A physician said the recent surge in Revelstoke COVID-19 cases is very concerning, especially since the cause of transmission is unknown.
At 85 total cases since the start of the pandemic, Revelstoke has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the province on a per-capita basis.
“We’re not doing very well in Revelstoke. We never want to be on this end of the spectrum,” said Dr. Bart Jarmula, long-time physician in Revelstoke.
While COVID-19 has not caused a death in Revelstoke or entered the long-term care facilities, he said, increasing numbers of the virus, might change that.
Interior Health issued a public health warning for Revelstoke on Jan 5, but said there is no specific source for the new cases.
Jarmula said, unlike the community cluster in November, where spread was more easily tracked by the province, the new health alert would suggest there is a high level of community transmission by people that may not be unaware they have the illness.
“When it’s not clear where people are getting COVID, it probably means there are a lot more cases in the community,” said Jarmula.
A community cluster was declared in November, which spread to 50 positive cases before Interior Health declared it over on Dec. 11.
However, local COVID-19 cases have recently skyrocketed.
In recent weeks multiple businesses have temporarily closed due to exposures. In a letter sent to parents on Jan. 5, SD 19 said nine individuals in Revelstoke Secondary School have tested positive since December.
Last week, 22 new cases of COVID-19 in Revelstoke were confirmed and seven the week prior. The province is expected to release new numbers today (Jan. 6).
“I’m disappointed,” said Mayor Gary Sulz, in regards to the new cases.
He said while people are exhausted with COVID-19 and want normalcy, it’s essential residents follow the provincial health orders to wear masks and avoid gatherings.
Jarmula said the largest risk for catching and spreading COVID-19 is not through surface transmission, i.e. door handles, but through in-person gatherings.
It’s far more likely, he said, to catch the disease from roommates and coworkers than from the grocery store or ski hill.
“There’s a much higher risk of having people over for dinner than going to the store. We need to make sure our social groups are small.”
While non-essential travel in Revelstoke is probably contributing, it isn’t solely causing the recent spike in cases, he said.
Travel may bring the seeds of COVID-19 to Revelstoke, Jarmula said, but residents are allowing the disease to grow and spread through gatherings.
“People should consider what is the best way to act for the collective good.”
Jarmula said if your roommates or coworkers feel unwell, urge them to get tested.
Vaccinations against COVID-19 are expected to arrive in Revelstoke by mid-January for high-risk residents, such as individuals in long-term care homes. Jarmula said while the inoculations’ arrival is exciting, the light at the end of the tunnel is still far off.
“We need to follow provincial health guidelines until we get through this.”