Top doc warns Kelowna could see regional COVID restrictions
VANCOUVER -- The province’s top doctor is mulling a new approach in the wake of a rush of vacationers and surging COVID-19 infections radiating from Kelowna: regional restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
Until now, Dr. Bonnie Henry has opted for a province-wide approach to health requirements and restrictions on businesses. While her inclination is to look at making changes based on infection trends in high-risk settings like bars and nightclubs, she’s also considering a regional approach in the wake of the Okanagan’s post-Canada Day spike.
"I've been talking to colleagues in Interior Health about whether we need to put some restrictions at this period of time – given the numbers of people who are positive and the numbers of contacts right now – restrictions to gatherings that are slightly different for the Central Okanagan to try and address some of the current issues,” said Henry. “So we need to look at what makes sense to do provincially and what makes sense to do on a regional basis."
On Wednesday, she revealed that 70 cases are now tied to the Kelowna outbreak blamed on young people partying during the Canada Day weekend, with nearly 1,000 people in self-isolation across the province as a result of their own close proximity to those people or infections from those who were in close contact with Kelowna visitors.
The situation has Kelowna’s mayor worried that Henry will dial back the reopening to more restrictive Phase 2 requirements that could impact everything from restaurants to personal services in the tourism-dependent city.
“There are many people in Kelowna and throughout the province that rely on tourism and tourism dollars to keep a roof over their heads and food over the table and so I think (Dr. Henry) continues to walk a good balance, but I know that right now it's a waiting game. We're waiting to see if people will co-operate and if they do, potentially we can flatten the curve -- and if they don't, we wait now to see what Dr. Henry could do next,” said Colin Basran.
“Don't come to Kelowna like you typically would to meet locals and socialize and meet new people. This is not the summer to be doing that. Stick with the people you came with, make sure you know who you're hanging out with.”
Basran emphasize that visitors should be respectful of Kelowna residents and vacation as if it was their own home community.
But CTV News found numerous postings on social media of locals recreating with visitors – often in large parties or on watercraft without social distancing – and the mayor acknowledged that everyone enjoying the weather needs to play by the rules to avoid the potential fallout.
“Act as if the group next to you, somebody in that group may have COVID. Act as if that's the case and take those precautions," he urged.
“It's frustrating, and I can only imagine what Dr. Henry is feeling, that we're several months into this pandemic and we still have to remind people to take the necessary precautions – it sometimes is a little bit mind-boggling."