Don’t come to Kelowna and act like the city is a COVID free bubble, where you can behave however you want.
That is the messaging from Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran following a recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the city that saw case numbers top more than 70 on Tuesday, July 22.
Most of the cases have been linked to those in their 20s and 30s who attended private parties.
Basran said as the cases continue to climb following the initial cluster outbreak at the start of July, residents have been expressing outrage and concern.
He said some residents believe that Kelowna should not be allowing visitors to the community or that Bernard should not have been shut down to traffic and opened to patio expansions.
“As far visitors go that isn’t a decision to be made by the City of Kelowna, that is a decision to be made by Dr. Bonnie Henry. As of right now, she is still OK with visitors from across the province, visiting here,” he explained. “She also said there are no plans to restrict travel between provinces.”
Now, it’s up to residents and visitors to listen to Dr. Henry’s advice when it comes to social distancing and slowing the spread of COVID-19, said Basran.
He called it a waiting game to see if people will in fact listen and act respectively, so the curve can be flattened.
If residents and visitors can’t follow the directions of Dr. Henry, there could be changes to Phase Three or the possibility of moving back to Phase Two. Although Basran said, that Dr. Henry did not share what a modified Phase Three would look like.
“I know a lot of people really don’t want that (to go back to Phase Two). So, what happens next depends on residents and visitors and how they behave,” said Basran. “Everyone needs to do better.”
And, while some Kelowna locals might be pointing the finger at visitors for the cause of the spread of the virus, Basran said some residents are not adhering to Dr. Henry’s guidelines.
“My message to residents is we play just as big of a part here in flatting the curve. Continue to be vigilant and continue to do the things we need to get back to where we were. If we do that we can continue to balance the needs of dealing with this health care crisis, but also allow those who are dependant on tourism to make a living.”
The mayor met with Dr. Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Interior Health on July 17 to discuss the recent coronavirus exposures in Kelowna.
“The biggest thing (we discussed) was how to get the message out to the 20 to 29 year old demographic, to behave better if they are going to visit here,” he said. “Likely they are not using traditional media as sources of information, so how do we reach them.”
Basran said the message needs to be clear that it is OK to visit Kelowna, but everyone has to be responsible and act as if they were in their home town.
“They need to act as if the person or group next to them has it, so act accordingly. This is not the time to visit Kelowna and meet new people, stick with the people you know and don’t interact with the people you don’t.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, July 21, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix stated that the province is turning to social media influencers to share the message about COVID-19 best practices, in the hopes of targeting the 20 to 30 year old demographic.
“I’m so proud, and you’ll see it on Instagram, the work of different people from all walks of life, from people involved in fitness to food to tourism to community activities who are posting on Instagram right now to get that message out,” Dix said
As of Wednesday, July 22, more than 1,000 British Columbians are self-isolating due to being linked to Kelowna community exposures.
B.C. recorded 34 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and no additional deaths.
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