COVID-19 restrictions announced for Interior Health region as B.C. cases remain high

Masks top of mind in the province today. Backlash against B.C.'s top doctor not wearing one while posing for pictures at B.C. Place as a broad mask mandate is put in place in the province's covid hot spot. Liza Yuzda with more.

PENTICTON (NEWS 1130) — There’s a further crackdown on the Interior as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in that region.

Effective at midnight, Aug. 21, masks will be required in all indoor public spaces for people 12 and older, indoor personal gatherings will be limited to one household or five guests, backyard gatherings are limited to 50 people, and indoor organized gatherings such as weddings are also limited to 50 people. All gatherings will need to have a COVID safety plan in place.

“We understand this news will be disheartening for many in this area who are not only living with the challenges of the pandemic but also with the challenges of wildfires and heat and smoke.”

Thousands of people have been displaced due to wildfires, and many have been forced to stay with friends or family in other health areas.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says the movement of people can also spread the virus, which is a cause for concern.

She says the Central Okanagan’s cases have levelled off after restrictions were implemented in that area two weeks ago.

Henry is also reminding people not to travel to the Interior unless it’s essential, regardless of their immunization status.

It comes after a surge in COVID-19 cases, primarily in that region, which Henry says is due, in part, to the displacement of people from the wildfires.

She says that is also impacting immunization rates, but adds it’s more important than ever for everyone to get their shot.

“Trying to get people immunized at the same time as they are dealing with potential evacuations and evacuation alerts affecting so many communities,” Henry said.

COVID-19 cases surge

B.C.’s COVID-19 cases remain high on Friday.

There were 663 new cases, and one new death.

Hospitalizations have increased with 129 patients, 59 in the intensive care unit.

The highest number of cases remains in the Interior where 274 people tested positive, followed by 162 new cases in Fraser Health, 135 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 54 in Island Health, and 38 in the Northern Health region.

The most recent death was in the Fraser Health region. The total number of lives lost in the province is now at 1,785.

There is one new health care outbreak. Fraser Health reports two patients at Peace Arch Hospital in South Surrey have contracted the virus. The outbreak is limited to the medicine unit which is temporarily closed to admissions. The emergency department remains open.

As of Friday, 83.8 per cent of adults in B.C. have received a shot, 75.5 per cent have received their second.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the gap is narrowing between the doses, which is a good sign, showing that only nine per cent of people have not gotten their second after getting their first.

The Interior Health region is not as fast, Adrian Dix says.

“The number of people who have gotten their first dose of immunization 76.8 per cent, and second dose 68 pre cent. We obviously want to see those numbers grow,” Dix said.

In particular areas like downtown Kelowna, which saw a large number of cases, is now up to 80.5 per cent and getting closer to the provincial average.

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