Party boats being watched closely after Kelowna's last COVID-19 spreading long weekend - InfoNews

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Party boats being watched closely after Kelowna's last COVID-19 spreading long weekend

A group of boaters waiting at the Kelowna boat lock to launch onto Okanagan Lake.
Image Credit: Marshall Jones
August 02, 2020 - 6:00 AM

Another long weekend has arrived and concerns about party boats seem to be have been taken seriously. 

Sebastion Menezes, with SunWave Boat Rentals, said with the amendments to the restrictions on gatherings issued earlier this week, everyone is being extra cautious and the company is taking extra steps to ensure social distancing measures are followed.

“Normally we could swap people onto the next boat as it comes in… so now we’re cleaning at least for about 15 minutes to half an hour for each boat (as there's many highly touched areas),” he said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mass gatherings order was amended to limit the number of people in vacation rentals, which includes houses, cabins, yurts and boat rentals, as well as hotel rooms.

"The number of people is limited to the capacity of the space, plus up to a maximum of five visitors. For example, if the capacity of the accommodation is four people, the maximum number of visitors allowed is five, for a total of no more than nine people. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure the order is adhered to by all guests and to ensure contact tracing information is collected for everyone - guests and visitors alike," Henry said in a press conference Monday, July 27.

SunWave has been limiting the number of boats that are sent out and limiting the number of people on the boats, and has been making potential customers aware of the new limit, Menezes said. Everything is also touchless so bookings and waivers are done online and payments are made over the phone, he said.

Out of 100 callers they get maybe 10 that know there’s a limit on boat rentals, he said.

“A lot of people come to us with parties for 12 people, they want to all go out and we tell them that’s not going to work,” he said.

The company's largest boat would normally hold 14 people, but they’re now limiting it to five, he said.

The company has 12 boats which have been generally fully booked, every day, he said.

He said he doesn’t mind that the responsibility is put on companies to ensure that boat renters are following social distancing guidelines as it allows for community resources to be directed elsewhere and it's in the businesses' best interest to be safe.

“We get a lot of people from Alberta and Vancouver and the last thing I want to do is put my employees in harm’s way,” he said. “We don’t want to make it any worse or lose the business.”

In the last few weeks, social media posts have been circulated pointing to people not social distancing while on the lake.

Last weekend, the Kelowna RCMP said they didn’t see issues with people on boats. While the RCMP will continue to monitor boats within their normal legislative authorities, any COVID-19 concerns should be reported to the governing health authority, said Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy in a previous interview with iNFOnews.

In recent weeks, Kelowna has been the epicentre of B.C.’s recent COVID-19 case spike, stemming from private gatherings and parties during the July 1 Canada Day long weekend. Yesterday, nine new cases were announced for the Interior Health region, with 137 cases linked to Kelowna since June. The regional total is 369 as of July 31.

READ MORE: Nine new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health since yesterday

To try and educate people, Interior Health has teamed up with the City of Kelowna to try and spread COVID-19 safe social distancing practices to younger audiences with a social media campaign.

The city has also created ambassadors who are patrolling beaches, parks and sports fields to spread information around social distancing and provide others with COVID-19 social distancing information this weekend and throughout the summer.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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