The COVID-19 Delta Variant in BC: What You Need to Know

8/12/2021

​​​A message from Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Acting ​Chief Medical Officer

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After a year and half of living in an altered reality, we're all very tired of this pandemic. ​We're “over" it and just want things to return to “normal"! The last thing we want to hear about is another possible wave of the COVID-19 virus – and more altered living.

Unfortunately, because not everyone in BC has been fully immunized/vaccinated (two shots), we're not as safe from the virus – and its variants (new versions) – as we could be. What's more, the COVID-19 ​Delta variant you've been hearing and reading about is much easier to pass on to others than the Novel Coronavirus strain that began to spread back in 2019.

It's normal for viruses to change over time, leading to variants. When a variant spreads more easily, causes more serious illness, or impacts current treatments or vaccines, it's considered a “variant of concern."

That's what the Delta variant is, and it's spreading quickly throughout all regions of the province. In fact, it was responsible for 99 percent of infections in the Interior during the last week of July.

So, even though we'd all much rather be relaxing and celebrating the end of the pandemic, we actually have to continue to be cautious. In fact, because of the Delta variant, it's even more important for us to continue to take precautions to stay healthy and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some ways that we can have safer social interactions include visiting outdoors or in smaller groups, keeping a distance from people we don't live with, and wearing masks. If we are gathering indoors, keep windows and doors open to let fresh air circulate. 

Since it's better to be safe than sorry, this applies even if we are fully immunized/vaccinated. And as it's strongly recommended that unvaccinated people ages two years and older wear a mask in all indoor public settings, we can role model for them by continuing to wear a mask. 

The great news is that those of us who have been fully vaccinated do have very strong protection against the Delta virus, with the risk of serious outcomes reduced by almost 100 percent, and that we are providing protection for everyone around us, including those who can't be vaccinated – for example, children under 12.

However, there are some pockets and regions of BC that remain “vaccine hesitant," i.e., unwilling to be vaccinated due to uncertainty, fear or other reasons. To ensure optimal protection and safety, almost everyone needs to choose to get vaccinated. Only then can we achieve “community immunity," which means that a large portion of the community will become immune to the virus, making its spread unlikely.

Although COVID-19 is here to stay, at least for now, the more people who are fully vaccinated (again, this means two shots – one shot is not enough – plus a two-week wait afterwards) the less likely that COVID-19 variants will spread. This is why we should:

1) Encourage vaccination for anyone in our house or other close contacts over the age of 12 who have not yet been vaccinated – or are only partially vaccinated (one shot).

2) Let them know that their vaccine is available at the convenient, free, drop-in vaccine clinics throughout BC. Patiently show vaccine-hesitant friends the facts about the vaccine, i.e., that it is free, safe and effective.

3) Let them know that getting tested is also free and safe, and that if they test positive, isolation supports are available.

4) Continue to follow public health recommendations, including: wash hands frequently, practise physical distancing, wear a well-fitted and three-layer mask, and stay home when sick.

Finally, let's remember that together, we are stronger, and that love, family, community – and our intergenerational strength and resilience – will get us through this.​ 

Please continue to follow public health recommendations including:

  • Wash your hands frequently and wear a mask when in public indoor spaces to help stop the spread. This is especially important if there are COVID-19 outbreaks or clusters in your community.
  • Spend time outdoors rather than indoors. Playdates outside are a great idea. If you must gather indoors, choose an area with open windows or other good ventilation.
  • Plan activities with physical distancing in place. Consider limiting visits with unvaccinated people (or with people whose vaccine status is unknown).
  • Keep your social circle small. The fewer the people you come in contact with, the smaller your chances of catching COVID-19.
  • Stay home when feeling unwell or sick and avoid spending time in person if someone i​s feeling unwell or sick. If any member of your household or social group is sick, or thinks they might be sick, they should not be spending time, in person, with others. People who have symptoms should refer to the COVID-19 testing information to determine if testing is appropriate and follow self-isolation guidelines.
  • Keep a record of the people you spend time with. In the event someone does get COVID-19, knowing who you spent time with and where you've been will help public health with contact tracing
  • Practise good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Try to have hand sanitizer with you when you go out and cough or sneeze into your elbow. Wash your hands before you leave your home and as soon as you return.
  • Be patient. You might have to wait longer than usual – for bathrooms, shops or restaurants, or for your children to use playground equipment. And of course, we all need to wait patiently for the pandemic to end.​

Additional resources:​
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