The North Thompson Local Health Area had a record-breaking 31 new cases if COVID reported between Jan. 2 to 8. (BC Centres for Disease Control)

Record-breaking number of cases hit North Thompson region

New COVID-19 cases in the North Thompson Local Health Area hit a record high in the first week of January, according to data compiled by the BC Centres for Disease Control.

From Jan. 2 to 8, the region recorded 31 new cases of the novel coronavirus, up from just 6 the week prior.

In a post to Facebook, Mayor Merlin Blackwell noted he was told new cases in the area are approaching a rate where almost one in five people tested are infected.

“We are so connected in this town,” he wrote. “It is critical that we all take symptoms seriously so that we can protect people as well as protect the ability of core businesses and organizations to function. We are our own lifeboat.”

But because of changes to testing criteria due to facility over capacity, the true number of new cases is probably much higher.

“In the week ending Jan. 13, Clearwater had 17 reported cases, but the test positivity rate was 40 per cent, so many cases are not being reported,” read a post by the Physicians of Clearwater, British Columbia, on their Faceboook page on Jan. 15.

Vaccination rates in the North Thompson have begun to stagnate. As of Dec. 23, 79 per cent of those 12 and over have received their first shot and as of Jan. 11, the most recent update from the BC CDC, that number hasn’t changed, however, 76 per cent of those eligible 12 and over have received their second dose, up one percent from the week prior (Jan. 4).

Those who are unvaccinated are still more likely to be hospitalized or end up in critical care. (BC Centres for Disease control)

A challenge B.C. is facing is the number of health care providers that are becoming infected, noted the Physicians of Clearwater post. While the vaccine provides good protection and lowers the risk of hospitalization, Omicron has affected those who work in hospitals as well. The post notes that the efforts made by the community are vital in ensuring an already fragile hospital system can continue to function.

Furthermore, though the case rates for vaccinated people are increasing, the unvaccinated remain at high risk, noted the Physicians of Clearwater, as they are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized, 27 times higher to be admitted to the ICU and their risk of death is 40 times higher.

“Once more, we are not where we want to be,” the post reads. “The seemingly endless waves of variants and limiting activities again and again is frustrating to us all.

“But your actions matter. Being careful matters and helps protect all of us.”

Cases reported to B.C. public health have decreased since a peak of over 4,000 at the beginning of January, following a similar pattern as other urban areas around the world, including London and New York City, where the latest variant has travelled quickly and begun running out of people to infect.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday (Jan. 14) that the province had most likely reached its peak the weekend prior, and they’re “confident we’re in a downward trajectory.”

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