Two private Canada Day parties source of Kelowna, B.C. outbreak
VANCOUVER -- A recent outbreak in the Okanagan is serving as a cautionary tale of what happens when people gather for parties indoors.
On Friday, the B.C. Interior Health Authority issued an advisory that eight people tested positive for COVID-19 who had spent time in several downtown Kelowna locations, adding six of them are not Kelowna residents.
On Monday, Health Minister Adrian Dix revealed those six live in the Lower Mainland, specifically in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.
He credited contact-tracing for helping health officials decipher the new cases all originated from private parties held on Canada Day.
He said the majority of the people at the parties were in their 20s and 30s.
"People have to show good judgement with respect to events," Dix said. "Whether we are going to a party when we travel or when we go to a party at home, the same concerns, the same risks apply."
People who attended the gatherings at Discovery Bay Resort from July 1 to 5 and Boyce Gyro Beach Lodge on July 1 have been asked to self-isolate.
But before being contacted by public health teams, some of the infected went from the parties went to other local businesses.
"There were several individuals in Kelowna at the same time that were here out and about during their period of infectivity, where they're shedding the virus," explained Dr. Silvina Mema, a medical health officer with IHA.
She said those infected are "young people," who typically don't experience complications from the disease, adding so far, no one has had to be hospitalized.
IHA is asking people to self-monitor for symptoms if they visited Cactus Club on Water Street from July 3 to 6 and Pace Spin Studio on Harvey Street on July 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9.
On Monday, Pace was closed for deep cleaning and sanitization.
The owner said he hopes the advisory does not impact business.
"The optics, of course, concern us. But we have a very loyal clientele and everybody knows what we do and what we do in the studio," Paul Venables said.
IHA says it recognizes the recent cases have created concerns for locals and subsequently, it has been dealing with a high number of calls and unscheduled visitors to the local testing centre.
It reminds people that testing is not required for those who don't have symptoms. Those with symptoms are asked to call ahead to book an appointment.
Outbreak happens one week after Phase 3 begins
Dix reminded people to follow physical distancing and other guidelines that have been keeping British Columbians safe from the coronavirus, adding people "can't be on a vacation from (those) responsibilities."
"Whether you own a space or you rent a space, you have the obligations, you have responsibility. If you're going to accept an invitation, you're going to have to keep the risk in mind," he said.
The parties took place one week after the province started Phase 3 of its restart plan.
Dix said the new cases do not change his stance on travel within the province.
"If we follow the rules," he said, "I think we'd be able to sustain travel around B.C. and that would be a good thing."
Health authority president and CEO Susan Brown echoed those sentiments.
"The Interior of B.C. is an amazing place to come and visit so we don’t want to discourage people from coming but we do want to them to be mindful of their behaviour," she said.
The BC for Disease Control has also flagged Air Canada flight AC8421 from Kelowna to Vancouver on July 6, warning of a possible exposure for passengers.
It recommends those travellers self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.
Officials said the outbreak in Kelowna is unrelated to the possible exposure on the flight.