Masks once again mandatory in Central Okanagan

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Masks will once again be required in indoor public spaces in one part of B.C. that's seen a recent spike in cases.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Sue Pollock, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority, made the announcement during a last-minute news conference Wednesday.

The announcement comes after Interior Health, which covers the Okanagan, Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap and the Kootenays, saw a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. In the last six pandemic reports from the provincial health ministry, Interior Health recorded the highest number of positive tests over any other authority.

The new rules are in place for Central Okanagan, specifically, which includes Kelowna. An outbreak was also declared for that area.

Starting at midnight, masks will be required for indoor public spaces in the Central Okanagan region.

People will also be encouraged to wear masks outdoors if they can't distance and if they aren't immunized.

Non-essential travel is discouraged into the Central Okanagan region is being discouraged.

As of Tuesday, there were 412 active cases in Interior Health out of a total of 783 active cases province-wide.

As well, the region had the second-highest rate of unvaccinated people in B.C., according to data from July 23 and presented by health officials Tuesday. Those figures showed 26.2 per cent of people in that region hadn't received even a single vaccine dose, as of that day. Province-wide, that figure was 19.6 on July 23.

The province is in Step 3 of its restart plan.