Outbreak in Kelowna, B.C., forces 1,000 people into self-isolation
Spike prompts more restrictions at bars, nightclubs
By Hina Alam in Vancouver
VICTORIA — A jump in COVID-19 infections in British Columbia has prompted a tightening of restrictions by health officials for bars and nightclubs.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the rise in cases, including 34 more on Wednesday, is a wake-up call and health officials, businesses and residents need to pay more attention to areas where transmission is spread.
The amended health order prohibits liquor self-service and dance floors, while all patrons of bars and clubs must be in designated seats and measures need to be in place to reduce lineups.
“This is not a failure of anything we’ve been doing,” Henry said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’ve always said that we will tweak things, we will manage things, we will make changes as we need to.”
The additional measures will make it easy for bars and nightclub operators to ensure safe distancing and that people aren’t “bending and disobeying” rules, particularly after they’ve had a few drinks and it’s late at night, she said.
Adjustments will happen
She does not believe the province opened too soon, she said.
“We’ve done it in a very measured, and I believe, a thoughtful way. We’ll adjust and we’ll manage as we go,” she said.
People need to remember that every time they meet a new group, they are exposing themselves to a new risk, she said.
It is not surprising that there has been an uptick in cases considering an increased amount of travel and partying especially among young people, she said.
About 1,000 people are in self-isolation after being in close contact with those who tested positive in the outbreak in Kelowna, Henry said.
Health officials have said many of the infections that started in Kelowna, then spread through the province, were related to private parties.
“In the last few weeks we’re seeing an increase in younger people who tend to have milder illness that recover more quickly, but there are some people, even young people, who get very sick and end up in hospital,” she said.
Young people who may be asymptomatic or have mild enough symptoms that they don’t notice they are sick, and potentially pass it on to parents or grandparents, she said.
“We’ve seen a couple of people related, who are now in hospital.”
So far, 3,362 people have tested positive for COVID-19, while 2,888 have fully recovered. There have been no new deaths and the toll remains at 189.
A pediatric critical care and infectious diseases specialist at the University of British Columbia said the uptick in cases can be attributed to a few large spreading events.
Dr. Srinivas Murthy said if the ultimate goal is to keep the curve flat, limit hospitalizations, and get kids back in school then people need to prioritize what they think is more important than others.
“We’re watching it very closely and thinking about it very carefully, and not panicking just yet.”
Henry said even those who have had relatively mild illness have a prolonged recovery that may take weeks.
People who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s have died from this disease, while others are sick for a long period of time.
“They describe feelings of profound fatigue that can last for a long time, shortness of breath with even minimal exertion,” she said.
“And this happens to young people so this really can knock you flat on your back for a long time.”