Coronavirus: Long weekend brings COVID-19 concerns after last outbreak in Kelowna

Another long weekend has arrived and with it comes renewed COVID-19 concerns for the Okanagan community.

The concern stems from a spike in coronavirus cases in Kelowna following exposure linked to the Canada Day holiday.

“My hope is after our last long weekend and what resulted, we learned our lesson,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran told Global News on Thursday.

“I hope that everyone that lives and visits here, will really think twice before they do anything.”

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B.C’s provincial health officer said to celebrate the long weekend with caution, especially when descending on a busy tourist location such as the Okanagan.

“Let’s make this long weekend a different one than we saw in early July,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said in her public address on Thursday.

“Whether you’re 15, 20 or 55, celebrate our incredible province by socializing safely.”

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Interior Health says they will be changing the way it will be reporting COVID-19 cases in Kelowna.

“We’ve been reporting more cases and in counting those we realized there are cases not linked to the Kelowna downtown or waterfront, where the cluster started,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, an Interior Health medical health officer.

“We now feel we need to be able to report all the cases together.”

The Interior Health Authority is calling the situation in Kelowna a “broad community transmission.”

“Broad community transition is an epidemiological term that we use, and know it sounds scary for people but all it means is that we can’t just connect cases to a single location,” said Dr. Mema.

Instead of announcing new cases in the broader Interior Health coverage area, officials will begin announcing new cases in Kelowna as they come up.

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Looking forward to this coming long weekend, the Kelowna mayor has some advice for travelers and residents.

“Anyone visiting our community, as well as the ones who live here, need to take the proper precautions and adhere to Dr. Henry’s recommendations.”

New rules for short term rentals allow up to five guests to visit but that could encroach upon the recommendation of keeping  ‘social bubbles’ small.

“Stopping the spread of this virus really is up to each and every one of us individually,” said Basran.

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The city says they will be sending safety education ambassadors to popular outdoor areas over the long weekend, to ensure people are practicing physical distancing.

“As a general rule, if you can’t find a spot to put down your towel that is at least six feet away from others, the beach is too busy,” said Lance Kayfish, City of Kelowna’s risk manager.

“We ask that you simply be flexible in your weekend plans, try a different spot, or simply come back later when it’s less busy.” 

Given that Kelowna is enjoying its first heatwave of the summer there’s no doubt the nice weather will be attracting visitors from all over Western Canada.

Kelowna is home to more than 200 parks and 35 beaches, which can be found on a map here.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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