VANCOUVER -- A new COVID-19 community cluster has been identified in the B.C. Interior, with most cases linked to recent gatherings.

Interior Health issued a notice Wednesday evening, saying 215 people have tested positive since the start of the year in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region. Of those cases, 74 are residents of nearby First Nations communities.

"As we have seen in recent years, this community has a history of coming together during challenging times in the face of adversity," said Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, in the notice. 

"Now is no different: we must stay focused and reduce the spread of this virus together by strictly following public health orders and direction."

Interior Health's notice says most of the cases in the cluster "are related to COVID-19 transmission that occurred at recent social events and gatherings in Williams Lake."

Everyone in the region is being reminded by the health authority that current public health orders prohibit gatherings with anyone outside households, with few exceptions for those who live alone. Those orders are in place until Feb. 5. 

Updates on the cluster will be given twice each week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. As of Wednesday's announcement, 158 of the cases were still active. 

"I want to thank local First Nation chiefs, our health-care staff and physicians, and community leaders for their dedication and hard work as we respond together to this increase in COVID-19 activity in the Cariboo-Chilcotin," Brown said.