Interior Health sets new COVID-19 daily case records, three new infections crop up in Revelstoke

Delta-variant driven COVID-19 fourth wave continues to rise in the Interior Health region.

The Smokey Bear statue west of Revelstoke pictured before a sunset tinged with wildfire smoke on July 31, 2021. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Interior Health continues to set single-day new COVID-19 case records as an outbreak originating in the Central Okanagan Local Health Area grows and new infections rise in smaller centres in the region.

The daily new case count released on Aug. 5 is 234. The highest number of new COVID-19 cases recorded in the second wave and the third wave was 125.

The Interior Health region has now seen higher daily new case numbers four times in the past week. There were 132 new cases on July 29, 148 on Aug. 3, 171 on Aug. 4, and a new record of 234 on Aug. 5. The newest record is nearly double the daily new case record of the second and third waves.

A graphic representation of new COVID-19 cases detected by health authorities in Interior Health since the start of the pandemic. Image: BC Centre for Disease Control

An outbreak has been declared in the Central Okanagan, leading to additional restrictions in that area, such as a requirement to wear masks in public indoor spaces.

The fourth wave of COVID-19 is driven by the Delta variant, which accounts for 89 per cent of the new cases in the Interior Health region in the most recent reporting period.

In Revelstoke, there were three new COVID-19 cases during epi-week 30, from July 25–31. In the week prior, there was one new case. Prior to that, there were zero new cases in the previous four weekly periods. The last time Revelstoke had seen more than one new case per week was in late April.

Revelstoke vaccination population clarified

After dozens of email inquiries by of all virtually all regional and provincial health authorities, the B.C. health ministry has provided the population denominator for the Revelstoke Local Health Area (LHA).

When calculating community vaccination percentages that are published on the BC Centre for Disease Control website, the health ministry uses the figure of 9,426 for total population in the Revelstoke LHA, 8,381 for 12+ population, and 7,899 for 18+ population.

Although provincial health authorities provide population vaccination percentages, they had not clarified what the population denominator was for the region. For COVID-19 infection calculations, B.C. health authorities used a number generated by B.C. Stats, 10,696, but simple calculations based on early vaccination rate reports revealed that the same number was not being used to calculate vaccination rates.

A health ministry spokesperson said the LHA numbers are, "based on a resident registry database using data captured from a variety of health system sources. It captures the regional population at a moment in time. The originating source for the data is from information registered though Medical Services Plan."

Over a period of about six weeks, we inquired with multiple provincial health agencies for clarification of the numbers. The health ministry did eventually provide the population number for the Revelstoke LHA, but declined to provide the figures for all local health areas in B.C. During that period, provincial health authorities unveiled new tracking apps on various COVID-19 data websites, and it appears there were adjustments and changes being made to the provincial population estimates system. Although it's not clear from our perspective exactly what was driving the change, it seems reasonable to assume the unprecedented pandemic was the key factor.

Revelstoke population varies, as do population estimates

Revelstoke's population varies significantly by season. A city report tabled in April 2021 put the population of the city at about 8,250 residents with a shadow population of about 550. The figure does not include visitors. However, the LHA includes additional outlying areas.

An Interior Health internal document puts the population of the LHA at 8,770.

The B.C. Stats figure of 10,696 is based on Canada Census numbers and other indicators and is updated annually. You can generate population estimates for various B.C. jurisdictions using this BC Stats web app. That BC Stats figure is used for a variety of government purposes, not just public health.

The Revelstoke LHA leads the Interior Health region in vaccination percentages. In Revelstoke, 7,232 residents (85%) have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 6,082 (72%) have received two doses as of Aug. 4.

According to the population estimate system used by the provincial health ministry, there are 1,149 residents in the LHA aged 12+ who have not received a first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Nelson and Castlegar both experienced upticks during the latest weekly reporting period. The Central Okanagan remains the hotspot in the region. Source: BC Centre for Disease Control

First dose uptake has slowed to a crawl in the Revelstoke LHA. As of July 6, 83% of eligible residents has received a first dose. A month later, on Aug. 3, it had edged up slightly to 85%.

In Revelstoke, 72% of residents have received a second dose.

An Interior Health spokesperson said there was no single event related to the recent cases in Revelstoke, and that the high vaccination rate here will help protect the community.

"The majority of cases we are seeing in Interior Health are among unimmunized people and the vast majority of people in hospital and ICU with COVID are unimmunized. Two individuals in Interior Health who currently in ICU are in their 20s," IH said in a response to questions from "People who are immunized are far less likely to get COVID-19 and if they do get disease, the risk of serious complications and hospitalization is much lower."

The next scheduled COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Revelstoke is on August 13. You can find information on registering here:

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have or call/text him at 250-814-8710.