By Laura Keil

Northern Health has introduced new public health orders effective Oct. 15th, 2021 (midnight Oct 14th) covering most of the health region to manage COVID-19 activity.

“The Delta variant is leading to faster transmission and more severe outcomes for people in communities with lower vaccination rates, including younger people,” Northern Health said in a release. “Immunization remains the most effective prevention against COVID-19. With a large unvaccinated population, these additional orders will provide additional protection.”

Northern Health says areas such as the Northwest where vaccination rates are high and transmission is low will be exempted from the new orders at this time. They will still have to abide by the current B.C.’s Restart Step 3 requirements and the existing public health orders.

“Hospitals in Northern Health are overstretched as beds become filled with COVID-19 patients, primarily unvaccinated,” said Northern Health chief medical health officer Dr. Jong Kim. “People needing critical care are being transferred to other regions of the province. Until more people make the choice to get vaccinated, we need to ensure we have orders in place to protect the most vulnerable and limit the spread.”

The entire Northern Health region, (with the exception of Local Health areas west of Kitiwanga: Terrace, Kitimat, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Stikine, Telegraph Creek, Snow Country and Nisga’a) are under the following additional orders:

Personal gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, are restricted to fully vaccinated people, including at private residences and vacation accommodation
Indoor gathering: up to 5 additional people (outside the household) are permitted
Outdoor gathering: up to 25 people are permitted

All indoor and outdoor organized events require a safety plan and for attendees to wear a mask and present their BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated
Indoor event: up to 50 people are permitted
Outdoor event: up to 100 people are permitted
Worship services: virtual services are required
Fast-food restaurants and unlicensed cafÔ©s without table service can provide take-out only or require patrons to present the BC Vaccine card showing they are fully vaccinated.
Licensed establishments and those with table service must not serve alcohol between 10pm-9am and must require patrons to present the BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated.
Bars and nightclubs (no meal service) will be closed
Sport events spectators (indoor and outdoor) are limited to 50% capacity, must have a safety plan, and require attendees to wear masks and present their BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated

These measures will remain in place until November 19 midnight and may be extended if cases remain high and vaccination rates remain low.

In addition to these measures, Northern Health says people are strongly recommended to stay in their own community.

“We are under immense pressure in our facilities that is fueled by an unvaccinated population,” said Northern Health president and CEO, Cathy Ulrich. “We continue to encourage all people age 12 and up to get immunized.”

Not further restricted by today’s measures, but continuing to require attendees to wear masks and to present their BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated, are all indoor fitness classes allowed, normal capacity, and gyms and recreation facilities, normal capacity.