B.C. may not move to Step 4 by Sept. 7 as COVID-19 case counts increase: top doctor

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia's top doctor says the province may not advance as expected to the next step in its COVID-19 restart plan as case counts surge in the Interior Health region.

As provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was announcing tighter restrictions to cover all of the Interior Health region, she said it won't be a surprise if the province doesn't advance to Step 4 in September.

Henry announced restrictions currently in place in the central Okanagan, such as mandatory mask wearing and reduced limits on indoor and outdoor events, will be expanded across the region in an effort to limit the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The province has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with many occurring in the Interior Health region, which Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix attributed to lower vaccination rates.

Henry says the displacement of many residents because of the wildfires has made containing COVID-19 especially challenging.

She says the larger caseload is placing too much pressure on local health services, prompting them to widen the safety measures to the entire region.

Roughly 76 per cent of eligible residents have received a COVID-19 dose in Interior Health, dropping to 68 per cent for those who have received both doses, Dix said.

Henry says the province is seeing a high number of transmissions at private events, such as weddings or funerals, in the Interior Health region.

"This is a pre-emptive measure," Henry says. "And it is important for all of us to recognize that we can control the things that we are doing that is transmitting this virus and one of the most important ones is to be immunized."

Dix added that there will be "significant" things that those who refuse vaccinations will not be able to do.

"We can do better and there are issues in parts of Interior Health," he said.

"It's time for people to get vaccinated."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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