The surge in new COVID-19 cases in the Okanagan has prompted new restrictions as Interior Health (IH) looks to get a handle on the recent outbreak in the Central Okanagan.
Interior Health said in a media release Wednesday that significant increases in COVID-19 transmission has forced the announcement of measures to contain the outbreak.
The Central Okanagan, according to the Geographic Distribution of COVID-19 by Local Health Area of Case Residence map by the BC Centre of Disease Control, between July 18-24, 2021 had 153 new COVID-19 cases reported.
"Effective tonight at midnight, Interior Health is placing a regional mandatory mask order for all public indoor spaces in Peachland, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, Kelowna and Lake Country," the Interior Health media release said.
"The order applies to individuals older than 12 years of age."
In the West Kootenay, between July 18-24, 2021, Castlegar and Nelson saw an increase in new COVID-19 cases, showing 29 and 13 cases, respectively.
Interior Health said people from outside the central Okanagan are discouraged from non-essential travel to the area for the duration of the outbreak unless they are fully vaccinated (7 days after their second dose).
"There will be continued enforcement of the Province’s Step 3 Restart Plan," Interior Health said.
"When businesses in the central Okanagan experience three or more COVID-19 cases, IH medical health officers will have the option to follow up and issue a closure order. We will be working with our municipal partners, WorkSafe BC and Interior Health environmental public health officers to support businesses in the central Okanagan maintain compliance with mandatory safety measures."
As a reminder, Step 3 includes a return to normal for indoor and outdoor personal gatherings; however, in the central Okanagan people should be more cautious:
- Organize events outdoors rather than indoors, if possible.
- Maintain physical distancing, hand cleaning, and stay home if you are sick.
- Continue to set a maximum capacity for indoor organized gatherings at 50 people or up to 50 per cent of a venue’s total capacity.
- Events scheduled during this outbreak in the central Okanagan should have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.
Other Interior Health measures include:
- Implementing a low threshold for testing: Testing is available to anyone who is experiencing symptoms, and Interior Health will also conduct asymptomatic testing in areas with COVID-19 exposures.
- Increased access to COVID-19 vaccines: Additional pop-up and mobile clinics in downtown Kelowna and throughout the central Okanagan will make it easier than ever to get vaccinated so people can protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. The interval between first and second doses will be decreased to 28 days for people who reside in the central Okanagan.
Interior Health said the measures will remain in place for at least 14 days and until the region experiences lower cases and higher vaccination rates.
"More than 95 per cent of recent cases in the central Okanagan are among people who are not fully- immunized against COVID-19," Interior Health said.
"This is an important reminder that immunization is our most effective prevention against COVID-19."
Nelson (13) and Castlegar (29) in the West Kootenay show a significant new COVID-19 case count following the latest BC Centre of Disease Control date releasd Wednesday. — BCCDC image
How to get vaccinated
People can get their first or second dose by dropping in at any of Interior Health’s immunization clinics or by appointment. People can also book an appointment if they would like.
Register online by visiting the provincial website at www.getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca/, call 1-833-838-2323, or visit a Service BC office listed here, and then book an appointment.