COVID-19

The number of people infected by COVID-19 in Kelowna will be announced Thursday by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. It will be the first time the government has provided information on infection numbers for a specific B.C. city since the pandemic began earlier this year.

VICTORIA — There were 30 new cases of COVID-19 around the province announced on Thursday.

Of the 304 active cases around the province, 16 are in hospital, of which three are in intensive-care units or critical care.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the key to preventing community transmission is to keep groups small. Noting that restaurants are required to have no more than six people at a table, Henry said that might be a “manageable” limit for people.

“You can use this as your guide for other social activities, whether it’s a small group going to the beach, whether you’re going to park, whether you’re going to have a get together at a friend’s place,” said Henry.

To date, 3,392 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19, though more are suspected to have been infected.

Henry suggested Wednesday that some regional restrictions might be implemented in the Interior Health region, citing outbreaks related to parties and other gatherings held around Canada Day in the Okanagan valley.

But on Thursday, Henry said it has become clear that all health authorities are experiencing, to varying degrees, large numbers of people going to rental properties, houseboats or resorts.

She added that the outbreak in Kelowna has exposed people to the disease across B.C., suggesting continuing with a provincewide approach is the best option. “It’s become very clear that this is not just a local issue and that it’s not geography that is the issue.”

Henry also said she doesn’t expect the province to mandate masks in outdoor spaces, noting some people cannot effectively wear masks and there is not enough community spread of the virus in B.C. to warrant such “a heavy-handed approach.”

“We know that it is an additional layer on top of the other layers that we use to keep each other safe and it is the least effective of the many layers that we have.”

The provincial health officer said she’ll continue to recommend that people wear a mask when they cannot keep a safe physical distance from others — on transit and in smaller stores where barriers may not be in place, for example.

“We do it as a matter of courtesy and respect for our community,” said Henry, noting she wears a mask in many such settings. “And I have seen many more people wearing masks and that’s very gratifying.”

Henry said mandatory masks could be an option if community transmission ramps up in places such as transit and retail stores.

There was one additional death announced on Thursday in a long-term care home in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix expressed condolences to the family and friends of people who have died in the pandemic.

He said COVID-19 will be a challenge “for months and months and months to come.”

“We’ve got to act in such a way that we understand that,” said Dix.