Port Alberni residents are on heightened alert following a series of COVID-19 exposures or outbreaks at their hospital, schools, a long-term care facility and several businesses.
Mayor Sharie Minions said the city doesn’t know exactly how many cases there are locally, but residents are understandably worried about the recent developments.
“No matter where you go, people are talking about COVID and making sure that everyone’s wearing masks and making sure that people are doing all they can be doing,” she said.
“People are very much watching each other to make sure that there are no social gatherings going on.”
Island Health declared an outbreak at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni this week after one staff member and one patient tested positive for the virus. Health officials said the outbreak is limited to one unit and the hospital remains open and ready to provide safe care.
That alert followed an earlier outbreak in the city at the Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens long-term care home, where one staff members and two residents have tested positive.
As well, five schools in Port Alberni have been identified in the past two weeks as having had a COVID-19 exposure, which means one person with the virus attended school during their infectious period.
“On top of that, we’ve got … three restaurants that have announced their own exposures and have closed,” Minions said.
She said it’s clear from that series of events that there is a signifcant number of cases in the community — and that has residents worried.
“Those are cases that are going to make people uncomfortable because those are our children, our parents, our grandparents and where we go when we’re sick, and we need to have comfort in those systems to take care of us,” she said. “So it’s been a very difficult time in the community.”
The city continues to echo the messages of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on the importance of wearing a mask, washing hands and keep a safe distance from people.
At the same time, Minions said, officials are encouraging people to stay calm and connected with one another.
“Even though we do have to stay home and not gather, there are other ways that we can make sure we’re reaching out to our neighbours, reaching out to our friends or running errands for people if they feel uncomfortable going out, and just supporting each other.”
Meanwhile, Island Health recorded 10 new cases Friday among a total of 711 cases across the province and 11 new COVID-19 related deaths. Of the 338 people in hospital, 76 are in intensive care.
On the Island, there are currently 183 active cases, including 59 in the South Island area, 99 in the Central Island and 25 in the North.
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement that the province continues to see a “significant surge” in community transmission, which highlights the importance of following the provincial health officer’s orders.
“The virus is not letting up and neither can we. This weekend, let’s stay small and stay local, so we can slow the spread of the virus in our province.”
Island Health said Friday that an additional two people — one patient and one staff member — have tested positive for COVID-19 at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, bringing the total to seven patients and five staff members.
The outbreak, declared on Tuesday, is limited to acute-care areas, the health authority said, and enhanced cleaning and contact tracing are underway. Staff are being screened for symptoms twice a day, it said.
Lab service outpatient collections at the hospital are being temporarily relocated to 2140A Keating Cross Rd. Other outpatient services, including medical imaging and day surgery, remain open, the health authority said, but the hospital is closed to acute admissions.
The emergency department remains open.