The COVID-19 testing site at the Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre has moved to the Vernon Health Centre at 1440-14th Ave. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

The COVID-19 testing site at the Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre has moved to the Vernon Health Centre at 1440-14th Ave. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Interior Health, Vancouver Coastal Health both advise against non-essential travel

Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry recently issued regional orders for Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health

Bella Coola Valley residents should be staying home for the next few weeks as several health authorities are now discouraging all non-essential travel.

Despite being exempt from Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Nov. 7 order, which applies to Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health, residents of Bella Coola and the Central Coast would risk going against the guidelines of non-essential travel if they were to leave the community and travel, as Interior Health is also now discouraging non-essential travel following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The community of Bella Bella, through the Heiltsuk Emergency Operations Centre, has requested its community members postpone all non-essential travel to the Vancouver and Fraser Health regions for the next two weeks.

Due to higher rates of COVID-19 being detected, Interior Health stated Tuesday (Nov. 10), it is concerned by the upward trend and frequency of new clusters in the region.

IH is specifically discouraging unnecessary visits to the Lower Mainland, Alberta and other jurisdictions with surging cases but medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema said it’s best to avoid non-essential travel altogether — even within the B.C. Interior.

“There are towns within the interior region that do not have any COVID and we want to keep it like that,” she told the Capital News on Tuesday.

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, recently issued regional orders naming new restrictions for people living in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health areas. While these orders are not currently directed at the Interior Health region, IH states residents should be mindful of health protocols to avoid similar measures being taken in the Interior region.

Mema said she believes Interior residents are very aware that there is a risk of COVID-19, despite daily case-counts not being at the same level as they are in the Lower Mainland. This announcement, she said, is to “keep the momentum going.”

“We don’t want people to let go of the effort that they’ve been putting in,” she said. “The fact that the provincial orders don’t apply to IH is good news.”

COVID-19 cases in schools, health-care settings, and workplaces are disruptive but not unexpected, stated the health authority, adding these cases reflect increased COVID-19 activity in the community.

Kelowna has seen exposure events at 13 schools in the past few weeks. Despite this, the health authority said things are generally going well after three months back at school.

“With the exception of the one outbreak that was declared over last week (École de L’Anse-au-sable), transmission is not happening within the schools themselves thanks to the controlled environments and precautions are in place,” said IH spokesperson Karl Hardt.

“When a case is identified, we are working closely with schools to minimize any further spread through contact tracing and appropriate isolation and monitoring. This shows us the plan is working and the majority of students continue to get the education they need in a safe environment.”

The health authority is continuing to discourage birthday parties and sleepovers with classmates. While adults are largely adhering to requests to avoid parties, Hardt said it’s important for parents to know this pertains to children’s festivities as well.

“We know that birthday parties are important for our youth, but it’s important to find a different, safe way to celebrate this year that does not bring numbers of children together either in your home or at another location.

“This is another way to ensure our schools stay open and our children get the in-class education that is so important.”

IH further explained residents can play a role in preventing transmission in our communities by following this guidance:

  • Maintaining social connections are important for well-being. However, please keep your bubble small and limited to your household and a handful (up to six) close friends.
  • When planning your holiday gathering, please avoid travel and choose to celebrate with individuals in your bubble.
  • Physical distancing measures are especially challenging for young people. It is important they also keep their bubble small and, as much as possible, limit their interactions to a close group of friends from within their school cohort.
  • Essential workers, such as health-care workers and teachers, play a critical role in our communities and therefore it is imperative they also keep their bubble small.
  • Remember: The provincial health officer’s orders to household gatherings apply province-wide. This means no more than six people from outside your household bubble should gather in your home.

For more information about COVID-19 testing, click here.

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