Delta COVID-19 variant infections stable as B.C. cases continue to decrease overall
The latest information from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control paints a troubling picture of the variant of concern that’s arguably causing the most concern in the world right now.
While overall infections continue to go down overall in the province, the Delta variant, first discovered in India and known clinically as B.1.617.2, is holding steady and representing a larger share of positive cases.
At the height of the third wave, when resources were strained by cases north of a thousand per day, B.C. public health officials had moved to a surveillance model where they were essentially spot-checking random samples to determine which variants of concern were circulating. But given the rise of the Delta variant, which is ravaging India and threatening the United Kingdom’s reopening, they recently announced the BC CDC would go back to whole genome sequencing of all positive samples.
B.C. has transitioned to whole genome sequencing on all positive samples to provide gold standard analysis to detect variants of concern and “fingerprint details to support outbreak responses,” reads the latest VOC report published Thursday afternoon.
“The main circulating variants are B.1.1.7 and P.1, respectively accounting for ~45 % and ~46% of positive specimens screened or sequenced,” it goes on to say, showing the remaining nine per cent of variant samples are the Delta lineage.
While the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7, first identified in the U.K.) and Gamma variant (P.1, first identified in Brazil) were initially feared as being more contagious and resistant to vaccines than the original virus, the Delta variant is believed to be even worse. There is growing evidence to support those concerns.
One of the few care home outbreaks declared in B.C. in recent weeks was at Surrey’s Cherington Place long-term care centre, where seven staff and 21 residents have been infected so far. Four residents have died. The most recent publicly available data outlining immunization rates for care homes, admittedly stale and dated Feb. 15, posted a vaccination rate of 97 per cent for first doses.
CTV News has tried on several occasions to determine staff vaccination rates in each care home, but the Ministry of Health has refused to provide those statistics.
On Thursday, Alberta’s top doctor revealed that of 22 people diagnosed with the Delta variant after a hospital outbreak in Calgary, 10 had been fully immunized with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. They are believed to have mild forms of the illness.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw did not specify which types of vaccines they had taken, nor the interval between doses or how long it has been since their second dose, but epidemiologists tell CTV News that those details in connection with delta variant outbreaks will be scrutinized to determine how effective vaccines are against the mutation, and whether they mitigated the severity of the illnesses.
Earlier this month, a group of independent B.C. scientists and data researchers warned policymakers to consider the Delta variant a “wild card” that could challenge the province’s reopening plans, particularly if vaccine uptake isn’t robust for first and second doses.