Williams Lake and the Chilcotin is part of a community cluster declared by Interior Health Jan. 20, 2021. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake and the Chilcotin is part of a community cluster declared by Interior Health Jan. 20, 2021. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

53 more COVID-19 cases linked to ‘social gatherings’ in Williams Lake: Interior Health

Cariboo Chilcotin schools have seen a surge in COVID-19 exposures

Interior Health (IH) has identified an additional 53 cases of COVID-19 linked to a community cluster in the Williams Lake area, the health authority noted in its Friday, Jan. 22 update.

Since Jan. 1, a total of 268 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the region and 165 cases are currently active, a jump from 156 active cases reported two days prior on Wednesday, Jan. 20 when the area was first declared a cluster.

Most of the transmission occurred at recent social events and gatherings.

“Everyone is reminded that socialization must be limited to immediate household bubbles. Please do not invite friends or extended family to your residence for a visit or gathering,” noted IH.

The outbreak at Cariboo Memorial Hospital is 11 cases among staff. The health authority said no patients have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and the public is reminded the hospital is safe to visit for appointments or emergency care.

“Please continue with any scheduled procedures. COVID-19 self-isolation is not required after visiting the hospital.”

With increased cases in the community, School District 27 has also seen a significant surge in COVID-19 since the Christmas break, superintendent Chris van der Mark said in a letter to parents Friday, Jan. 22.

van der Mark noted that 40 per cent of SD27 school sites have now experienced at least one exposure since the start of the new year, with two sites having had multiple exposure notices.

“The good news is that 60 per cent have received zero notices,” van der Mark said of schools in the Cariboo Chilcotin region.

In Williams Lake, however, that percentage is much higher. COVID exposures have been reported at Mountview, Cataline, Nesika, and Marie Sharpe elementary schools, and both the middle and high school campuses of Lake City Secondary School. There was also a COVID exposure at the rural school of Horsefly Elementary/Jr. Secondary School.

In the letter, the superintendent maintained contact tracing works, risk of transmission in school remains low and schools remain safe. He added school staff have been working hard to be flexible in accommodating students who need to isolate or parents and students who are worried and staying home.

Physical distancing, washing your hands regularly and wearing a mask are important protocols, said IH in its update noting it is “thankful for the ongoing support of local First Nations Chiefs, elected officials, and community leaders as we support the community together.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson has been providing daily updates to constituents via video posts on his Facebook page. On Wednesday, Doerkson reported that there were no COVID cases in Cariboo Memorial Hospital which has capacity for five such patients. In 100 Mile House, there was one COVID patient in the local hospital which has capacity for 14.

He said there were three deaths in the area due to COVID-19.

“My thoughts and prayers are definitely with your families for certain,” Doerkson said.

Residents at Williams Lake Seniors Village, Deni House and Cariboo Place did receive vaccines this week.

“We now have a 85 per cent vaccination rate for our long-term care facilities for our residents,” he said.

Fischer Place residents in 100 Mile were also expected to receive vaccines Thursday and Friday.

However, independent living seniors and their home care worker will not.

“The sad reality is they are part of phase two … why that’s a concern is that I don’t know when phase two is going to happen and neither does Interior Health.”

Phase one of the vaccine roll-out is about 50 per cent complete with IH starting the second doses next week in the Cariboo Chilcotin, he said, reminding everyone to adhere to COVID protocols and restrictions.

“It is definitely a scary time throughout the riding. People are fearful. Just keep practising the protocols that we know all about and be safe.”

IH will release regular updates on this community cluster on Tuesdays and Fridays and in addition, everyone is encouraged to monitor the BCCDC website for ongoing COVID-19 data.

Everyone in all communities should remain vigilant in following COVID-19 precautions:

Keep to your household bubbles and avoid social gatherings.

Stay home when you are sick and get tested if you have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Booking a COVID-19 test:

Online: You can book an appointment online through the COVID-19 Test Booking Form: https://interiorhealthcovid.secureform.ca/index.php

By phone: Call the COVID-19 Test Booking Line at 1-877-740-7747 for assistance with booking your test.

Read More: Secwepemc Nation raises spirits through song

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