British Columbia health officials have identified 28 new daily cases of COVID-19 — the most since May 8 — as COVID-19 infections linked to parties in Kelowna continue to increase.
Over the last nine days, the province has recorded at least 20 cases on eight different occasions. Before the recent stretch, it had not surpassed that mark since June 3.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, held a last-minute press conference on Friday to discuss the recent news and trends. Eight more cases, for a total of 35, have now been linked to events that occured in Kelowna’s waterfront district between June 25 and July 9.
“This is one of the more concerning issues to us,” Henry said. “We recognize that there have been a number of events that have happened there and we need people to start thinking about how we can socialize safely over the coming weeks.”
Henry said they expect more cases to appear in the upcoming days, since they’re now in the “third-generation” of cases as the virus continues to spread between contacts. Hundreds of people are currently being tracked to see if they’ll develop symptoms.
Officials believe many of the infections stemmed from two private parties at hotel resorts around Canada Day. Anyone who was at Discovery Bay Resort (July 1-5) and Boyce Gyro Beach Lodge (July 1) has been asked to self-isolate.
Before the patients were notified by health officials of their infections, some of them visited Kelowna businesses, such as restaurants and bars. On July 10, Interior health issued an advisory to warn people that if they attended gatherings in the Kelowna downtown and waterfront areas from June 25 to July 6, that they may been exposed to COVID-19.
“People may not recognize that they are ill or that they have mild symptoms but they can still spread the virus to others,” said Henry. “Make sure that we don’t let COVID steal our summer.
“Many new cases are individuals in their 20s and 30s and transmission is directly connected to social events. You need to be aware that while the severity of illness for those in their 20s and 30s is typically much less, your ability to spread to others is just as high.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix said earlier this week that the cases involve people who live in three regions of the province, including the Interior, Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health regions. The Kelowna cluster has also been linked to the Krazy Cherry fruit farm in Okanagan, where there are now four cases of COVID-19.
Dix said some of the people gathering in Kelowna did not know each other before the hotel party.
On Friday, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said there is “some cause for concern” about the recent increase in cases nationwide.
Over the past week, an average of 350 new cases per day have been identified, compared to a daily average of 300 earlier in the month. On Thursday, over 437 new COVID-19 cases were reported, followed by 405 on Friday.
“This coincides with increasing reports of individuals contacting COVID-19 at parties, nightclubs and bars, as well as increasing rates of transmission among young Canadians in some jurisdictions across the country,” Njoo said at a press conference on Friday.
On July 11, Montreal public health officials asked anyone who has been to a bar in the city since Canada Day to get tested, prompting thousands to come forward. At the time, there were eight cases linked to five bars. There are now 45 cases linked to at least 14 bars, as of an update Wednesday evening.
The province has since added restrictions to bars. It’s a move that was implemented after people in Montérégie tested positive for COVID-19, following a visit to a bar in Brossard and a couple of house parties, which have led to at least 20 infections.
Across other parts of Canada, such as in Ontario and Alberta, people under the age of 40 continue to make up the majority of daily cases. Health experts have said that increased social gatherings, where physical distancing rules have not been ignored, have been behind some of the spikes.
“I was young once and I can remember when I was younger I thought I was invincible, you can do anything, don’t worry about it, it will be OK,” said Njoo. “I would tell young people, including my own kids…you need to also take some personal responsibility, it’s not only to protect your health but to protect all others in our society.”