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Island Health confirms positive COVID-19 cases among community facing homelessness

Adequate isolation spaces are needed to help fight COVID-19 infections among Greater Victoria’s underserved population.

Although it could not disclose an exact number of cases, Island Health confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 among Greater Victoria’s underserved population. These cases were the subject of a press conference Friday, Sept. 24, hosted by medical health officers Dr. Richard Stanwick and Dr. Dee Hoyano.

“People really have to appreciate that this virus is (still) in our communities,” Stanwick said. “At the end of July, we had one or two cases of COVID on the entire island. But learning and watching what had happened in Vancouver Coastal in the downtown eastside, we knew that at some point, if we ended up with a highly transmissible virus (such as the Delta variant), our underserved population would be hit harder than others.”

Although several hotels previously used for isolation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have reverted back to guest service, the region’s need as an isolation space has not diminished, Stanwick said.

A solution, he said, exists with the implementation of more isolation spaces specifically for vulnerable communities.

“A tent is not a place to isolate. More likely they would go about their daily routine. What we do need is an adequate place for them to reside while they are undergoing their period of isolation.”

READ ALSO: BC Housing vows to fight for ‘vital’ Penticton shelter in court

READ ALSO: 3 active COVID-19 clusters in Greater Victoria schools

The issue is compounded by a historic lack of trust between underserved populations and the health care system, Hoyano explained. That connection between the medical system and Greater Victoria’s unhoused community is “something we’ve always wrestled with,” she said. “We continue to redouble our efforts to immunize people, regardless if they have no fixed address. Our teams have been working to establish those relationships.”

As of Monday, Island Health reported 71.9 per cent of the health authority was fully vaccinated.

To achieve herd immunity for the sake of those who cannot be vaccinated, 90 per cent of a given population must become immune, Stanwick said. That goal is important as the fourth wave of the pandemic has proved the most transmissive.

Unvaccinated individuals are 12 times more likely to contract the virus, 36 times more likely to die from it and 60 times more likely to require hospitalization, Stanwick said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article used incorrect terminology in referencing the status of positive cases within Greater Victoria’s underserved population. At this time, Island Health has not declared an outbreak at any supportive housing facilities. We apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused.

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Don Descoteau

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