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Special restrictions for the Central Okanagan amid spike in COVID cases

The Central Okanagan has seen a large increase in the spread of COVID-19, with Interior Health (IH) currently making up more than half of the cases in the entire province.

The vast majority of those cases are in the Central Okanagan Local Health Area.

As of today an outbreak has been declared which includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, Peachland and Lake Country.

Starting at midnight tonight (July 28), a new mask mandate will come into effect. It will remain in place for at least 14 days and until the region experiences lower cases and higher vaccination rates.

Masks will be mandatory in all indoor business, while people who are unvaccinated will be advised to wear them outdoors as well.

Masks will be optional for children under 12 years old.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Sue Pollock, Chief Medical Health Officer for Interior Health, declared that measures need to be taken where there are high levels of transmission.

The test positivity rate is currently around 6.8% in the Central Okanagan.

The vaccine rollout will continue to focus on the region as only 72.4% of eligible individuals have received their first dose compared to 80.8% province-wide.

"Where we're seeing transmission now is in pockets of people who are unimmunized or under-immunized," said Dr. Henry. "And that's the case right now in the Central Okanagan."

In order to ramp up the vaccine rates, the time between residents first and second dose will be lowered to 28 days.

'Our new cases we've been seeing since July 1 are primarily among people 20-to-40-years-old," said Dr. Pollock. "And the vast majority of them have been unimmunized or under-immunized."

During this outbreak casinos will remain open, nightclubs can host up to 10 people at tables, liquor hours will stay the same and gyms and exercise facilities will continue to operate with increased cleaning. Masks must be worn at all times in these indoor settings.

The maximum capacity for indoor organized gatherings will continue at 50 people or up to 50% of a venue’s total capacity

There will be continued enforcement of the province’s step three restart plan. When businesses in the Central Okanagan experience three or more COVID-19 cases, IH medical health officers will have the option to follow up and issue a closure order.

“We are discouraging non-essential travel to Central Okanagan; unless you're fully immunized, check before you come,” said Dr. Pollock.

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