarily in communities (especially Surrey) within the Fraser Health Authority.

However, over the past few weeks, the geographic spread of COVID-19 has changed in nature. About 20 to 25 per cent of all daily cases are now located outside of the Metro region.

The good news is that case numbers in both the Fraser Health authority and the Vancouver Coastal health authority are starting to level off.

The bad news is that numbers are getting steadily worse in places like Vancouver Island, the Okanagan, Prince George, Revelstoke, Vernon and Terrace, to name a few.

This development is a reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and that no community is immune from acquiring it in numbers.

As recently as October, the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the relatively sparsely populated Northern Health Authority was in the single digits. The daily average is currently about 50 a day.

The daily average in the Interior was about 15 cases a day back in October. It is now just shy of 70 cases a day, although it was even higher in early December.

The most serious cases are increasing in number as well in these regions. Going into the past weekend, 42 people in Northern Health were in hospital with COVID-19 and 20 of them were in critical care. Those would have been unheard of numbers just weeks ago and on a per capita basis, the North has the highest hospitalization rate in the province.

In the Interior, 32 people are in hospital and 10 of them are in the ICU. The virus has never really taken hold on Vancouver Island, but there are signs that situation could be changing as well.

Last week there were 163 “active” cases on the Island and there were less than 30 there just a few weeks ago.

Such is the changing nature of our pandemic, at least from a geographic perspective.

However, one grim statistic has not changed much since the pandemic began. That would be who is dying at a much higher rate than anyone else is.

More than 600 residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities have died from COVID-19, with the vast majority of the deaths occurring in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health. (There have been 38 deaths in facilities located in the Interior and 13 in Northern Health.)

It has been clear from the start of the pandemic that our oldest population would be most vulnerable to the worst outcome of contracting the virus. Indeed, people over the age of 70 have had 10 per cent of the reported COVID-19 cases in B.C. yet they constitute 80 per cent of the deaths attributed to the virus.

Hopefully, the gradual ramp-up of the vaccine rollout – where long-term care residents head the priority list for getting a shot – will slow the steady escalation of deaths amongst the most frail.

However, as we wait for enough inoculations to occur to reach herd immunity, keep in mind an important lesson: COVID-19 is everywhere.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC. 

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