People walking on the promenade along Okanagan Lake in Downtown Kelowna on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

As COVID-19 cases linked to Kelowna top 70, those possibly exposed denied testing

Interior Health will only test those with symptoms, though the threshold is very low, says medical health officer Dr. Susan Pollock

Concerned Kelowna residents who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 are having a hard time getting tested.

This comes despite advice from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry telling those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to monitor themselves for symptoms, and if they’re concerned, to get tested — even if they’re not sure they have symptoms.

A number of Kelownians who were close to the city’s recent coronavirus exposures have reached out to the Kelowna Capital News claiming they were denied testing due to their lack of symptoms.

As of Tuesday, July 21, Interior Health has identified more than 70 test-positive cases of the virus related to the Kelowna exposures compared “over 60” the day previous. Six employees at Kelowna General Hospital also tested positive over the weekend, but no further cases among hospital staff have been reported

Dr. Susan Pollock, Interior Health’s interim chief medical health officer, said the authority’s directive is to test only those exhibiting symptoms and it’s on each individual who may have been exposed to closely monitor their symptoms.

“We know people with COVID-19 can have extremely mild symptoms,” Pollock told the Capital News on Tuesday. “In some cases, symptoms might be so mild that people just brush it off as a summer cold and not think too much of it. We’re asking people to be extra vigilant for any symptoms that they have and reminding people that if they have symptoms they should be staying home and they should seek a test.

“People should have a very low threshold for symptoms in terms of seeking a test.”

READ MORE: Over 60 cases of COVID-19 related to Kelowna cluster

READ MORE: Kelowna businesses close after recent COVID-19 concerns

Those who are at high-risk for exposure would be identified through contact tracing and contacted individually by Interior Health, Pollock said. At that time, those people would be assessed by healthcare professionals and given recommendations as to what they should do next.

“If they do not have symptoms and they think they’ve been exposed we’re recommending they monitor themselves very, very closely and if they have been in contact that they self-isolate as well,” she said.

Pollock confirmed that Interior Health is working with Dr. Henry, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran to address the evolving situation in Kelowna. While not revealing the full details of what they have planned, Pollock said much of the messaging pertains to private gatherings.

“We want to remind people that they should keep them to a very small size and ideally they are outdoor gatherings,” said Pollock.

She added people hosting gatherings should keep a list of names and phone numbers of those who attend to assist with contact tracing.

“Right now, it’s very important that we get that education out,” Pollock said.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Tuesday that adjustments are coming to public health advice and orders as a result of increases such as has been seen in Kelowna in recent days.

“We also have to acknowledge that there were unorganized circumstances that were involved in this outbreak in Kelowna, and we have to take responsibility for those. We have to work with the owners of certain businesses to improve the circumstances in those businesses.”

The Kelowna Capital News has reached out to Mayor Basran for comment but has not received a response.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
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