Grand Forks is facing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, with rising infection rates and active cases once again standing out against generally declining numbers province-wide.
The Grand Forks Local Health Area (LHA) added 21 infections between June 26 and Wednesday, July 7, according to Karin Goodison, Medical Health Officer at the Interior Health Authority (IH). Seventeen of these cases were active as of Monday, July 5.
Goodison said local infection rates had replicated community transmissions last seen on June 10, when Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry dubbed Grand Forks and two other LHA’s “hot spots” of COVID activity in B.C. As in the June example, Goodison said “several” of the recent cases were linked to Grand Forks Secondary School (GFSS).
There were at least two confirmed cases within Schoool District 51 (SD51) beginning June 27, one of which was tied to the “(GFSS) community,” according to emails by Acting Superintendent Anna Lautard.
Goodison qualified that IH doesn’t know how the virus entered Grand Forks’ LHA, much less the city itself. Instead, she highlighted varying vaccination rates across the LHA. While around 68 per cent of people in the LHA have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, that rate doesn’t necessarily hold from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
“What we tend to see are clusters of people where there’s good coverage and clusters where there’s less coverage,” she said, specifying that “the majority” of recent cases have hit unvaccinated people. “Getting vaccinated protects yourself, the people around you and your broader community against most variants of COVID-19 known to be circulating in B.C.,” she continued.
Even one dose significantly reduces the risk of contracting the virus. The same coverage is just as likely to knock down symptoms and boost recovery in the rare cases where vaccinated people are infected, she said.
It remains “an interesting question” as to why, despite a recent uptick in vaccine clinics, Grand Forks LHA seems to be lagging in coverage. “People should be talking about this.”
IH is hosting pop-up clinics at Grand Forks’ Gospel Chapel from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 15 and 16, as well as a clinic at Rock Creek’s Riverside Centre over the same hours on July 14. The health authority is meanwhile encouraging people to report severely adverse reactions to their vaccine providers and to Grand Forks Public Health Office 250-443-3150. Minor reactions typically include sore arms, headaches and fatigue, especially after a second dose, she said. These symptoms are short-lived and don’t need to be reported.
Anyone over 12 can book a COVID-19 vaccine through the BC Government’s website at getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca.
Goodison explained that health authorities in B.C. don’t have a metric for what constitutes a community outbreak. COVID-19 simply hasn’t been around long enough for epidemiologists to establish the baseline infection rates that would prop up any such definition, she said.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) reports active case numbers every week on Wednesday afternoons. Cases are struck from that list after patients recover.
Outbreaks are declared only in confined, institutional settings like hospitals and long-term care facilities. “If we see one case among a resident in a facility, we’re concerned that could be an outbreak,” she said. “If we have two residents at a facility, that would be an outbreak.”
For more information about COVID-19, infection rates in your LHA and COVID vaccines, please consult the BC CDC’s website at bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19.