All known cases of COVID-19 at the Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, B.C., as well as those who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, are now in quarantine, officials say.
The Regional District Kootenay Boundary’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was tasked with finding housing for infected or exposed people who needed to self-isolate last week, but said on Sunday only one person required assistance finding accommodations at the Okanagan resort.
“Some are in groups of people who were all in one household and tested positive, they are self-isolating in that same space,” said regional district spokesperson Frances Maika.
On Friday, the cluster of COVID-19 cases jumped to 76, after Interior Health identified an additional 16 cases.
Interior Health says most cases are related to transmission that occurred within group housing, social events and gatherings.
Among the confirmed cases, 44 people live in the community, and 19 people have recovered. No one linked to the cluster is in hospital.
“Everyone in the Big White community is reminded to avoid social gatherings and that socialization must be limited to immediate household bubbles,” the health authority said in a statement.
The majority of infections are among people in their 20s and 30s, and health officials have said overcrowding in housing appears to be the catalyst for the spread of the virus.
Pandemic protocols in place at Okanagan ski hills
It’s the first time the regional district has assisted with finding housing related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Maika said it’s similar to the work they do during flood and fire season.
“We find housing for people all the time, whatever the emergency is, whether that is fire, flood, so this is a different kind of emergency with different kinds of requirements, but the logistics of getting people housed is not very different,” she said.
The EOC is on standby this weekend should their services be needed, Maika added.
She said the local governing body is also educating property owners and landlords about how to avoid overcrowding to adhere to bylaws as well as health guidelines.
Meanwhile, Big White is cancelling all non-local bookings this holiday season, in line with a provincial directive to avoid non-essential travel until at least Jan. 9.
Coronavirus: Big White cancels reservations amid COVID-19 cluster
“We purged our (reservation) system. We found that about 20 per cent of our reservations were from outside the area, (which we cancelled),” said Michael Ballingal, the resort’s vice president.
The resort will offer out-of-town guests refunds or rebooking opportunities, he said.
“Though the decisions we’ve made have financial consequences and disappointed many families who were looking to enjoy the holidays at Big White Ski Resort, we have no doubt that it was the right decision,” Peter Plimmer, the resort’s president and CEO, said.
As of Friday, Interior Health has not confirmed any cases among guests at the resort and said the ski resort is safe to visit, as long as guests stick to their household bubble.
Interior Health declares cluster of COVID-19 at Big White Ski Resort
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