The Central Okanagan is now B.C.'s COVID-19 hotspot

COVID rising in Kelowna

Cindy White

Several Kelowna restaurants have made the proactive decision in the past few days to temporarily close their doors because of positive cases of COVID-19 or exposures among their staff.

Interior Health confirms cases are on the rise in the region, especially among young people who have yet to be vaccinated.

“Up to 95 percent of the cases are unvaccinated. So, COVID-19 is, unfortunately, circulating among a younger group of unvaccinated individuals in the Interior, but particularly in the Central Okanagan,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, Interior Health medical health officer.

“Regarding businesses, yes we have had a number of cases linked to businesses, in people who work for businesses” she added.

“Sometimes because businesses need the employees to work and we are isolating the close contacts, that means the business cannot operate. So many businesses are closing temporarily.”

Dr Mema said Interior Health is considering its options to get to those who haven’t had their shot yet. She notes the test positivity rate in the area is currently at about three percent, which is still well below the peak of seven to eight percent during the first and second wave. So far, hospitalizations have not increased.

Kelowna mayor Colin Basran says the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Central Okanagan is a concern.

"This is a reminder for everyone to go and get vaccinated," said Basran.

"It's unfortunate that some of our businesses have had to close because of some of the outbreaks, but again it's just a reminder that this isn't over. People still need to be mindful and they still need to be practicing proper hygiene and being cautious."

Basran says everyone seems to be enjoying the restart and the loosening of restrictions, but added "if people aren't going to get their vaccinations, Dr. Bonnie Henry will have to take appropriate steps."

On Monday, the provincial government announced 267 new COVID-19 cases in the region, the majority of which (155) came in the Interior Health region. The BC Interior now has the highest active case load of any health authority, by far.

The most recent regional data available, for between July 11 and 17, shows the Central Okanagan with the highest case counts in the province.

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