AS WE EMERGE from the worst of the COVID-19 lockdown in B.C., one wonders why we went into lockdown to begin with. Especially in the Interior of the province.
Or that’s what I heard from a few this weekend.
In Interior Health (IHA), there have been just 181 confirmed cases out of the 2,446 for the province. There have been 29 hospitalizations in Interior Health’s region out of a population of 762,000 for the region. And only two deaths in IHA’s area.
So why have we been in lockdown for so long? And why do we have to keep up this social distancing dance going forward?
The people I talked to on the weekend’s logic was that the low numbers are proof that we don’t need a lockdown, and perhaps never did.
We have quickly forgotten that just before our lockdown, things were going in a different direction. The virus was active repeatedly in our community. There was the outbreak up at Sun Peaks during end of season celebrations where a local doctor and some seasonal workers contracted the virus. We’ve forgotten the outbreak after a Kamloops bonspiel. There were dentists who returned to Kamloops after attending a convention where some of their colleagues contracted COVID-19, and one died as a result.
Scientists talk about Superspreading Events (SSEs) where, in a group, one person can quickly infect many. It happened again and again worldwide, such as on cruise ships, in concerts, and at funerals.
We’ve seen the unfortunate consequences in extended care facilities. There, some would argue that it’s because the residents are already vulnerable. But, of course, the staff have become infected, and sometimes died as well. One person brought the virus to a facility, but quickly, it spread to many.
We’ve seen SSEs in meat packing plants,, too where workers stand shoulder to shoulder.
But B.C. in general, and in Interior Health’s region specifically, because of our lockdown, we’ve avoided many other SSEs.
The people I talked to on the weekend argued that there are so few cases because the virus isn’t out there in our area, and so is not a threat to us.
But that’s not the case at all. Before COVID-19 lockdown, the virus surfaced again and again in Kamloops.
It spread at bonspiels, parties, and probably from people returning from conventions and travel.
Our nine week-plus lockdown eliminated SSEs. Without the events, the virus has had less chance to spread quickly to multiple people.
The virus is likely still lurking in our town but, without SSEs, it has far fewer places to go.
Over the next few weeks and months, as lockdown eases, we have to remember what could have been. We can’t forget those early days, pre-lockdown, when COVID-19 was popping up again and again in our community like Wack-a-Mole. We need to remember that our low numbers are not because COVID-19 wasn’t here, but because we gave it so few opportunities to spread.
We’ve done a fantastic job of keeping our community safe from COVID-19. The low numbers we’ve achieved are a testament to our community’s collective efforts.
Heading into summer and more freedoms, let’s keep COVID-19 at bay. Let’s avoid Superspreading Events and opt for small events with a few friends instead. We can’t forget that COVID-19 still out there, waiting for the next SSE to happen.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.