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Health minister urges vaccination as COVID-19 cases rise in B.C. Interior

COVID-19 cases rising in Okanagan, Kootenays as provincial vaccination efforts continue
(Black Press file photo)

Interior Health has reported the highest single-day COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began as numbers continue to spike in a few hotspots across the B.C. Interior.

On Wednesday, Aug. 4, Interior Health posted 171 cases, breaking a one-day record set the day before, which tallied 146 cases.

Even as the province’s vaccination efforts continue apace, a few places in the Okanagan and the Kootenays have seen a resurgence of increased cases.

Between July 25-31, the Central Okanagan Local Health Area (LHA) reported 450 cases according to data released Wednesday by the BC Centre for Disease Control. In the previous reporting week, the same LHA posted 153 cases.

The spike in recent case counts in the Kelowna area was enough to declare a COVID-19 outbreak, which forced a return to pandemic protocols such as reinstating a mask mandate.

READ: B.C. COVID-19 cases climb to 185 as Okanagan outbreak declared

Health minister Adrian Dix urged residents in the Interior to get their COVID-19 vaccine doses, but admitted that while the province has made every effort to make the vaccine available, there are some who are still hesitant or will outright refuse it.

“There’s some vaccine hesitancy,” said Dix, in an interview with Black Press Media. “I know there are some people who are opposed to the vaccine out there, and I don’t think — especially those who express that publicly — I don’t think we’re necessarily going to convince them, but we need to get everybody else…

“I don’t take the approach of criticizing people whether they’re vaccinated, I’m taking the approach of giving them more opportunity to get vaccinated and making the powerful case — and there’s a powerful case — for people to get vaccinated.”

In much of the B.C. Interior, there is a lag in first and second vaccination dose rates between younger and older population segments, contrasted to the 18-49 age range, based on BC CDC data as of Aug. 3.

For example, in Central Okanagan, people 12-plus and 18-plus have a first-dose vaccination rate of over 75 per cent, but the 18-49 age range is at 69 per cent.

The gap widens for second doses; 12-plus and 18-plus hover just over 64 per cent, while the 18-49 age range is just over 51 per cent.

For people over 50 years of age, vaccine rates for first and second doses are high.

But Central Okanagan isn’t the only COVID-19 hotspot that’s cropped up in the B.C. Interior recent weeks.

Over in the West Kootenay, Nelson LHA saw a spike in cases; 38 cases were reported between July 25-31, as opposed to 13 cases the week prior. The Castlegar LHA is also experiencing a sharp increase in cases over the last two weeks.

Outbreaks were declared in two long-term care facilities in Nelson and Cranbrook. At Nelson Jubilee Manor and Kootenay Street Village, both facilities had two staff members and one resident test positive, according to Interior Health.

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Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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