Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)

VIDEO: Vancouver Island contact tracing doubles due to COVID variants, more socializing

Island’s top public health officer calling for return to practices that achieved a flat curve

For every person who gets COVID-19 on Vancouver Island, more than four are being sent into self-isolation as part of the contact tracing, up significantly from last year.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health, told the media Tuesday that increase is likely due to the more contagious variants and “more social interaction than we would prefer,” he said, diplomatically.

“A significant number in this is we have 1,162 individuals in isolation. Part of that is being driven by 4.3 contacts per case, for much of the last year we were running less than two per case,” he said.

It’s becoming more common for low-risk contacts to test positive at their day seven asymptomatic test, indicating that the variants of concern really are more contagious than the dominant strain.

“What might have been a casual contact, which would be deemed as insignificant, may be playing into this,” he said.

There are 13 confirmed cases of variants on the Island right now, but Stanwick suspects the real number is higher. More samples than ever are being sent to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control for analysis.

Contact tracing interviews reveal that many social interactions “are taking place indoors in a lot closer than the two metres we’re recommending.”

“We really need people to go back to the practices that got us to a point where we had a curve that was relatively flat.”

New cases are starting to decrease again — 40 new cases on Monday — after some record breaking days last week. That increase Stanwick suspects was caused by spring break travel, both to and from the Island, the variants and un-distanced, indoor social gatherings.

Vaccine hesitancy

On the vaccine front, the Island remains on target to have every willing person vaccinated by July 1. So far 15 per cent of eligible people have received at least a first dose.

Asked about vaccine hesitancy, especially in light of the AstraZeneca vaccine being paused for a few days, Stanwick said it’s critically important to be holding a transparent dialogue with the public about possible vaccine side effects, but also about the consequences of getting COVID-19.

“We haven’t emphasized that one in five people who get COVID-19 experience some form of [blood] clotting, versus one in 100,000 one in 200,000 with the vaccine, with an awareness, and knowing there are effective therapies to address it.

“One of the tenets of medicine is that there has to be informed consent. The challenge is of course communicating what that risk is in real terms, versus what the consequence is of getting the disease is.

“There has been an extreme and appropriate focus on this because it’s new, and it’s affecting the entire population, but one of the side effects is this ability to do good risk communication,” he said.

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

READ MORE: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

READ MORE: Island Health issues warning after significant jump in COVID-19 among 20-39-year-olds

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Sooke plans to begin construction of the $4.9-million Church Road corridor project this summer. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke hopes to start Church Road Corridor project this summer

Road upgrade includes a roundabout, sidewalks, bike lanes and boulevards

The site of the proposed rental housing development at 2197 Otter Point Rd. (District of Sooke)
District of Sooke approves development with 77 rental units

New parking lot for John Phillips Memorial Park included in project

Food trucks can begin operating on May 1 in three Sooke parks: Ed Macgregor, Broomhill Playground, and John Phillips Memorial Park (weekends only). (Pixabay)
Sooke open for food truck pilot project

Applications open April 15, program begins May 1

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
Provincial pandemic aid passes the Legion by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Bulldogs forward Stephen Castagna flips the puck into the Clippers zone during a game on Oct. 24. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Island BCHL game postponed due to ‘potential positive’ COVID-19 test

Nanaimo Clippers team suspends activities, players isolating pending further test results

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

New HousingHub financing funds will encourage developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read