Greater Trail is currently dealing with its highest number of COVID cases since the pandemic started, so Interior Health is asking that residents keep their gatherings to a minimum particularly over Thanksgiving.
The most recent COVID-19 numbers show 74 cases in Greater Trail from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, down slightly from a high of 79 the previous week.
“A number of factors are contributing to this increase,” said Kootenay-Boundary medical health officer, Dr. Karin Goodison. “First we have a more infectious variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We have the Delta variant so we’re finding that’s more easily transmitted.”
Most of those who have not been vaccinated are under the age of 12 and therefore succeptible to the new variant. The surge coincides with reports of COVID exposures at Webster, Glenmerry, and St. Michael’s elementary schools, as well as J. L. Crowe Secondary in Trail.
“Now this virus is very smart, and it will find the most susceptible people in the population. The most susceptible are those who are not immunized, and the bulk of people not immunized are those under the age of 12. So we are seeing a significant bump in that age group particularly in five-to-11 year olds.”
As for the severity and affect on the health-care system, while there have been cases of hospitalization for the K-12 demographic, they are less common.
“We are not seeing a lot of high severity of outcomes in the younger population,” said Goodison. While, she could not speak to specific cases, she said that in general, the severity of COVID is milder in age groups 17 and under.
The BC Health Authority recently made masks mandatory for K-12 students and staff in schools, as one measure to hopefully pare down the number of cases.
“We do need to consider other elements when we’re looking at this,” she said. “We are working really closely with superintendents and principals in the schools where there are more cases, and looking at implementing additional measures and recommendations on how they might further limit exposure for children in order to reduce the risk of COVID transmission in the school setting.”
Trail’s surge also contrasts with cases dropping in most West Kootenay areas. The municipality which includes Rossland, Warfield, Trail, Montrose and Fruitvale is one of B.C.’s most vaccinated health areas, with 80 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated.
Greater Trail also leads the Interior Health region in double vaccinations for children ages 12-to-17 at 68 per cent and people over 50 at 88 per cent.
Seventy-three per cent of people ages 18-to-49 are also fully vaccinated.
Despite the numbers, Goodison stresses that household transmission is still a big driver behind the surge.
“The more adults get vaccinated, the more our population rates are higher, the better we can protect those that are still susceptible, so our kids under 12.”
With Thanksgiving on the immediate horizon, residents are reminded that the Interior Health order dictates that families limit guests to five people max or one other family outside your home, and no more than 10 indoors.
But she does offer some alternatives.
“We have to keep it small but what we can look at is maybe you have two dinners, have one part of the family one day, the other part another day,” offered Goodison. “Or maybe you do it outdoors to reduce that risk.”
On Oct. 6, the province reported 752 new cases of COVID-19, raising the number of active infections to 5,945, while the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic has now edged past 191,000.
From Sept. 29-Oct. 5, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 70.8 per cent of cases and from Sept. 22-Oct. 5, they accounted for 78.3 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the latest figures from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
To avoid seeing a further surge in cases, the bottom line for Greater Trail residents is to get vaccinated and keep gatherings to a minimum.
“I hope people have a relatively quiet and happy Thanksgiving with small gatherings,” added Goodison.