At today's daily B.C. COVID-19 update, provincial health officer provided further details, including that there are now 17 people involved.
The number of individuals who contracted the coronavirus from parties in Kelowna has increased as officials have responded with concerns about the spread of the virus in B.C.
On July 10, Interior Health issued the first of a series of public alerts about large-scale potential COVID-19 exposure in Kelowna’s downtown and waterfront areas from June 25 to July 6 that involved eight individuals, six of whom were from outside the health region.
Today (July 14), Interior Health is reported as stating that six more people connected to these events have since tested positive, raising the total number of 13 individuals.
Health minister provides details
At a news conference on July 13, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix responded to questions about the outbreak.
He explained that the investigation, which he described as the “detective work of public health”, involves three health authorities—Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Interior Health.
The “main inciting incident” that caused the infections, he explained, were private parties at two resort hotels.
Interior Health identified the two hotels—Boyce Gyro Beach Lodge and Discovery Bay Resort—in addition to two additional sites—Cactus Club and Pace Spin Studio—where the infected individuals were present.
“When people come together for private parties—in this case, it’s largely people in their 20s and 30s—the risks are considerably higher,” he stated. “They tend to be in enclosed spaces; they tend to involve people coming from different places, different walks of life, who may not know each other at all; and the risk of those kinds of events are higher. It’s why we have limits on the overall sizes of gatherings, organized gatherings. But people, I think, have to show good judgement with respect to events.”
He added that the involvement of alcohol may make it more challenging to maintain health precautions such as physical distancing.
In both Canada and the U.S., several regions—including Alberta, Ontario, Arizona, Florida, and Texas—have reported that the majority of or significant increases in new cases are among people in the 20 to 40 year old age range.
Dix reminded everyone “how cautious they need to be” as travel continues on in Phase 3 of the province’s reopening plan.
“We can travel but we have to be as respectful of where we travel as our home community,” he said. He added that the responsibility is upon both those holding events as well as anyone accepting invitations.
“We have got to live with COVID-19 for the next year,” he said, emphasizing the importance of people understanding the risks involved.
“The most likely people who we’re going to transmit this virus to, if we become positive for COVID-19, are people who we love, and that should be reason to inspire us to follow the rules,” he said. “It’s possible in this incredible province to travel around and do so safely and show the same respect we would show to our family members that we show to people we’re visiting in one of the many communities that people may want to visit. So I think it’s about understanding that while we’re on vacation, we’re not on vacation from our responsibilities with regard to COVID-19.”
Kelowna mayor responds
Meanwhile, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran issued a statement today about the outbreak.
“The province has not implemented travel restrictions within Canada, so we know people are going to come to Kelowna,” Basran stated in a news release.
He noted that if people don’t follow the health recommendations for travel by Dr. Bonnie Henry, the risk of transmission may increase.
“She [Dr. Henry] has also said that if people can’t maintain the level of responsibility that helped us have one of the best responses to limit COVID transmission in North America, then we may need to go back to the Phase 2 level of public health orders,” Basran said.
“We need to remain vigilant, because we’ve seen how quickly a few lapses in judgement can turn into a serious problem,” he added.
Other Okanagan incidents
In other Kelowna-related travel news, Air Canada flight 8421 from Kelowna to Vancouver on July 6 was identified as one of four flights arriving at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) with a minimum of one confirmed COVID-19 case.
Elsewhere in the Okanagan, Interior Health announced on July 13 that a community outbreak was identified at Krazy Cherry Fruit Co.'s farm in Oliver, B.C., involving two confirmed cases.
Anyone who has been at any of these locations during the specified dates is asked to monitor themselves for symptoms. If anyone develops symptoms, they are asked to immediately self-isolate and call 811 to arrange for testing.