B.C.'s top doctor looking at special COVID-19 restrictions for Okanagan - InfoNews

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B.C.'s top doctor looking at special COVID-19 restrictions for Okanagan

Boats are seen moored in downtown Kelowna in this May 2017 file photo.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
July 22, 2020 - 5:08 PM

People living in the Interior Health region were able to keep COVID-19 numbers low in the lead up to summer, but that success came to a crashing halt when the crowds rolled in.

The current number of cases throughout the health authority is now 304, with 88 cases considered active. Many of those cases, as well as others across the province, are linked to Canada Day parties that turned up B.C.’s COVID-19 curve.

With that dubious distinction in mind, the province’s top doctor is now looking at imposing special restrictions on the Okanagan that will stop gatherings of large groups and will ease the strain on public health officials who are tasked with contact tracing.

Those restrictions may include adjusting the numbers of people able to gather, looking at what rental agencies like AirBNB are doing to keep gatherings limited and also boat rental operations.

“People are using those as they did every summer to go out and to have parties and maybe put rafts together and join with other groups, and right now we need to stop doing that,” Dr. Henry said. “We need to focus on having our own small group together and focus on our friends and our family.”

READ MORE: Nearly 1,000 British Columbians affected in some way by Kelowna COVID-19 exposure

Dr. Henry said today, July 22, nearly 1,000 people are self-isolating around the province after coming in contact with someone who has tested positive for the disease and that number could grow depending on how their contacts behave.

“What we need to do is be able to rapidly find people (and) ensure that they have what they need to stay away from others, get tested and be monitored,” Dr. Henry said.

Early on in this pandemic, as contact tracing got underway, there were about 11 contacts on average for each person with a COVID-19 positive diagnosis. That said, some people had 100 to 120 contacts.

When restrictions were imposed the number was closer to two or three.

“We're starting to see that (number) creep up again,” she said, adding that the goal is to be somewhere between two and 11.

“What we're seeing in the Okanagan, and this is why Interior Health is looking at some more restrictions on numbers of people that gather, is that people were having 20 or 30 contacts and that makes it much more challenging for us to find people in a timely way.”

From a public health perspective, the goal is to find the contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within 24 to 48 hours — before they start to show symptoms.

“We know in the incubation period is up to 14 days but most people will start to get sick on day five to day seven, so we want to find everybody before that period of time, so that they don't have the opportunity to pass it on to somebody else,” she said.

What made things worse in the Okanagan is that people were making contacts with people they didn’t know.

“We are seeing transmission in the Okanagan but it also applies around the province,” she said.

“People are travelling, they're getting together, enjoying the summer, but we need to do it with smaller groups. We need to make sure we know who we're with so that if somebody inadvertently brings (COVID-19) into our bubble, we're able to protect everybody as rapidly as we can.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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