The North Thompson Local Health Area has had 116 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. (BC Centres for Disease Control)

The North Thompson Local Health Area has had 116 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. (BC Centres for Disease Control)

Interior Health: Keep gatherings small over the holidays

As B.C. continues to see increasing cases of COVID-19 over the holidays, Interior Health is advising residents in the region to expect a similar increase in cases in their communities and urging they take steps to minimize their risk to the virus.

The province recorded 6,288 new cases of COVID-19 from Dec. 25 to 27, with 713 of the cases in Interior Health.

B.C.’s infection rate, like others around the world, has taken off since the Omicron variant of the coronavirus began to spread. It shot up past 2,000 cases on Friday, Christmas Eve, but hospitalization rates remained stable.

The North Thompson Local Health Area, which spans from just north of Little Fort to north of Blue River and includes Wells Gray, recorded five new cases of COVID-19 from Dec. 12 to 18, in addition to another five recorded the week prior, according to a weekly map provided by the BC Centres for Disease Control. November saw the highest number of COVID-19 cases at 58.

As of press time, the vaccination rates of those eligible aged 12 and over was still below provincial levels, with 79 per cent of those having received their first dose and 75 per cent their second. Provincewide, as of Dec. 24, 87.8 per cent of those eligible 12 and over have received their first dose and 82.8 per cent had received their second.

Even when fully vaccinated, health officials recommend residents continue to follow health guidelines and restrictions, including wearing a mask over your mouth and nose indoors and sanitizing or washing hands frequently. In addition, those who feel unwell should stay at home and limit contact with others.

Immunization clinics are still being held in Clearwater at the local medical health clinic on Park Drive. Those seeking first or second doses and are 12 and older are welcome to walk in, whereas booster shots and children aged five to 11 require an appointment. The next available day for booking for children is Jan. 12. Clinics for those 12 and older will be held on Thursday, Jan. 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

“Social connections with family and friends over the holidays are important,” Dr. Silvina Mema, IH medical health officer, said in a press release. “As we make plans to gather please take steps to decrease your risk of getting sick or spreading disease to others.”

Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants, spiking case numbers in countries all over the world. As New Year’s Eve approaches, residents are being asked to keep themselves and others safe as gatherings can increase the risk of being exposed.