Concerns have been raised over ‘festival vibe’ in Kelowna despite cluster of COVID-19 cases

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A downtown Kelowna business owner shares concerns about the “festival vibe” she sees in the city, despite a recent cluster of COVID-19 cases in the community.Thirty-five cases of the virus are now linked to private events in the city between late June and early July, and Interior Health has issued a warning about possible exposure at several downtown businesses.

But Chantal Couture, who owns two retail businesses on Bernard Avenue in Kelowna, says the rise in cases does not appear to have affected the number of people she sees enjoying summer in the Okanagan. .

“We saw the day after the news broke that it seemed to be quieter, but it started right away,” she told CBC. South dawn welcome Chris Walker.

“We are in a pandemic. It’s not supposed to be business as usual. ”

Couture is concerned that Kelowna as a whole and downtown seem to specifically promote itself to visitors, including closing Bernard Avenue to vehicular traffic, thus increasing the number of pedestrians.

But Internal Health’s Dr Silvina Mema said people are unlikely to spread or catch the disease just by walking around town or visiting restaurants while following rules of distancing.

“This is not what drives these clusters,” she said. “These are mainly indoor gatherings, especially if there is alcohol involved. ”

Mema said that when his team tracked people who tested positive for COVID-19, they found that most of them attended private parties where they were with large groups of people outside of their bubble for an extended period.

She also pointed out that most of those who tested positive were in their 20s and 30s, rather than spread over a larger age range.

“If the city center or restaurants were the driving force behind these [cases] – which is not the case – we would see cases at all levels, ”she said.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the city is encouraging tourists to follow best practices for physical distancing and hygiene, rather than trying to prevent people from visiting.

Likewise, Mark Burley of the Downtown Kelowna Association said his organization has no control over whether people visit downtown – but can take steps to promote safe behavior.

Even the decision to close Bernard Avenue, he said, was based on giving people more space to walk at a physical distance.

“We provided the atmosphere and the space for people to establish their physical distance, all of our companies have great protocols in place for sanitation,” he said. “Downtown Kelowna is an extremely safe place to go. As for whether tourists or outsiders come to the city center, we cannot control this. It is a free society. ”

Still, Couture said she remained concerned about some of the behaviors she saw, including people meeting and dancing in groups or playing sports with no disinfectant in sight.

“This festival atmosphere, I find very contrary to what responsible action should look like,” she said.

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