A message from Dr. Helena Swinkels, Office of the Chief Medical Officer
If your community is among those with active COVID-19 cases, you're naturally concerned about the affected community members – and of course, about others possibly getting sick too.
How concerned depends on whether you are vaccinated yourself – and whether most people around you are vaccinated.
Why is COVID-19 still spreading in communities?
A number of factors are affecting the spread, or “transmission," of COVID-19:
For people who are not yet vaccinated, the risk of getting COVID-19 is actually higher now because of the Delta variant. We can see this in the climbing number of cases and in the number of people who need to be hospitalized, including young and previously healthy people.
Getting vaccinated is the best tool for protecting yourself from getting COVID-19 and/or transmitting it to others, and for getting us out of this pandemic. That's why the FNHA and all other public health organizations in BC are encouraging everyone 12 and over to get one if they have not already done so.
I'm fully vaccinated and so are most people in my community
Being surrounded by people who are also vaccinated provides an extra layer of protection, reducing both your chances of being exposed to COVID-19, and the chances of it spreading in the community. Even so, some vaccinated people might catch COVID-19 – no vaccine is 100% effective. However, as vaccinations provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalization, almost every vaccinated person will recover quickly.
Until everyone in the community can get vaccinated, we need to be cautious and do our best to ensure the virus does not spread to children who cannot get vaccinated yet, to those who may not have had as a good a response to the vaccine, and to people in our communities who don't feel comfortable getting the vaccine yet. We can help protect everyone by continuing to follow public health recommendations including wearing masks in public settings (especially indoors) and staying physically distanced from people outside our household.
I'm fully vaccinated, but many people in my community are not
If you are fully vaccinated, but the people around you are not, there is a higher risk of getting infected.
So what can you do? While you may choose to limit contact with people who are not vaccinated, or to stay away from gatherings where lots of people may not be vaccinated, you may still want to be around loved ones who are not yet fully vaccinated or who still remain at risk because of a medical condition. Fortunately, there are ways you can make things safer in this situation.
Firstly, it is important to be patient and understanding with people who are vaccine-hesitant. Show lateral kindness and respectfully recommend the vaccine as the best way to protect themselves and others. (If you know someone like this, read this helpful message.) Show them trustworthy medical information from culturally safe and trauma-informed sources, such as www.fnha.ca.
You can choose to wear a mask when you are inside in the same room. You can also ask your loved one to do the same, if that would help you feel more comfortable and they are willing.
Encourage anyone who is feeling ill to get tested for COVID-19. You cannot get COVID-19 from being tested, but you can spread it to others if you don't get tested and you continue to go out in public. Although the cases we hear about in our communities might scare us, it's the ones we don't know about – the unreported cases – that have a higher chance of spreading the virus.
I haven't been vaccinated yet
If you are unsure about the vaccine and have not yet been vaccinated, please read our messages about vaccine safety! (And please do not read the false information swirling around the Internet, i.e., non-experts' opinions and theories about vaccines!)
You can book an appointment or find a drop-in clinic – even if you are not 100% sure you will get vaccinated at that time, you can take the opportunity to ask any questions you want about the COVID-19 vaccines. You can also refer to our frequently updated FAQS for up to date information.
Remember - things are improving in BC!
It's important to remember that, despite some setbacks, we're in a much better place than we were a year ago. COVID-19 is not as scary as it used to be because we now have vaccines as an effective tool to prevent serious illness and death. Just over 60 per cent of First Nations people in BC are now fully vaccinated!
The BC Vaccine Card program also protects unvaccinated people from getting ill by making sure they are not exposed to certain higher-risk settings. For those who are fully vaccinated, Vaccine Cards mean you can avoid some of the more severe public health restrictions of the past year and a half.
So, while news of COVID-19 cases in community may cause concern, it doesn't mean we'll have the same long-lasting lockdowns and restrictions as in the past.
Although COVID-19 is here to stay, as more people get vaccinated, we'll be able to let go of more and more restrictions and learn to make healthy choices to prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. And that's good news for everyone. This too is going to pass, and we are doing it – together.