Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry visited the Interior Health region the week of June 22-to 25, 2021 to say thank you to all the frontline workers. (Monique Tamminga/Western News)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry visited the Interior Health region the week of June 22-to 25, 2021 to say thank you to all the frontline workers. (Monique Tamminga/Western News)

Dr. Bonnie Henry visits Interior Health, says thank you to frontline workers

Interior Health has some pockets of low immunization rates, but is overall doing well

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is touring the Interior Health region this week visiting and thanking frontline workers for their tireless efforts through the pandemic.

“It is an opportunity, finally, after working so closely over these last 18 months to come out and talk with the teams and get some advice from them. There are lots of things to work through right now,” said Henry who spoke to Black Press from the Kelowna health offices.

“But really I’m here to say thank you and express my gratitude to all the health workers.”

She visited an immunization clinic on Thursday and was impressed with how well it is going.

In her visits with nurses and doctors from around the region, she said there is a feeling of optimism as hospitalization rates plummet.

“Health care workers told me they are tired but they are optimistic. We are getting through this and it’s the vaccinations that are doing it,” she said.

”Look at a place like Windermere that had a lot of cases and now their cases have dropped dramatically. There are still some clusters but it’s not spreading in the way we saw a few months ago.”

In the Central Okanagan, people are protected and they aren’t going into hospital like before. “They aren’t dying of this virus like they were before. So there is this sense of hope. We can see an end to this,” Henry said.

On June 24, there were just 12 new cases reported in Interior Health.

Her daily COVID-19 briefings will now go to once a week since the infection rate has dropped dramatically across the province.

But there are still some challenges here in the Interior, including geography and some remote communities where vaccination rates are much lower, she said.

The mobile clinics in the Thomson and Cariboo region have helped, Henry added.

Across B.C., she has seen a levelling off of people going to get their first dose, although the vaccination rate sits at an impressive 77 per cent for adults.

Henry said they are now focusing on the three C’s: convenience, confidence in the vaccines and complacency.

“I was just talking to some young people here and they said ‘it’s not going to effect me. Why do I have to get vaccinated,’” she said.

The Yukon just had an outbreak of 150 cases, the highest they’ve seen. Ninety per cent of that outbreak is young people.

In the Okanagan corridor, vaccination rates are high.

Revelstoke was a success story where IH offered immunization to anyone eligible as early as possible. Now that community has the highest rate of immunization in the region.

Soon IH will be going to 58 communities to set people up for their second doses, Henry said.

On July 1, Alberta is fully opening back up and going back to normal. As a favourite vacation destination for Albertans, we will feel some impact of that province’s choice, said Henry.

“We have a lot connections back and forth with Alberta, in work places like Fort. St. John, and we know that immunizations aren’t as good there. This is another reason it is so important we protect our own communities by getting vaccinated,” she said.

She does think it’s inevitable that there will be some who come here with COVID-19.

“But the best we can do is make sure we are immunized and stay home and get tested if we don’t feel well.”

B.C.’s top doctor said she is happy to hear Iron Man is coming back to Penticton in September.

“I used to work in the medical tents at Iron Man in Penticton, a long time ago,” she said. “Outdoor events is something we can get back to.”

Come September, schools will be back to near normal.

“We will be able to live with the virus. But we will always be washing our hands. That’s not going away.”

Henry will stay in the region until Friday when she has to get back to Victoria to work on B.C.’s next stage of the re-start plan.

READ MORE: B.C. records 74 new cases and three deaths

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