Outbreak requires a return to masks
British Columbia is declaring a COVID-19 outbreak in the Central Okanagan after a rapid rise in cases in the region and is reimposing a local mask mandate, as well as other public health measures.
More than half of B.C.’s daily and active COVID-19 cases are concentrated in the area, according to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“We are concerned in public health about the rapid increase in the Central Okanagan, particularly around the Kelowna area,” said Henry, who was joined by Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Sue Pollock, chief medical health officer for Interior Health.
Under the new health order, masks will be mandatory as of midnight in indoor public spaces for anyone over the age of 12. They are also being encouraged outdoors when people cannot physically distance themselves.
Travel to and from the region, which includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country, is also being strongly discouraged unless individuals are fully immunized.
The new cases in Interior Health since July 1 have primarily involved people who are 20 to 40 years old and those who are not fully vaccinated.
On Wednesday, 185 new cases were announced in B.C., 113 of those in Interior Health.
In the last week, a number of businesses in the Central Okanagan have been forced to close because of illness. Pollock says enforcement will be stepped up as officials follow up with establishments where three or more cases of COVID-19 have occurred.
“It’s just disappointing that we have to implement these restrictions. But given the climbing case count, it’s the appropriate thing to do,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said after the announcement.
Basran said he’s thankful further measures weren’t taken, but warned it could get worse if people don’t take the restrictions seriously.
Henry said the spread of the delta variant in the area is especially concerning, but she believes the new measures will help flatten the spike in numbers.