Vancouver Island has reached a milestone in the fight against the novel coronavirus, becoming the first health region in the province to have no COVID-19 test-positive cases since it touched down here in January.
The latest data released Thursday (June 4), no longer lists the sole confirmed current case of novel coronavirus in the region. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that afternoon that there were no new COVID-19 related deaths to report, pointing to the likelihood the person recovered.
Henry has spent the past month urging people to continue practising physical distancing, keeping their “pandemic bubble” small and frequently washing hands despite numbers being low. After a number of single-digit days, the new case count spiked to 22 out of nowhere recently, demonstrating how difficult the virus can be to contain.
A total of 130 people have tested positive within the Island Health region. That includes 25 confirmed cases within the Central Vancouver Island region, 43 within the Southern Vancouver Island region, and 59 in the northern portion.
Since the pandemic was declared, sparking a provincial state of emergency, Vancouver Island communities have taken various measures to keep transmission rates low.
As a number of First Nations closed their lands to non-nation members, Transport Canada allowed BC Ferries to limit capacity on its vessels to restrict routes from the mainland to essential travel only.
Meanwhile, Royal Jubilee Hospital and Nanaimo Regional General Hospital have been serving as the two primary COVID-19 hospital sites on the Island.
Some communities have also been hit harder than others. Although not declared an official outbreak, but rather a cluster, there have been 30 confirmed cases in Alert Bay. An Alert Bay elder was the first Indigenous person to die from COVID-19, shaking the small Island community.
“This is a tragedy that is beyond just us, it’s a tragedy for all of us,” Henry said at the time. “Our elders in our First Nations communities are culture and history keepers. When they become ill and they die, we all lose, and I want you to know that we feel that collective loss today.”
The spike in cases sparked quick action by the community, including setting up an Emergency Operations Centre and got hold of the cluster.
Across the province, 166 people have died from the contagious respiratory illness – which has no cure or vaccine – with 96 of those fatalities being seniors in long-term or assisted living facilities.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Henry routinely offer their continued condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the pandemic.
Moving ahead, as B.C. looks to enter Phase Three in its multi-phase reopening plan, Henry has warned that there will likely be some restrictions in place until a vaccine is created and made widely available.
Historically, pandemics often include more than one wave – with COVID-19 anticipated to return in the fall when other respiratory illnesses typically see a resurgence after the summer.
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