COVID cases in the Bella Coola Valley have dropped to just four active cases (file photo)

Expanding social circles fuelling North Island COVID-19 spike

Comox Valley COVID spike the result of ‘a series of multiple social gatherings’

  • Feb. 24, 2021 9:30 a.m.

North Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns says the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the Comox Valley is the product of “a series of multiple social gatherings” and not from a single function.

“That’s not true,” said Enns, of reports circulating that the bulk of the new cases are the result of one or two gatherings. “In some ways, that would help, because then we would have a specific point in time. But what we are seeing is multiple social gatherings, with large social networks. That’s more of a problem, from my perspective.

“It’s several (instances) of close gatherings. Not formal; people are just meeting with their social contacts.”

RELATED: B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

RELATED: COVID-19 exposure at fourth Comox Valley school: Island Health

Enns said the spike in positive cases is a result of people expanding their social circles, reverting to pre-COVID socializing habits, and ignoring symptoms of the disease, i.e. loss of taste and smell, cough, fever, headaches.

“When someone tests positive, we do a very extensive interview with them, to determine when their symptoms started,” she said. “Based on their symptoms, we determine their infectious period, which then defines who is a close contact – meaning being exposed to someone during an infectious period. Normally we like to see that close contact list pretty small… but what we are seeing is that there is a large number of close contacts.

“We are seeing large social networks, and people socializing when they are symptomatic. This then results in close contact being identified in other households, or maybe at a business.”

She added that while the spike may be alarming, it actually shows that the contact tracing process is effective.

“The case numbers in and of themselves does not mean things are out of control,” said Enns. “For the most part, people should read it as that we have containment. The vast majority of the recent cases that have been reported in the Comox Valley are known close contacts.”

Regarding the exposure alerts at the four Comox Valley schools (Vanier, Glacier View, Queneesh and École Au-cœur-de-l’île), Enns said to her knowledge every one of those alerts is based on singular positive tests.

“As far as I am aware – and I have asked – all of these exposures are a single staff or student that was at school during their infectious period. That’s all it takes to post a school exposure. Then there is a very extensive contact follow-up conversation with the school and with the case.”

Enns credited the school district for its attention to detail.

“I cannot keep thanking our school system enough for how excellent of a job they are doing. I think our public schools are doing a fantastic job.”

Enns said there is no concern that authorities have underestimated the vulnerability of children and their susceptibility to contracting coronavirus.

“Not at all. Schools are just a portion of a community,” she said. “So when you have increasing COVID in a community, it will be reflected in schools. It’s inevitable. Schools are part of a community. But schools are consistently not amplifying transmission. They are not responsible for COVID. They are just a reflection of the background of COVID in a community.”

Enns reiterated the importance of getting back to the basics, regarding the limiting of social interactions.

“I would like to remind people that this is not the time for large social gatherings, and please, especially, do not socialize or go to work sick,” she said. “If we would all do what we need to do – go to work, go to school, and don’t do all that other stuff in between – we will limit transmission in the larger community.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Comox ValleyCoronavirusIsland Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police arrested federal offender Travis Moore April 13, who was wanted for breaching the conditions of his statutory release. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police arrest federal offender following foot chase

Travis Moore, 28, was wanted for breaching the conditions of his statutory release

Emergency crews and animal control responding to a struck pedestrian and limping dog at Quadra and View streets Wednesday morning. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Pedestrian struck at Quadra and View

Emergency crews on scene

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

Sooke’s Whiffin Spit in a blaze of glory. (Pete Knight photo)
Whiffin Spit in a blaze of glory. Transition Sooke is calling on the municipality to slow its growth. The group came up with a growth scenario proposal for the Official Community Plan (OCP) which looks different to than the survey scenarios that emerged from the district. (Pete Knight photo)
Transition Sooke calls for slower growth rate

Group submits alternate growth scenario for Official Community Plan review

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)
Grey whale off Vancouver Island develops lesions after being tagged, researchers monitor its condition

Canadian and U.S. whale experts administered antibiotics to the animal on March 31, April 1

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a box containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots

These are not typical blood clots – they’re weird in two ways

A man sustained burns to his body near this spot around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 13 in Courtenay. The fire was left of the pathway. The Station youth housing facility and city public works yard are to the right of the trail. Photo by Terry Farrell
Man catches fire sleeping while outdoors in downtown Courtenay

Firefighters say man still burning when they arrived after he fell asleep next to his fire

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

Most Read