Provincial health officials say they’re hoping to flatten a sharp spike in daily new COVID-19 cases in B.C.’s Central Okanagan region.
For the past week, the Interior Health region has seen a dramatic rise in case counts, which prompted B.C.’s top health officials to hold a press conference on Wednesday.
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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Interior Health interim chief medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollock declared an outbreak for the Central Okanagan.
This includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, Peachland, Lake Country and local electoral areas.
“The increase has spread out,” Henry said, adding the cases are seen mostly in young people.
“Over 50 per cent of the cases, as the minister pointed out, have been in this area.”
Officials noted there have been 240 cases in the region during the past week, and that the vast majority involve those who haven’t been immunized or only partially immunized.
Henry said the province no longer needs to take broad sector societal measures, but some measures are needed.
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The Central Okanagan restrictions include:
“We are seeing this mostly in young people and we know they have had less access to the vaccine. We are seeing transmission in the Delta variant which we know is more transmissible,” Henry said.
“We still need to take measures in those areas where we are seeing higher levels of transmission. Where we are seeing transmission is in pockets of people who are not immunized or under-immunized.”
Henry also said, “taking these additional measures will help us get control as quickly as possible.”
She also called it a “localized approach,” adding they hope to “see a rapid decrease in cases and get our immunization numbers up.”
Dix added they are seeing “significant transmission in the Central Okanagan health area at multiple sites. We are taking some action to deal with that.”
He continued, saying “we need to increase immunization levels everywhere in B.C.”
A graph showing the number of cases within Interior Health (yellow) as compared to other health regions in B.C.On Tuesday, Henry alluded to the possibility of putting in regional restrictions to manage the rising cases in the Kelowna area and the entire Interior Health region.
“I don’t see us having to go back to the same across-the-board restrictions that we had in place even a few months ago, in March and April and May,” Henry told Global News. “But I do see that it’ll be individual level, local things will have to happen.”
As of Tuesday, there were 412 active COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, more than double the 196 in Fraser Health, which has the second-highest number of active cases in the province.
The surge in cases in B.C.’s Interior is being driven by young people who are unvaccinated. The majority of the new cases are linked to those in their 20s and 30s.
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The positivity rate has soared in Interior Health, up to 6.8 per cent from 2.7 per cent a week ago.
The outbreaks are being driven by the Delta variant and are connected to indoor, social gatherings.
— With files from Jon Azpiri