Medical health officer reveals COVID-19 data for Sunshine Coast in advance of FAQ

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) medical health officer Geoff McKee said he could now provide local numbers on the prevalence of COVID-19 cases on the Lower Sunshine Coast, in advance of a public Q&A session planned for July 7.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we only identified six lab-confirmed cases in the Sunshine Coast Local Health Area, and there are currently no active cases that we are following,” said McKee in a July 2 phone interview with Coast Reporter.

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On June 16, the Sunshine Coast COVID-19 Physician Task Force had announced there hadn’t been positive COVID-19 tests in the region in more than two months. McKee said the number of cases in the rural parts of the healthy authority made up three per cent of total VCH cases.

He said those six lab-confirmed diagnoses don’t include every case, since some may not have been tested, but “it shows the rural areas were less impacted than other urban areas,” as well as “the exceptional work done by everyone throughout the community to implement control measures.”

He said the health authority has “managed to follow up very quickly with contacts and reduce any likelihood of exposure, so when we have low numbers, I think it really does speak to the low level of community transmission that has occurred.”

He didn’t disclose whether any deaths occurred on the Sunshine Coast for confidentiality reasons.

Despite the low numbers, until a vaccine is found, there will always be a risk and it’s important to continue taking precautions, said McKee. He also said that in general, he was not aware of any particular breaches of public health orders that required enforcement.

McKee will be updating Sunshine Coast residents and answering questions on Tuesday, July 7 during a Facebook Live event scheduled for noon as the province enters its third week of Phase 3. “In the past the provincial government has led communication around COVID-19,” he said, “but we now have this opportunity to address specific questions at a local level.”

He expects questions from business owners and organizations as they work through their own protocols and safety plans.

For the Sunshine Coast, many of those local considerations revolve around tourism and the expectation of more visitors.

McKee said he also plans on discussing measures businesses, organizations and individuals can take to reduce risk, but that much of the messaging remains the same: staying at home if sick, maintaining good hand hygiene, finding ways to “enhance physical distancing,” and taking additional measure such as wearing masks, if needed.

McKee said he also plans to answer questions on how to be a good traveller. “It really is about everybody being respectful and taking appropriate precautions,” such as researching places in advance to understand the expectations of the community and its businesses, keeping visits short and staying as self-sufficient as possible by bringing supplies.

Even though the restart is safe, “we do still need to take precautions and listen to public health advice,” he said.

McKee also plans to provide more “nuanced” information about what it means to limit physical contact.

The event can be accessed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/649652615623085/

Businesses and organizations can also reach out to the environmental health officer for guidance on safety plans: ehvc@vch.ca

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