The cluster of COVID-19 cases stemming from a group of six people in Kelowna in late June and early July has expanded to 35 cases.
In all, 28 new cases were announced on Friday — even higher than the recent high of 25 cases, which was the highest daily new case count since May.
Normally, case updates would come by a statement on Fridays, but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry felt compelled to provide the update and answer questions related to a number of COVID-19 related events across the province.
Henry called the Kelowna exposure event "concerning" and said she has met with Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Kelowna's health officer to work with communities and help people safely enjoy their summer. She said the cluster is not necessarily unexpected, "but it is a warning to us that we need to do more to keep things in balance," she said.
“She said many new cases involve people in their 20s and 30s, with transmission directly connected to social gathering events.
“We know that gathering helps us feel connected and hopeful in these challenging times and we want to be able to continue to do that.”
Henry said event hosts have an obligation to keep guests safe, reiterating the need to keep gatherings small.
She added there should be a “designated contact keeper” to track attendees at events so they can be contacted in case public health needs to send messages to people who have been at an event at which a positive case was confirmed.
In addition to the new cases linked to the Kelowna cluster, there has also been a new health-care facility outbreak at the St. Paul's Hospital neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU), including one infant who has tested positive but is not showing symptoms.
The maternity ward at St. Paul's remains operational and a back-up NICU has been established in the interim and infants are continuing to receive care.
Another new case revealed Friday is a worker at the Site C dam project in Northern Health. Henry said the person had a very small number of contacts. The worker was tested in Alberta before travelling to B.C. and learning of the positive test.
Henry said the worker had no interaction with nearby communities.
The province has now seen 3,198 cases since the start of the pandemic. That includes 1,032 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,676 in Fraser Health, 136 in Vancouver Island Health, 235 in Interior Health, 68 in Northern Health and 51 cases from those who do not reside in Canada.
A total of 2,802 have now fully recovered, with 207 active cases and 189 deaths.
There are currently 18 people in hospital, with two of those in critical care.