Interior Health is appealing to the public not be complacent in following safety precautions to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Susan Brown, president and chief executive officer of IH, issued a statement Friday (Sept. 18) saying there is ample knowledge and experience about how to what works in stopping communicable diseases, including COVID-19.
“Stay home when you’re sick, maintain physical distancing, wash your hands frequently and keep your bubbles small,” said Brown.
As we head into the fall, she urges everyone to keep their social contact bubbles small.
She added the precautions that help protect our long-term care homes can be applied to schools.
“Together, fewer contacts and smaller bubbles will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its introduction to schools,” she said.
Brown said IH has focused its efforts over the summer to on training more lab staff and stocking supplies to streamline testing.
“Today, when you look at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control data page, Interior Health test results are typically a day or less.”
While COVID-19 is new, Brown said dealing with communicable diseases such as meningitis and measles in schools is not.
“This is the role of public health and something we do very well. We are also prepared at our testing facilities and have strengthened our IH lab capacity.
“More people have been trained and we’re ready to ramp up testing if required.”
Still, there have been two deaths in the Interior Health region from COVID-19, Brown said, noting that no matter how low the numbers the impact is significant, especially for families who have lost loved ones.
“These losses are reason enough for all of us to continue to follow the safety precautions every day.”
Brown said IH public health teams have dealt with a diverse range of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks since March.
“We managed B.C.’s first outbreak of COVID-19 in a group of temporary foreign workers at an agricultural business. Later, illness at a South Okanagan farm was another example of excellent work as the spread was contained to the farm itself with only four people testing positive.”
“The same infection control measures and contact tracing went into high gear when outbreaks were declared at two long-term care sites.
“Swift action and teamwork resulted in only one person testing positive at each site and no residents becoming ill.
“Similarly, outbreaks at the Okanagan Correctional Centre were kept to low numbers. In the second outbreak, declared over on Sept. 10, no inmates became ill.”
Brown noted IH contact tracers have worked tirelessly to reach anyone exposed to the almost 500 people in the Interior who have tested positive for COVID-19 since February.
The efforts of IH medical health officers, epidemiologists, environmental health, communicable disease and public health staff helped bend the curve back in Kelowna after the July long weekend when a cluster of cases grew from a series of parties, she said.
“The COVID-19 picture today is much clearer than it was when B.C. declared its first case on Jan. 28, 2020. That solid plan we all craved then has come into place and we are entering the next phase of the pandemic armed with increased knowledge and medical expertise about COVID-19.”