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COVID-19 likely isn't spreading through Kelowna businesses

Kelowna is seen at sunset in this undated photo taken from Knox Mountain.
Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
July 22, 2020 - 2:42 PM

Interior Health is not naming Kelowna businesses where staff or customers may have COVID-19 following the city’s exposure events of a few weeks ago because transmission of the disease is not happening in those places.

That’s the gist of brief comments Dr. Sue Pollock, the region’s interim chief medical health officer, made to Tuesday, July 21.

“We are certainly in touch with businesses,” Dr. Pollock said. “We do know the majority of businesses have been working very diligently and have been working with WorkSafeBC to ensure they have COVID-19 safety protocols in place and have taken a number of steps within their businesses to ensure that this disease will not transmit within those settings.”

A number of Okanagan businesses have closed recently for reasons ranging from a staff member testing positive to COVID-19, to a closing out of an abundance of caution until Interior Health gets control over the spread of the disease in the region.

READ MORE: Okanagan COVID-19 exposures stressing out employees as businesses temporarily close

In early July, Interior Health announced a number of people who attended various parties in Kelowna between June 25 and July 6 had COVID-19 and identified the Cactus Club and Spin City as places where the disease may have been transmitted to others.

Since then, some workers and customers have been linked to those earlier events but are not thought to be spreading the disease where they work or to other businesses.

For example, the six people working at Kelowna General Hospital who tested positive last weekend were linked to downtown events, “rather than linking them with exposure and contraction of the virus within the hospital,” Dr. Pollock said.

READ MORE: 6 Kelowna General Hospital employees test positive for COVID-19

The same goes for the four people at Krazy Cherry Fruit Company in Oliver where at least one person attended at least one of the Kelowna events.

As to the nature of the Kelowna events and where the disease originated, Dr. Pollock was not specific.

“There were some individuals who traveled into the Kelowna region from out of town but who also mingled with our (Interior Health) residents at different social settings,” she said. “Primarily there were a number of gatherings that occurred in private settings, for example in rental units, where there were quite a few people who mingled indoors.”

Since contract tracing is done by their health regions of origin, Dr. Pollock could not say if they showed any symptoms during their time in Kelowna.

“It’s really difficult to say exactly where it started and where it came from,” she said. “We know that we had a relatively flat curve here in the Interior region until late June, then we saw that spike.”

What is clear is that the list of six people initially identified as having COVID-19 has now grown to at least 60, with most of them in the Central Okanagan.

READ MORE: 102 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. over the weekend

It’s also clear that there will be more people testing positive in the days and weeks to come.

“Most of these cases right now in Kelowna are in the 20 to 30 age group,” Dr, Pollock said. “Many of these individuals work in the service industry and they also have a lot of social contacts.”

People who tested positive in the last few days were starting to have a larger number of contacts that during the earlier weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. During the first phase of the pandemic there were three to four people in their bubbles. Now it's in the area of 11 and upward, which is similar to what it was before the pandemic began.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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