Loading articles...

Fort St. James emergency resources strained as B.C. hits grim COVID-19 milestone

Last Updated Dec 11, 2020 at 6:55 am PST

FILE - Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at a lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A Northern Health community is struggling to deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases

Fort St. James emergency resources are strained amid rising COVID-19 case counts

Northern Health says contact tracers are dealing with backlogs in the region

FORT ST. JAMES (NEWS 1130) – A northern B.C. community is being overwhelmed by surging COVID-19 cases, which are straining Fort St. James’ emergency resources.

At least 40 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed by heath officials in the town of just 1,500.

Twenty people are in hospital in the Omineca Region of Northern Health, where at least four cases have been detected. The Nak’azdli Whu’ten First Nation has also been locked down for the next two weeks, to try to control this sudden surge in cases.

COVID announcement from Chief Prince December 9th, 2020

Posted by Nak’azdli Whut’en on Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the area has seen an unusually high number of ambulance calls: 33 in just six days

“We have three people who have been transported from the north to Vancouver Island and one to Metro Vancouver,” Dix said, Thursday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry added, “We have a program in place to move them closer to some of the higher level of care facilities.”

Meanwhile, Northern Health confirms its region is “putting pressure” public health contact tracers, saying “The number of new people testing positive for the virus is impacting public health‘s ability to quickly contact people who have tested positive.”

It says there are a number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 but haven’t been contacted by public health officials yet.

“Northern Health is deploying additional staff to its case and contact management teams, and making other necessary changes to how cases are notified, monitored, and cleared from self-isolation, to clear the backlog and speed up the process in the weeks and months ahead,” the health authority says in a tweet.

The closest major hospital to Fort St. James is in Prince George, where the CBC reports all but one critical care bed is already in use, though the areas surge capacity beds remain open.

Surge capacity beds are intended for short-term emergencies and concerns are being raised about overall healthcare capacity potentially impacting non-COVID emergencies such as heart attacks and vehicle incidents.

On Thursday, B.C. reported its deadliest day related to COVID-19, with 28 lives lost due to the virus.

That was accompanied by 723 new cases across the province, which has now surpassed 40,000 confirmed total cases to date.

There are 346 people who remain in hospital because of the coronavirus, with 83 of them in critical care.