Unless there’s a last-minute change of plans, the Kelowna Rockets won’t be allowed to fill the stands next week.
The province announced Tuesday that it was lifting the 50 per cent capacity restriction for hockey games and other indoor organized events as of Oct. 25 throughout much of B.C., but not Interior Health or parts of Northern health.
Interior Health communications staff said in an email that they expect to have an update on the status of restrictions in IH on Friday, but whether there will be a change remains to be seen.
“The frustrating thing for me is that we were going beyond the government’s recommendation with rules for capacity and everybody having to show their vaccination cards a month before the province was,” Bruce Hamilton, Kelowna Rockets president and general manager, said.
“We have had no problems… I don’t understand why we can’t be the same as Vancouver or Victoria.”
Also, Hamilton pointed out that COVID-19 case numbers have continued to fall for weeks in the Central Okanagan.
Data from the BC CDC indicates that in the week spanning Oct. 3 to Oct. 9, there were 186 COVID-19 cases reported in the Central Okanagan. That’s a reduction of 16 per cent from the week earlier when there were 223 cases reported. It’s also 61 per cent fewer cases than the first week of September when the greater Kelowna area saw 478 cases.
“From our perspective, we’re trying to work to find out why,” he said.
“Interior Health was great to work with when we had our hub, we did everything they asked us to do. And now we want an opportunity to get our business back and get the handcuffs off, safely.”
Hamilton pointed out that a significant number of the Rockets clientele are seniors, so ensuring their safety is a paramount concern and in the four games they’ve already held, there have been no problems.
So, he said, this has been surprising and disadvantageous to the overall downtown business community.
“March 11, two years ago, we were shut down and we never had a chance of opening until now,” he said, adding that casinos were in a similar position.
“We want to get back to operating and succeed and bring something back to the community. For a lot of people, this is their social life, and it helps the restaurant industry and downtown businesses 34 times a year.”
For areas like Vancouver, where restrictions have been lifted starting Oct. 25, capacity limits will end for indoor sporting events, indoor concerts, theatres, movie theatres, dance and symphony events, and indoor organized events and gatherings. Organized events include wedding receptions, organized parties and conferences.
“You go in and experience in the way that is safest for everyone. I am confident this will be a measure that will not increase risk and we will monitor it over time,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
The indoor mask requirement will remain in effect at all venues.