The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.

‘Kudos to our community’: Fernie cluster numbers headed in right direction

Cases down, vaccines on the way, but no time to breathe easy just yet

The number of COVID-19 cases linked to the cluster in the Fernie local health area are going in the right direction thanks to responsible behaviour from locals according to a local doctor.

“I would definitely say kudos to our community,” said Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon of the Elk Valley Hospital.

“There’s only one way to prevent community transmission, and that’s by not giving it to somebody else. When the cluster was declared and the seriousness of the situation was identified, people did what they were meant to do for the most part – they stayed home, they isolated, and didn’t transmit it.”

What potentially set Fernie apart from its fellow ski towns that had outbreaks was it’s lack of staff housing.

“We don’t have housing for the ski hill like most other ski hills do in the province,” said Chalmers-Nixon, who said that while Fernie had a lot of shared housing in individual buildings, there were no large apartment buildings of shared facilities.

“It meant we were able to nip it in the bud a little more easily than Big White.”

Chalmers-Nixon said the declaration of a local cluster from Interior Health (IH) appears to have worked, with the increased vigilance, attention and resources since Jan. 27 when there were 63 cases. That has since dropped to 13 active cases in the latest IH update (as of writing – Feb. 8). UPDATE: Since writing, active cases are now down to three.

“It’s absolutely going in the right direction,” she said.

“We could still be called a cluster for a long time, which I see potentially as a good thing in that we are under increased vigilance from public health, and resources allotted to our community.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t time to breathe easy either here or when thinking about provincial numbers just yet.” said Chalmers-Nixon.

“We are in a province that has maintained certain things open that other provinces hadn’t… and so time will tell if all the numbers continue to come down.”

Daily cases remain around 400 for all of B.C., and the added concern of the COVID-19 variants appearing in Canada make things uncertain.

“I think we’re in a little bit of a holding pattern. I am not ready to relax yet,” she said.

“Just like everybody in the community we’re all feeling the strain of only having dinner with your immediate household and not seeing friends and extended family. Its asking a lot of our world to hold the course.”

One of the factors that will potentially bring normality are the vaccines being delivered across Canada. Chalmers-Nixon said despite news reports of delayed delivery, the Fernie local health area was on schedule for its vaccination program, with the next deliveries to be this week.

“Our understanding is the doses are coming, and those people that received their first dose will be receiving their second dose during the month of February and then we start looking at the larger population after that.”

READ MORE: Henry says COVID vaccine supply to increase in February; total cases top 70,000
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Until then, Chalmers-Nixon said the local health community was faring well, and the local hospital thankfully had not appeared to be over-stretched by extra demand.