The ageing population in Saanich and Oak Bay could be at greater risk if COVID-19 were to spread through Greater Victoria.
Dr. Bridget Reidy – a family doctor in Central Saanich with experience in home care, geriatric and palliative care –explained that people who are over 50 or who have compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for mortality when it comes to COVID-19.
In 2016, Statistics Canada found that more than 42 per cent of Saanich’s population is over 50. According to a 2019 Housing Needs Study produced by Urban Matters, the median age in the Capital Region District is 44.8 while in Oak Bay it’s 52.4. The study also revealed that while the number of Oak Bay residents under 65 had declined, the rate of residents over 65 is on the rise.
The saturation of an above 50 population in Saanich and Oak Bay means the at-risk population is larger in some parts of the region than others, though Reidy noted that an individual’s risk is still based on their age and health.
She also pointed out that while the presumed case of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island is not indicative of community spread, it’s “something to be aware of.”
Aside from regular hand washing, avoiding touching the face and staying home when sick, medical professionals are encouraging healthy people to practice social distancing, she explained. This can range from working from home if possible to avoiding crowded public spaces such as theatres, churches and shopping malls, Reidy said.
She added that there is no exact definition of social distancing, but that the goal is to reduce risk. To do this, Reidy recommends following the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s advice and take extra precautions that are possible.
“There’s no harm in doing more,” she said. “The little things everyone does makes a difference because it’s a numbers game.”
Staying home when ill is important because even what seems like a mild cold could be coronavirus, she explained. The main symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath but some people experience nasal symptoms as well.
Reidy emphasized that residents should prepare for possible quarantine or self-isolation by having a month’s worth of food and medication at home. Patients can call their doctors for extra prescriptions but should be aware that health insurance companies may not cover the extra medications, she warned.
High-risk residents do need to contact their doctors if they have any symptoms, she added.
Reidy explained that with COVID-19, personalized treatment is important because medical professionals are finding that some medications for chronic conditions need to be stopped as they could have adverse effects.
“We’re learning more every day,” she emphasized.
As provincial health officials educate the public on how to prevent the virus from spreading, the effects of a virus outbreak in the region are unknown. The District of Saanich has enacted a level two emergency operations communication and local care homes continue to implement precautions on reducing the spread of the virus.
-With files from Travis Paterson