One day after Whistler Blackcomb was closed in response to a concerning increase in the number of COVID-19 cases linked to the community, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has released just how high that number is.
Last week, from March 22 to 28, the health authority identified 218 new cases of the coronavirus in Whistler. That brings the total number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the resort municipality from Jan. 1 to Mar. 28 to 1,120.
Of these, 900 individuals have since recovered from COVID-19. According to VCH, the vast majority of Whistler’s cases—83.2 per cent, to be specific—continue to be identified in young adults aged 20 to 39 years.
The news comes on the same day that B.C. recorded 840 new cases province-wide, one day after indoor dining was suspended and use of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine was halted for those under 55.
Comparatively, the resort recorded 271 cases in the entirety of 2020. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 2, 2021, Whistler saw 547 cases of COVID-19, with nearly half of those cases identified after Jan. 26. The rate of transmission slowed significantly throughout February, with the resort recording 18 new cases between Feb. 22 and 28, the last time VCH released Whistler-specific COVID-19 data.
From March 14 to 20, the Howe Sound Health Region—comprised of Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish, Lions Bay, and parts of the southern Stl'atl'imx Nation—tallied 122 cases, up from the 58 new lab-confirmed cases that were recorded between Feb. 28 and March 6.
The sharp spike in Whistler’s case numbers come "despite [the] testing, contact tracing Vancouver Coastal [Health] and the community have been doing together, to try and support people to isolate and to prevent transmission and the immunization program that we've started in the worker accommodation in Whistler," said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during a public health briefing on Monday, March 29.
"Unfortunately, this has not been enough and we're starting to see cases increase again in that community, particularly in the last week with the more worrisome cluster of the P1 Brazil variant of concern.”
A VCH spokesperson did not specify how many of Whistler’s new cases were deemed to be part of that variant cluster.
Whistler’s recently recorded cases “continue to be among young adults who live and work in the Whistler community. The most common location for transmission also continues to be in household settings and social gatherings,” a spokesperson for the health authority explained in a bulletin.
Public health officials are strongly advising all Whistler residents to avoid social gatherings with those outside of their households, to stay home while sick, to wash their hands regularly, and to maintain physical distance when in public.
The entire community should continue to follow these public health guidelines, VCH said, including those who have previously contracted and recovered from COVID-19 and also people who have been vaccinated against the virus.
Health officials asks any Whistler residents who experience COVID-19-like symptoms to complete the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool and seek testing, if required.