Downtown Fernie, B.C. looking north in June 2021. (Scott Tibballs / The Free press)

Downtown Fernie, B.C. looking north in June 2021. (Scott Tibballs / The Free press)

64 percent of residents of Fernie LHA fully vaccinated, 13 cases recorded last week

Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon of the Elk Valley Hospital encouraged those who are yet to be vaccinated to do so

With COVID-19 case numbers rising in British Columbia and numbers returning to double digits in the Fernie Local Health Area (LHA), local health workers are encouraging more locals to get vaccinated.

“I’m hopeful that people that have not yet been vaccinated will do so,” said Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon, who is president of the Medical Staff Association at the Elk Valley Hospital.

Currently, 64 percent of Fernie LHA residents are fully vaccinated, which is ‘not as bad’ as other places in the area such as Creston, said Chalmers-Nixon.

“Most people are not hardcore anti-vaxxers. They are hesitant, and just waiting.

“There has be plenty of time to do that. Three billion people are vaccinated, we know the risk of COVID-19 is greater than any risk of the vaccine.”

Currently, all residents over 12 are eligible to be vaccinated, with no limitations on who can get the jab, whether they are cancer patients, pregnant or otherwise.

Chalmers-Nixon said that news from Dr. Bonnie Henry that healthcare workers were mandated to be fully vaccinated by October was welcome.

“This is a huge step (but) it remains to be seen how they will enforce this and whether there will be push-back.

“In the public health sector, we are glad that there is an order to healthcare workers to have double vaccination.”

In Fernie, the mass vaccination clinic has since shut, but there will be continuing pop-up vaccine clinics over coming weeks, and vaccinations can still be booked online at locations around the valley.

There are three pop-up clinics in the Fernie LHA in August: One is Grasmere on August 14 between 10am and 2pm, and one at the Baynes Lake Market in August 21 and 28 between 9am and 12:30pm.

On the riding numbers, (the Fernie LHA recorded 13 new cases in the previous reported week according to BC CDC data), Chalmers-Nixon said she trusted in the public health advice that gathering outdoors was safer than indoors, but added that large groups of people you might not know as well was still a concern.

“With big public groups you lack the knowledge of vaccination rates,” she said, explaining that in smaller gatherings of friends and family, you’re more likely to know who is and isn’t fully vaccinated.

There are no specific public health orders aimed at the East Kootenays, though Interior Health remains the main driver of rising cases in the province, with 1,690 people testing positive in the Central Okanagan since July 1. That area has since been declared an outbreak, with mandatory masks returned as a public health order. Masks remain optional in the Fernie LHA.

In the most recent BCCDC data, the Fernie LHA recorded 13 positive cases over a week-long period. Neighbouring Cranbrook recorded 18, there were 17 in Creston, while further afield in Nelson there were 74 positive cases recorded between August 1 and 7.

READ MORE: Interior Health records 376 new cases of COVID-19
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