After off-campus gatherings, at least 30 UVic students ill with COVID, more being tested

Most of the students were vaccinated: ‘We know fully vaccinated individuals significantly reduce the risk of having a bad outcome if they acquire COVID,’ says Island Health official
Thirty University of Victoria students have become ill with the COVID-19 virus and more have come forward to be tested, Island Health confirmed Friday.

The students caught the virus at gatherings off-campus, then went back to their homes or rooms in residence, said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical health officer.

To date, no one has been hospitalized and the students are only displaying mild symptoms.

People who attended the gatherings have been advised to self-monitor for symptoms and follow public health directions.

Fortunately, most of the ­students are ­vaccinated, said Stanwick.

“They did what we asked of them. The youths rolled up their sleeves and they got vaccinated. And we know fully vaccinated individuals significantly reduce the risk of having a bad outcome if they acquire COVID,” said Stanwick.

UVic is allowing students who are ill with COVID-19 to write their exams online. ­Students who are unwell and unable to write any exams at the scheduled time have been directed to submit a request for academic concession to defer some or all of their exams until the beginning of next term. Exams for non-affected students will go on as scheduled.

Exams are a time of high stress and anxiety, said Stanwick.

“People want to let off stress and that’s what they thought they were doing. UVic ­allowing them to have their exams online should mitigate the effects on their education and allow them to recover at home and not spread COVID by coming in and taking their exam sick.”

Students are probably the group hardest hit by COVID, said Stanwick. Their jobs and education have been disrupted.

“We need to cut them a little bit of slack. The pandemic has disrupted their lives.”

The chief medical health officer said he anticipates that 10 to 20 per cent of the ­fully-vaccinated population — even those who have had a booster shot — will come into contact with COVID and may develop mild symptoms, “but won’t require the care of the health authority.”

What’s really encouraging is the decline in the incidence of severe disease with COVID-19 across Vancouver Island and the province, said Stanwick.

Over the holidays, people should continue to follow public health precautions such as ­handwashing and staying home if sick, he advised.

“If you’re fully vaccinated, make an ­assessment of the risk. Smaller groups reduce the risk. The larger the gathering, the larger the risk,” said Stanwick. “Figure out who you really like.”

Meanwhile, B.C. health officials said 10 cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been identified in the province.

The Health Ministry said in a statement Friday the variant of concern has been found in the Vancouver Coastal, Fraser and Island Health regions. It said the province has 437 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths. Of the new cases, 127 are in the Island Health region, which has 664 total active cases. One new death was in Island Health.

Of the 2,994 active cases of COVID-19, the ministry said 211 of the infected are in hospital and 72 in intensive care.

It said 86 per cent of those five and older have received the first shot of the COVID-19 ­vaccine, while 82.2 per cent of them have had their second dose.

Officials said 13 per cent of those who are 12 and older have been given their booster shot.

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— With The Canadian Press

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