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, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday during a teleconference.
“We are concerned in public health about the rapid increase in the Central Okanagan, particularly around the Kelowna area,” said Dr. 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 and are 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.
“It’s time to slow down and step back to protect our community,” Dr. Pollock said at the teleconference.
She said the region will also be reducing the interval between first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 28 days.
A return to normal for gatherings was announced on July 1 as part of Step 3 of the province’s restart plan, but Dr. Pollock said it’s recommended that people in the Okanagan avoid indoor gatherings in favour of outdoor.
She said 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.
Dr. 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.
“Because of the good work we have all done, I am confident that the measures that we are going to take will stop people from getting sick and will prevent ongoing transmission,” she said.
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