Kootenays struggle with dramatic rise in cases of COVID-19
'We're staring down the barrel': Nelson mayor
Struggling with a record and rising number of COVID-19 cases, Nelson's mayor worries the Kootenays will follow the Central Okanagan as a centre of B.C.'s fourth wave.
"If this trend continues, I would be surprised if there isn't a shutdown at some point," said John Dooley. "We're staring down the barrel."
Dooley worries lives — and livelihoods — are at stake if surging infection rates in the region don't subside.
"A lot of businesses are very, very, worried they can't survive a new shutdown," he said.
At least a half dozen Nelson restaurants have already voluntarily closed in recent weeks because of staff exposures.
'We are concerned about this'
Interior Health says the same factors driving COVID infection in the Okanagan are sweeping through the Kootenay region.
"We have seen a significant increase in the number of cases and the rate of COVID-19 infections in the Nelson area." said Dr. Karin Goodison, medical health officer with Interior Health.
A total of 187 cases have been reported in the area since July 1, when restrictions were lifted. It is the highest case count, and COVID infection rate since the pandemic began.
Interior heath confirms there is community infection beyond isolated clusters. The highly infectious delta variant has also emerged as the clearly dominant strain.
The health authority says just over half of those infected are between the ages of 18 and 49. It says only 50 per cent of that age group in the region are fully vaccinated.
"The recommendation, the very strong recommendation, is that people are to mask [and] we want to encourage immunization. It is the most effective intervention," said Goodison.
She says pandemic restrictions will only be imposed if the situation demands it.
'It's almost like a false sense of security'
Dooley is now calling on Interior Health to reimpose basic restrictions.
"The masking should definitely come back," he said.
He says It's why the city is unilaterally mandating masks in all its municipal properties.
Dooley says the B.C. government's restart plan has created complacency.
"When we opened up, I think it sort of took the urgency out of the situation.
"The vaccine numbers dropped almost immediately. By taking away those restrictions, we allowed people to think we're OK now. And you know what? We're finding we're not OK now."