COVID-19 outbreak declared in Central Okanagan, masking ordered for all indoor spaces | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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COVID-19 outbreak declared in Central Okanagan, masking ordered for all indoor spaces

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Image Credit: Flickr/Province of B.C.
July 28, 2021 - 1:01 PM

From Peachland to Lake Country, indoor masking is once again required.

Indoor gatherings are being limited to 50-people and travel in and out of the region is discouraged. Those are just a few of the measures being brought in.

With COVID-19 case numbers surging among those 20 to 40 in the Central Okanagan, an outbreak has been declared for the entire region and Interior Health has applied some new measures that are not in effect in any other B.C. city.

"We are concerned, in public health, about the quite rapid increase in numbers of people being affected by COVID-19 in the Central Okanagan, particularly in and around the Kelowna area," Dr. Bonnie Henry said today.

"As you know, there were 95 cases yesterday in Interior Health and there was another 113 today, and really 240 cases in the last week. Because of this exponential growth that we've been seeing in cases, we need to focus on additional measures to reduce transmission and to protect our most vulnerable people across these communities."

The majority of the health authority's cases were in the Central Okanagan, and Interior Health's medical health officer Sue Pollock said that 50% are linked to a workplace or to a private household, but about 30%  are of unknown origin.

"That really speaks to what's happening here (in the Central Okanagan). We do have more widespread community transmission happening," Pollock said.

Because the approach to the pandemic has changed due in large part to widespread vaccination, Dr. Henry said regional restrictions will now be applied. Historically, she's been loath to put limitations on individual health authorities, going instead for a provincewide approach but the change in tack is supported by the fact that other areas aren't seeing surging cases as their vaccination rates are higher than the Interior's. It has an unvaccinated rate of 26% compared to 14 to 18% in the Lower Mainland.

As such, Pollock said that effective at midnight, Interior Health will be placing regional mandatory mask orders for all public indoor spaces for the Central Okanagan communities, from Peachland to Lake Country.

"Masking will be required in all indoor public spaces and we're also encouraging people to wear masks, if they're unable to distance," Dr. Pollock said.

Masking is not required for children younger than 12 years of age, who are attending camps or other similar settings.

Enforcement on businesses will be increased and if three or more cases are found then they will be ordered closed.

"There will be discretion for some of these businesses to continue to operate if staff are immunized," Dr. Pollock said. "If staff are immunized.  "We will be working with them on a case by case basis."

Interior Health will also be working with municipal partners, local bylaw officers, WorkSafe BC, and environmental health officers to step up a local presence in the downtown core and Kelowna, to support businesses with safety measures.

Interior Health gatherings are for organized events have a capacity is 50 people or 50%, Central Okanagan nightclubs may remain open but guests must remain seated with maximum of 10 people per table and Gyms must have increased cleaning and return of masks and distancing

The increase in cases is coming from those who are not fully vaccinated. To help in getting more people fully vaccinated in the Central Okanagan they have now reduced the interval time between doses to 28 days between dose 1 and 2.

That means more opportunities to get vaccinated, more pop-up clinics and more outreach.



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