Smithers recorded 159 new COVID-19 cases during the week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, 2022. (British Columbia Centre for Disease Control)

Smithers recorded 159 new COVID-19 cases during the week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, 2022. (British Columbia Centre for Disease Control)

New COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Smithers Local Health Area

Case numbers jump in most of Northwest; Omicron variant driving rise in infections province-wide

New COVID-19 cases in the Smithers local health area (LHA) skyrocketed last week to 159, an increase of more than 100 over the previous reporting period.

The number also eclipses the previous high of 117 for a single week recorded in September of last year.

Almost every LHA in northwest B.C. saw a jump in new cases during the week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 as the Omicron variant continues its rise in the province.

Terrace recorded 54 new cases, an increase of more than 100 compared to the week before, according to British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) data.

There were 61 new cases in Kitimat, 24 in Prince Rupert, 22 on Haida Gwaii and 28 in the aggregated Snow Country – Stikine – Telegraph Creek LHAs.

Upper Skeena had a slight drop in new cases from 10 to seven, and the Nisga’a LHA recorded zero.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said on Jan. 4 that 80 per cent of all cases in B.C. are now Omicron and businesses should prepare for as many as one-third of their staff members to be off sick at a time.

The new variant is considered to be more infectious – but potentially more mild – and has a shorter incubation period, down to three days.

“It’s no longer the case, that we have three or four degrees of separation, that you know, somebody who knows somebody maybe that might have contracted the virus,” Henry said.

“The rate of transmission that we’re seeing now in British Columbia, like many other jurisdictions around the world, means that at this point, most people in B.C. likely have a friend or a family member or a colleague who has been infected with the Omicron variant.”

From Dec. 28 to Jan. 3, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 16.2 per cent of new cases, and from Dec. 21 to Jan. 3, they accounted for 51.4 per cent of hospitalizations.

Each northwest LHA has a rate of more than 80 per cent of people 12 and up with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, except Smithers as of Jan. 4. See the full two-dose list below, with weekly change indicated by brackets.

Kitimat — 97 per cent (+0)

Nisga’a — 89 per cent (+0)

Haida Gwaii — 87 per cent (+0)

Prince Rupert — 86 per cent (+0)

Snow Country – Stikine – Telegraph Creek — 84 per cent (+0)

Terrace — 84 per cent (+1)

Upper Skeena — 81 per cent (+1)

Smithers — 77 per cent (+0)

Northern Health is currently running a drop-in clinic at Dze L K’ant Community Hall on Third Avenue in Smithers for first and second doses. The clinic is open today (Jan. 7) from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:45 p.m. The clinic will also be open Jan. 11-14, 18-21 and 25-28 during the same hours.

Shots for individuals aged five to 11 and for boosters require an appointment. Appointments are also available at some pharmacies including Shoppers Drug Mart on Main Street in Smithers.

People can visit or call 1-833-838-2323 to register to get vaccinated.

READ MORE: COVID vaccination rates stall out in northern B.C.

READ MORE: Limited opening for schools in Bulkley Valley this week

— With files from Katya Slepian and Tom Fletcher