British Columbia

Avoid large gatherings with people you don't know, Interior Health urges

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the Interior Health region, officials are warning people to limit socializing and support contact tracing efforts.

11 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the Interior Health region on Tuesday

Interior Health says people in the Okanagan need to limit the size of any social gatherings to six or fewer people, prioritize meeting outdoors versus indoors, and keep practising physical distancing. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the Interior Health region, officials are warning people to limit socializing and support contact tracing efforts.

The B.C. government announced 11 more cases of COVID-19 within the Interior Health region on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the area since the start of the pandemic to 291.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 60 of those cases have been linked to multiple exposure events in Kelowna around Canada Day.

What's particularly troubling, according to Henry, is whereas patients with positive cases in the spring had contact with three or four people, now health officials are having to track down 20 or 30 contacts. 

"We are no longer having safe interactions," Henry said on Monday.

Too many contacts

Meanwhile, Kelowna beaches, parks, and the downtown shopping district remain busy. 

The region's top health officer says people's behaviour needs to change. 

"It's not a normal summer and we want to get that message out. This is not a summer where we should be engaging in large gatherings with people we do not know," said Dr. Sue Pollock, the interim chief medical health officer for Interior Health. 

"The majority of these cases in Kelowna over the last couple of weeks have been in 20- to 30-year-olds, and we're finding that these individuals are in many different places over the course of a few days or a few weeks, and many different social settings, and gatherings and businesses," said Pollock. 

"It becomes more difficult to identify who their contacts are, and some of them have identified as many as 20 or even 30 contacts, so we need to follow up with every one of those individuals."

Interior Health is asking people to limit the size of any social gatherings to no more than six people, prioritize meeting outdoors versus indoors, and keep practising physical distancing. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry says 60 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to multiple exposure events in Kelowna around Canada Day. (Brady Strachan)

Helping with contact tracing

Pollock says party organizers should keep a list of the names and phone numbers of those in attendance.

"That makes our job a lot easier in public health, because if we have identified a case of COVID-19 who attended that gathering we can take that list and we can very quickly follow up with those contacts and ensure that they are self-isolated," said Pollock.  

Henry also advocated for the support of contact tracing efforts, asking that people pay "attention to where we go and who we see, and always, without exception, staying home if we are feeling at all unwell."

As for people travelling to the Okanagan, Pollock reminds visitors to be kind and courteous. 

"Remember your travel manners; the precautions that you take at home you should also be taking when you're travelling."  
 

With files from Brady Strachan

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