Revelstoke was runaway B.C. COVID-19 hot spot from Dec. 23-29

The Revelstoke Local Heath Area has smashed local COVID-19 records and had the highest per capita number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C. for the weekly period covering Dec. 23-29, 2021.

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Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke, pictured in December 2021. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

The Revelstoke Local Heath Area has smashed local COVID-19 records and had the highest per capita number of people sick with COVID-19 in B.C. for the weekly period covering Dec. 23-29, 2021.

The Revelstoke Local Health Area (LHA) recorded 215 new positive tests during that weekly period.

Revelstoke recorded a case rate of 327 daily new cases per 100,000 population. When compared to all other epi-week periods since the start of the pandemic in all 89 B.C Local Health Areas, Revelstoke’s rate of 327 cases per 100,000 people for this period would be the highest case rate in B.C. since the pandemic started. However, Dec. 23-29 is one of three weekly reporting intervals and does not align with the epi-week periods. The next epi-week will cover Dec. 26–Jan. 1, and that data will be released on Jan. 5.

Revelstoke also had an extremely high 58% test positivity rate for the period.

For the week including Dec. 23-29, 2021, Revelstoke had daily case rate of 327 per 100,000, almost tripling the rate of 117 from the previous corresponding week. Revelstoke had the highest case rate in B.C. and Interior Health (pictured) by a wide margin. Image: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

 

Testing has been limited to people who show symptoms and demand for testing has exceeded available tests since about Dec. 18. Interior Health has said it does not know how many people wanted a test but could not get one.

In response to questions from revelstokemountaineer.com, an Interior Health spokesperson said its COVID-19 testing centre in Revelstoke experienced, “a significant increase in demand on Dec. 15,” and the demand soon exceeded available daily appointments.

An average of 51 COVID-19 tests were completed each day in Revelstoke between Dec. 23–26.

The increased demand around the middle of the month indicates people became infected here days before then, during a week before the latest pre-Christmas wave of restrictions started, including Dec. 12–18.

Interior Health has said the first wave of transmission was driven by young and socially active residents.

On the ground in Revelstoke, there’s a sense that many people have become sick in the past two weeks. Various businesses and operations have announced temporary closures or staff shortages due to infections, RMR released a statement on staff illnesses, and generally speaking for a fairly connected community, it seems most people know those who have been sick in the past two weeks or are sick now.

The Omicron variant, or SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, is much more transmissible than past variants and can make the newly infected themselves infectious in a few days. People who do not yet feel sick can infect others.

The fast-moving nature of Omicron drives exponential growth: the number of infections increases at an exponential factor every few or more days.

This comparison of case rates in Interior Health Local Health Areas covers from Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 26, 2021, the latest date available. It shows the COVID-19 positive test numbers rising rapidly in December, a possible indication that the Omicron variant arrived and started to spread in Revelstoke before other LHAs in Interior Health. Another LHA in Interior Health with characteristics of rapid exponential growth in December was Kimberley. Image: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

Revelstoke has a high rate of two-dose vaccination, at 93% of all residents aged 12 and up. However, its third dose rate, 26%, is just above average for Interior Health.

The B.C. government’s roll-out of third doses of vaccines has lagged behind other provinces due to its slower phased approach and capacity limits. It’s called for people medical credentials to volunteer to administer vaccine doses, including retired people.

Interior Health says it hasn’t identified any events that led to rapid rise

When asked, Interior Health said it hadn’t identified any events or gatherings in Revelstoke that contributed to the rapid rise here.

“We have not identified a specific single event or gathering related to the rapid rise in recent cases in Revelstoke,” Interior Health said in response to questions from revelstokemountaineer.com.

Analysis: Revelstoke’s challenges are real

Everyone is fatigued by the pandemic, but we can’t ignore the real new problems Revelstoke suddenly faces, ones that confront us in the short-term, no matter what our personal perspectives about the pandemic are.

Many are struck with COVID-19 illness, businesses have been mandated closed, others are curtailed, employees are losing jobs and hours, the arts & culture sector is losing revenue, international visitor traffic is down due to travel restrictions and highway disruptions alone, and school has been delayed for a week. That’s just a start to the list.

The federal and provincial governments have announced some new supports for the newly closed sectors; certainly any other targeted government response can help.

Likewise, local efforts to coordinate a response to some of the most extraordinary weeks of the pandemic seem needed by those facing new challenges brought on by the sudden rise of the new variant here.

One local group is showing how volunteer Revelstoke community spirit can help.