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Quesnel COVID-19 hospital outbreak declared as cases rise in region

Outbreak of COVID-19 was declared at GR Baker Memorial Hospital on Oct. 15
B.C. health care worker dons personal protective equipment for infection control. Similar outfits including gowns, a mask, a face shield and gloves will be worn by workers in GR Baker’s inpatient unit. (The Canadian Press)

The medical health officer responsible for the northern interior said medical facilities continue to be safe despite a COVID-19 outbreak declared today at Quesnel’s hospital.

“Our healthcare facilities are very highly controlled settings, with very excellent COVID safety plans, and that really helps stop and decrease the spread of COVID,” Dr. Rakel Kling said. “We know these are working because we’re not seeing outbreaks in all of our facilities even though it’s very likely most of our acute care (units) have COVID patients admitted.”

The outbreak was declared at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital on Oct. 15 as COVID-19 cases in Quesnel remain at all-time highs. From Oct. 3 to 9, the latest reporting period available, health officials in Quesnel detected 64 cases of the virus, almost 40 cases per 100,000 people.

READ MORE: Northern Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Quesnel hospital

A COVID-19 outbreak is declared when Northern Health detects unexplained spread in a facility. In Quesnel, two staff members and two patients in the inpatient unit tested positive for COVID-19.

Declaring an outbreak allows Northern Health to put in further measures, including extra personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, visitor restrictions, and increased cleaning.

“We declared the outbreak for the entire inpatient area, so that means any staff that are working with any client in that area are going to put on full PPE because we’re assuming everyone in the area is either a case of COVID or in close contact with COVID,” Kling said.

She added an outbreak will only be declared over if two incubation periods pass without any new cases detected.

“(Four weeks) is a time period which we’re extremely sure COVID isn’t brewing anywhere, in any patients or staff. And once that time period is up we declare (the outbreak) over,” she said.

READ MORE: Northern B.C. COVID-19 crisis brings back private home restrictions

Further restrictions in hospitals not experiencing an outbreak are possible, but not in current plans.

“We’re trying our best to target our advice and changes to our rules based on where we’re really seeing transmission,” Kling said. “Luckily transmission in a healthcare facility is really rare.”

The outbreak was declared the same day new public health restrictions were put in place across all of Northern Health due to increased viral spread throughout the region.

Quesnel’s vaccination rate is still slowly rising. As of Oct. 12, 76 per cent of eligible people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine becomes much stronger two weeks after a second dose. Only two-thirds of all eligible people in the Quesnel local health area have received two doses of the vaccine.

Kling said vaccination was the best thing anyone can do to stop the spread of COVID.

“The majority of our patients are fully vaccinated, so those who are getting COVID, who are fully vaccinated, we’re definitely seeing a much milder disease,” she said. “People are even asymptomatic, and often have a very mild disease, so that’s encouraging and another reason why getting vaccinated is so important.”

Quesnel’s vaccination clinic recently moved to the Quesnel and District Seniors’ Centre. Walk-in patients for first and second doses are welcome, with proof of eligibility required for a third ‘booster’ shot.

The clinic is open Monday to Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

READ MORE: Quesnel COVID-19 vaccine clinic moving to Seniors’ Centre

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