COVID-19 outbreak declared in Central Okanagan, new local restrictions ordered

New local restrictions announced in Central Okanagan due to COVID-19 outbreak. The local restrictions are a new direction.

File photo: An Interior Health sign pointing the the back door entrance to vaccination clinics at the Revelstoke Community Centre. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Pubic health authorities have declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the Central Okanagan Local Health Area and are enacting new local restrictions starting at midnight on July 28.

In a July 28 press conference that included the provincial and regional health officers, authorities announced the new restrictions.

The Central Okanagan is an anomaly in the province, accounting for half of the new cases in the province in the past week. In the Central Okanagan, there were 113 new cases on July 28, 95 on July 27, and about 240 in the past week.

Test positivity rates are at 6.8% for the area, much higher than elsewhere in the province. Authorities also noted “high transmission rates.”

Interior Health Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sue Pollock, said the new cases are “primarily amongst people 20 to 40 years old” who are not immunized or underimmunized, such as with one vaccine dose.

Authorities say they are reducing the wait time between the first and second doses in the Central Okanagan to 28 days in order to speed up vaccinations.

New local restrictions for Central Okanagan

A July 28, 2021 snapshot of new COVID-19 cases reported to health authorities in Interior Health, showing an increase in the past weeks. Authorities say the increase is being driven by an outbreak in the Central Okanagan Local Health Area.  Image: BC Centre for Disease Control

Many of the rules will remain the same, following the province’s Step 3 guidelines.

However, some new restrictions were announced for the Central Okanagan:

-There is a mandatory mask order for all indoor public spaces

-Businesses that have three or more cases linked to them could be ordered to close, and authorities said they will work with businesses on a case-by-case basis, including monitoring staff vaccination levels.

-Non-essential travel is “discouraged” in and out of the area unless people are fully vaccinated.

-Authorities announced enhanced enforcement, such as beefed up patrols in central Kelowna.

Analysis

Although health authorities have taken various geographically targeted measures during the pandemic, the restrictions targeting a regional area are a new direction for provincial health authorities, who have favoured province-wide restrictions during the pandemic. It’s an indication that they may enact local restrictions at hot spots in the future.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the new regional restrictions were being used now and not prior to the introduction of vaccines because more people are now vaccinated. “It is a new strategy because we have high immunization rates,” Henry said.

 

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