Infectious disease specialists and immunocompromised people are concerned about an increase in COVID-19 cases in B.C. — especially because it appears many people have stopped following recommended health measures like wearing masks and staying home when sick.
New figures show COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have increased in the province
Yasmine Ghania · CBC News
Candace Latham has never stopped wearing a mask.
The Vancouver mother and her 15-year-old son are both immunocompromised, which has made the past 3½ years of COVID-19 extremely difficult. Latham says her child contracted the coronavirus that causes the disease while at school last year and has had long COVID ever since.
“He is exhausted. This summer, while everybody else was out doing fun things, this kid actually slept till 5 p.m.,” Latham told CBC News. “It is not over for the immunocompromised.”
People like Latham, along with infectious disease specialists and British Columbia’s human rights commissioner, are now concerned about an increase in COVID-19 cases in the province — especially because it appears that many people have stopped following recommended health measures like wearing masks and staying home when sick.
New figures from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) show COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths all increased during the four-week period from Aug. 20 to Sept. 16.
Confirmed cases nearly doubled over that time, from 366 in the first week to 628 in the final week. There were also 178 COVID hospitalizations reported in the final week. Deaths are also on the rise, with 10 reported in the first week to 22 in the last week.
“I think many had hoped that this was it for COVID,” said Dr. Brian Conway, an infectious diseases specialist and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.
“And probably we didn’t make it clear enough that COVID was never gone and none of us who work in the field had an expectation that COVID would be gone. So, it’s here, it never left.”
‘People have tried to power through’
When COVID was a novel concept, people had to be vigilant because they didn’t know much about the virus, Conway said. But that’s changed.
“I think over the past several months people have tried to power through some respiratory illnesses as they did before the pandemic and that’s probably not a good idea,” he said.
Masking and self-isolation requirements have long been scrapped, but the BCCDC still recommends people stay home as much as possible if they have COVID symptoms.
Conway agrees, adding that anyone with symptoms including coughing or a fever should stay home, even if they don’t test positive for COVID.
“And if any one of your colleagues at work shows up unwell, I think it’s proper etiquette to take them aside and say, ‘we would all feel comfortable in the workplace if you went home,'” he said.
Concerns in schools
The BCCDC’s guidance on COVID in schools is that sick students should stay at home until they can “fully participate in regular activities.”
Masking isn’t required and children can continue to attend school if someone in their household is sick — guidelines that Latham says “are not robust enough.”
Dr. Laura Sauve, a Vancouver pediatric infectious disease specialist, said she’s seen more children coming to school with coughs and runny noses again.
“I think it’s really important to think of all the ways we keep from getting sick,” she said, adding that masking in schools when you’re ill is a good idea.
It’s a sentiment echoed by B.C.’s human rights commissioner Kasari Govender.
“The implications of not taking these steps can be really serious for vulnerable people,” said Govender, who wants mask mandates to be reinstated in health-care settings.
“We know we are in a different place for the majority of the population now around COVID,” she said. “But human rights considerations are about what’s good for the minority … and it’s my job to speak up.”
WATCH | Wait for updated COVID-19 booster this fall, experts suggest:
Wait for updated COVID-19 booster this fall, experts suggest
Despite an expected fall wave of COVID-19, health experts recommend most people wait for the next, updated vaccine — still a few weeks away — to get a booster for the most protection.
Infectious disease experts are also encouraging British Columbians to take the updated COVID-19 vaccine targeting the main virus strain currently circulating, when it becomes available.
B.C.’s Ministry of Health told CBC News it will have “more information to share on provincial plans for the respiratory virus season in the coming days.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yasmine Ghania is an Egyptian-Canadian reporter with CBC News, currently based in Vancouver. She was part of a team nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalists award for their investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse at a private Christian school. Reach her at email@example.com