Fort St. John and Dawson Creek saw 26 and 27 deaths, respectively, from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic up until April 22nd, 2022.
These numbers do not appear particularly high. When the varied populations of communities in the province are taken into account, however, the per capita rates are comparable with—or higher than—those in major centres, according to data obtained through a freedom of information request by the Fraser Valley Current.
The method for comparing municipality-specific data is calculating a rate out of 100,000, allowing communities with widely varying populations to see where the pandemic hit the hardest.
Adjusted for population in this way, Fort St. John’s rate of deaths per 100,000 was 117, just above West Vancouver and Burnaby and the 15th-highest in the province.
Dawson Creek’s rate places it at sixth in the province adjusted for population, at 206—between Prince Rupert and White Rock.
Though population size and density may have some effect on the virus’s spread, when rates of death from COVID-19 are adjusted for population size, smaller cities and towns have rates similar to or greater than larger centres.
The Fraser Valley Current notes that communities with larger rates fall into one (or more) of three groups: they are either a small centre that saw a large and deadly outbreak in a care home; a high number of non-native English speakers; or low vaccination rates.
According to Northern Health, 81 per cent of Northern BC’s population as a whole is fully vaccinated.
In Fort St John, 79.5 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated, with 32.1 per cent vaccinated a third time with a booster vaccine. Dawson Creek residents who are fully vaccinated account for 79.5 per cent of the city’s population, with 33.2 per cent opting for the booster.
Rural rates are lower, with 56.6 per cent vaccinated in the Peace River North rural and 60.9 per cent vaccinated in Peace River South rural.
Vaccination rates are up to 100 per cent in some northern communities, like Kitimat, according to Northern Health. Rates are as low as 56.6 per cent (recorded in Peace River North rural) for the second dose in Northern Health.
There has been little increase in the region over the last few weeks.
The entirety of Northern Health saw 357 deaths in which COVID-19 was a causal factor, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. To date, 3,747 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 across the province.