SUBMITTED By LADY MINTO HOSPITAL MEDICAL STAFF ASSOCIATION
B.C. is in the fourth wave of the COVID pandemic and we on Salt Spring are not exempt. We continue to experience cases of new infection with COVID-19, although these have been confined to small clusters since the start of the pandemic.
Salt Spring residents have embraced vaccination against COVID in large numbers although there continue to be those who are hesitant about getting vaccinated. Vaccination has allowed us to re-open our extended care unit and residential care facilities to residents and, along with the rest of B.C., to remove the mandatory wearing of masks in indoor spaces. The Health Canada approved vaccines have proven to be safe and effective at preventing individuals who are exposed to COVID from developing severe illness.
However, evidence has shown that while vaccines reduce the risk of virus infection, even vaccinated individuals can catch the COVID virus. The Delta variant is much more highly contagious and asymptomatic, vaccinated individuals can carry a high viral load and spread it to others. In order to get control of this fourth wave of the pandemic it is crucial that we continue to practise infection control: wear a mask in public indoor spaces even though it is no longer mandatory, maintain physical distance from others, wash and sanitize our hands frequently and, above all, get vaccinated if you have not already done so.
Even though vaccination has proven effective at preventing most serious illness we need to continue to reduce the transmission of the COVID virus in the community, across Canada, and around the world. The longer the virus circulates, and the larger the pool of people at risk, the more likelihood there is that it will mutate further and that new variants will emerge against which the current vaccines may not provide protection. We are already seeing some evidence of this with the lambda variant in South America.
The Lady Minto Hospital continues to have enhanced infection control measures in place. Masks are mandatory for all persons in the facility and all patients and visitors are screened for COVID risk factors. The hospital continues to be operating at less than full capacity in order to be able to maintain separation between patients at risk. It also continues to be extremely short-staffed after a year and a half of pandemic activity. For these reasons, we continue to ask Salt Spring residents to be patient with some wait times and to be fully compliant with the infection-control precautions and practices that are in place in the hospital. Staff are doing their utmost to ensure that the hospital continues to be a safe place for all of us.
Local physicians’ offices are cautiously beginning to offer office appointments to screened patients and enhanced infection control continues to be in place in our offices. Masks remain mandatory in doctors’ offices. Please understand that this is likely to remain for some time to come in order to prevent transmission of the virus. Physician appointments via telehealth — phone or video — are likely remain a normal feature on an ongoing basis.
Salt Spring has fared well over the course of the pandemic compared to other communities across Island Health and across B.C. While we have had isolated cases of COVID with transmission between individuals we have not had any community outbreaks. Nonetheless, cases continue to occur with the potential for spread. Now is not the time to drop our guard!