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About three-quarters of B.C.'s COVID-19 cases at seniors care home outbreaks are currently in Kelowna, but with widespread vaccinations at these facilities, this is no longer the issue it once was.

On Friday, Interior Health chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers said the most recently declared outbreak at Spring Valley Care Centre had jumped to 16 residents and five staff members who've contracted the virus. When Interior Health declared the outbreak on Wednesday, just one resident and one staff member had tested positive.

Two other active outbreaks remain in Kelowna at Sandalwood Retirement Resort, where 24 residents and two staff members have tested positive, and Cottonwoods Care Centre, where 26 residents and three staff have contracted the disease.

But Dr. De Villiers said with the vast majority of residents in these homes being vaccinated, most cases they've found have been asymptomatic.

“In some of our long-term care facilities, we've got 85 to 95 per cent [vaccine] coverage, and in some places, even 100 per cent,” Dr. De Villiers said. “Some people choose not to have vaccine at this point.”

This could explain why two Cottonwoods residents and one Sandalwood resident have died from COVID-19 during the recent outbreaks, but Dr. de Villiers has not confirmed whether those who've died were vaccinated.

While Dr. De Villiers says the majority of cases at these outbreaks are asymptomatic, four of the eight active care home and independent living facility outbreaks in the province are in the Interior Health region and 76 of the province's 101 cases in active care facility outbreaks are in Kelowna. Dr. de Villiers chalks this up to the way IH continues to classify outbreaks.

“Different health authorities, at this stage, [are] recording it a little bit differently,” he said. “We've been really sticking to what we've done before, so if you look at the one in Keremeos, there's only one resident and one staff [who've tested positive] there and it's been like that for quite a while, so in another health authority they might not have actually called that an outbreak.

“We also go out of our way to test everybody that's in the long-term care facility as soon as we get a case, we're testing everybody else to make sure whether they're asymptomatic cases. And other regions may not necessarily do this, so that's why our numbers may look a little bit bigger.”

Dr. de Villiers said there hasn't been any new cases at the Cottonwoods outbreak for some time, and “if all goes well,” that outbreak will be declared over next week.

Long-term care and assisted living residents and staff were given first crack at COVID-19 vaccinations, and the vast majority across the province have now been vaccinated. As such, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in these facilities have dropped dramatically.

Dr. de Villiers noted that asymptomatic people who contract the virus are still able to spread it to others, but the chance of transmission is reduced.

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