Epidemiology mapping for the week of July 17-23, and released on July 28 shows the provincial numbers of COVID-19. (Image supplied)

Epidemiology mapping for the week of July 17-23, and released on July 28 shows the provincial numbers of COVID-19. (Image supplied)

Bracing for the fall onset of Omicron in Prince Rupert

COVID is not gone … We have not lost any of the accountability - Julia Pemberton, Northern Health

With only 39 per cent of the Prince Rupert population aged 18 to 45 having received a booster or third COVID-19 immunization, uncertainly looms regarding the next wave of the virus expected in the fall.

“Bracing is the word everyone has been using. We are all bracing for the fall. We don’t know what it is going to look like,” said Julia Pemberton, chief administrator for Northern Health Prince Rupert Regional Hospital and Haida Gwaii.

“Many people have the two doses that were mandated for travel, but we have literally half of that who have not had their booster dose,” she said.

“I wish I had a crystal ball and could understand people’s rationale,” she said regarding the low numbers of triple vaccinated in the age group.

The B.C. provincial COVID-19 website message is clear and states if you have not had a booster or a third shot, you are not protected from severe illness related to COVID-19; therefore, you are not up-to-date with the best protection.

Eighty-four percent of residents five years and older in Prince Rupert have just two vaccine doses.

The province of B.C. plans to offer everyone aged 12 and above a fall booster dose.

“The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has been clear this approach will provide the best protection in the fall and winter when we’re all spending more time inside and respiratory illness is passed around our communities,” the website stated.

If you’ve had COVID-19, you still need a booster, the page information states.

While there have been several waves of COVID-19, Prince Rupert didn’t experience the first couple, Pemberton said, with Delta being the region’s largest and most felt variant. When the virus mutated, numbers and tracking for Omicron were not as precise as with Delta. Because Omicron hit at the same time personal and home testing was made available health authority tracking could not be controlled.

“Definitely, we had Omicron here … those are the cases you don’t see in the hospital for the most part. Most of Omicron was a community-based illness,” Pemberton told The Northern View on July 21.

“But our numbers of COVID cases after Delta admitted to hospital definitely declined. It’s not impossible that someone with Omicron was in the hospital, but we saw the highest rates of hospitalization during the Delta wave,” the medical professional explained.

For those who were not around during that time, Pemberton refers to the months immediately before the mass vaccination clinics held in the city in March 2021.

“When people received the first two doses, COVID was killing people, and there was some fear that ‘I can get really sick’, which encouraged people to become double vaccinated,” she said.

Despite health restrictions being lifted and social engagement on the increase, she said COVID-19 is not gone.

“… We’ve been benefiting from the ability to travel, the ability to go to concerts, and to be in big groups again — which is wonderful. But, we really need to be ensuring those basic public health measures. I want us to be responsible.”

“We all still carry the responsibility of being safe as we engage with our greater groups and with our recreation activities, and the things we desperately missed during the more significant restrictions of the pandemic. We have not lost any of the accountability.”

Pemberton said we all know by now that COVID-19 is highly transmissible.

“The best way to prevent that transmission is to wash your hands. Stay home when you’re sick, get vaccinated and wear masks in crowded and indoor public spaces. That’s the best thing you can do. I think whether people are doing that or not is between them and their own conscience.”

To brace for the fall wave of the coronavirus, the Ocean Centre Mall will still be utilized as a vaccination space. Pemberton said she expects extended hours to be implemented.

“We will continue to rely on our community partners in pharmacy and locally to provide vaccinations as well … they are going to be an important partner in rolling out the fall vaccine campaigns.”

Pemberton said despite being in a bit of a holding pattern right now and not knowing what the fall is going to present, she encourages everyone to make sure they are registered for vaccines through the Get Vaccinated website.

COVID-19 numbers reported to BC CDC test results confirmed by them and released on July 28 for the epidemiology week of July 17 to 23 show that Prince Rupert has five cases of COVID-19, equal to Terrace. The map shows Smithers with one, Haida Gwaii with two, and Kitimat with zero.

The COVID-19 online dashboard shows there have been more than 378, 291 reported and confirmed cases throughout the province, with 921 new from July 17 to 23. Since the start of virus tracking, more than 3,908 people infected have died from the virus, with 363 of those in the Northern Health Authority (NHA) region. Three people died in the health region for the reported epidemiology week.

New cases for the same time period are listed at 62 in the NHA, with 11 currently in the hospital and two more patients in critical care.

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist 
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