Dr. Larsen-Soles says that masks can reduce transmission by potentially up to 75 per cent. Wearing a mask is just one tool that can be used to help slow the spread, with hand washing and social distancing being among the most affective ways to flatten the curve. (File photo) mask

Physicians of Golden recommend masks and face coverings after COVID surge in Interior Health

The recent spike in cases serves as a reminder that the pandemic is not over yet

With a recent surge in cases in Interior Health, the Physicians of Golden are urging the community to continue to be diligent in their anti-COVID measures.

While the majority of cases are concentrated in Kelowna and the emerging cluster there, Dr. Trina Larsen-Soles of the Physicians of Golden says that the outbreak is a reminder that this isn’t over and that a new spike in cases can happen at any time.

“We have to be careful, Dr. Henry didn’t tell people to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, which I think is where people are getting confused, or they’re just getting tired of it,” said Larsen-Soles.

“We want people to be at 60 per cent social interactions, the more you go over that the more unstable things get.

“Right now we’re at about 70 per cent, with 75 per cent being the tipping point for another wave.”

READ MORE: Golden’s doctors test community for COVID-19

Larsen-Soles was quick to point out that we aren’t out of the woods yet for even the first wave of the pandemic, as cases never got down to zero or close to zero. She says she would classify what’s going on now as a spike or surge and cautions that a second wave could still be on the horizon.

While she believes that Golden has done a good job protecting itself, she says that people seem to think that they are safe from the virus and urges people to continue with cutting social interactions and physical distancing in order to limit the potential reach and spread of the disease.

The outbreak in Kelowna started with a small group of around six people and quickly spread to approximately 100 people, with over 1000 self quarantining now due to exposure, exemplifying just how fast the virus can travel without social distancing measures.

“We still need to take this seriously, it’s not a joke,” said Larsen-Soles.

“Look around at other places that aren’t doing as well – we don’t want to go down that path. Places like California are going back into lockdown.”

In order to prevent an outbreak in Golden, Larsen-Soles says the best thing you can do is wash your hands and keep your distance. She says masks are a great tool to help protect yourself and others, but shouldn’t substitute for social distancing.

“It’s an added tool, a mask isn’t going to make you invincible,” said Larsen-Soles.

“Masks we think can cut your transmission by about 75 per cent, but to me it just makes sense that cutting down the spray with a barrier is a good thing.”

She says that there are very few people who have medical reasons to not be able to wear a mask, such as severe lung illness or toddlers.

READ MORE: Golden Facebook group attracts 400 volunteers looking to help during COVID-19

Larsen-Soles says that in one of their recent online Facebook updates, they’ve challenged the people of Golden to post a picture of themselves wearing a mask in order to help normalize their appearance.

“People feel silly wearing them, so I think it’s important for people to model the behaviour and make it more normal,” she said.

As more becomes known about the virus, physicians are starting to see reports of long-term affects of contracting COVID-19. While a good portion of people recover from the illness, a fair percentage of those people experience fatigue and reduced lung capacity months down the line, affecting day to day life.

Larsen-Soles emphasized that it’s important for the community to keep up the energy that they’ve carried towards flattening the curve and help keep the town safe.

“It’s a community that looks out for each other, we’ve done a good job and been lucky so far,” said Larsen-Soles.

The Physicians of Golden will continue to provide updates through Facebook and spread information online to the town.

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