Provincial health officials say they hope to flatten a sharp rise in daily news COVID-19 cases in BC’s central Okanagan region.
In the past week, the Interior Health region has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases, prompting BC’s top health officials to hold a press conference on Wednesday.
COVID-19: BC announces regional measure for domestic health
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Interior Health Interim Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Sue Pollock declared an outbreak in central Okanagan.
This includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, Peachland, Lake Country and local constituencies.
“The increase is spread out,” Henry said, adding that the cases are mainly seen in young people.
“Over 50 percent of the cases, as the minister pointed out, have been in this area.”
Officials noted that there have been 240 cases in the region over the past week and that the vast majority involve those who have not been vaccinated or only partially immunized.
Henry said the province no longer needs to take community-wide action, but some action is needed.
COVID-19: Central Okanagan restrictions outlined, including regional mandate for indoor mask
Central Okanagan restrictions include:
- A regional order introducing a mask mandate for indoor public spaces to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak
- Events should be organized outdoors and not indoors
- Restaurants are back to step 3, which means the maximum capacity of indoor venues has now been reduced
- Bars, restaurants and nightclubs must have COVID-19 safety plans in place. Spirits may remain at normal times, but people should not socialize between the tables.
- Reducing the second dose range to four weeks to get people vaccinated faster
- Deterrent non-essential journey to the region of people not yet fully vaccinated
- Extended availability of asymptomatic test
“We see this mostly in young people, and we know that they have had less access to the vaccine. We see transmission in the Delta variant, which we know is more transferable, ”said Henry.
“We still need to take action in those areas where we see higher transmission levels. Where we see transmission is in the pockets of people who are not immunized or underimmunized. ”
Henry also said, “Taking these further steps will help us regain control as soon as possible.”
She also called it a “localized approach” and added that they hope to “see a rapid decline in cases and get our immunization numbers up.”
BC is updating its COVID-19 vaccination campaign to target the non-vaccinated
Dix added that they see “significant transmission in the central Okanagan health area in several places. We are taking some steps to tackle it. ”
He went on to say “we need to increase immunization levels everywhere in BC”
Interior Health also encourages people to wear masks outdoors if they are unable to distance themselves and if they are not immunized.
“Masks can also be very effective against the very poor air quality we are experiencing right now (due to fire smoke),” Pollock said.
Masks are optional for children under the age of 12 who go to camps or other similar settings.
Interior Health also said it will strengthen the importance of physical distance to stay home when sick and seek testing if it is symptomatic.
Pollock also said that with a number of businesses in the area closed due to positive COVID-19 tests, IH will increase enforcement of the province’s restart plan “through additional outbreak control measures.”
Pollock went on to say “we will follow up with companies that have three or more COVID cases attached to their establishment. And if necessary, we order them to close. ”
However, Pollock also said, “there will be discretion for some of these companies to continue operating if staff are immunized and we will work with them on a case-by-case basis.”
Concerns about growing COVID-19 numbers and possible travel issues with mixed vaccines
On Tuesday, Henry referred to the possibility of imposing regional restrictions to deal with the rising cases in the Kelowna area and the entire Interior Health region.
“I do not see that we need to go back to the same general constraints that we had in place even a few months ago, in March and April and May,” Henry told Global News. “But I can see that it will be individual level, local things will have to happen.”
As of Tuesday, there were 412 active COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, more than double the 196 in Fraser Health, which has the second-highest number of active cases in the province.
Officials reported another 150 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. Nearly two-thirds of these cases were in the Interior Health region, which reported 95 infections.
Travel issues around mixed and matched COVID-19 vaccines
The rise in cases in the interior of BC is driven by young people who have not been vaccinated. The majority of new cases are related to those in their 20s and 30s.
The positivity rate has risen in Interior Health, up 6.8 percent from 2.7 percent a week ago.
The outbreaks are driven by the Delta variant and are associated with indoor, social gatherings.
– With files from Jon Azpiri
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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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