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Between Jan. 1 and 26, Whistler saw 288 COVID-19 cases: VCH

Health agency has issued six public exposure notifications for Whistler businesses in past week
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Whistler’s COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, with the resort seeing 288 positive cases between Jan. 1 and 26, according to an informational bulletin issued by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Thursday, Jan. 28.

The majority of recent cases “involve young people in their 20s and 30s who live, work and socialize together,” VCH wrote in the bulletin. None of the cases have resulted in hospitalization or death.

On Jan. 21. the Sea to Sky's medical health officer Dr. John Harding reported that Whistler had 103 confirmed cases of the virus up until that point this year, meaning there were 185 new cases recorded in a five-day span. 

The resort had 271 recorded cases for all of 2020. 

Over the past week, VCH has also issued six public exposure notifications for local businesses.

"Depending on the type of interactions an individual has had and the measures and safety plans in place at the time, VCH is often able to identify and notify all close contacts directly and determine there is no further risk to the public,” the agency wrote. "VCH Public Health issues public exposure alerts when it has determined there was a risk of public exposure and it has not been able to contact everyone who may have been exposed." 

Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, Black's Pub and Buffalo Bills Bar & Grill were added to the potential exposure list on Wednesday, Jan. 27, joining Hy’s Whistler, El Furniture Warehouse and The Longhorn Saloon added earlier in the week.

The potential exposure dates are noted as between Jan. 1 and 27 for the Dubh Linn Gate; from Jan. 5 to 27 at Black’s; from Jan. 4 to 27 for Bills; from Jan. 16 to 25 at the Longhorn; on Jan. 12, and from Jan. 14 to 21 at El Furni's; and on Jan. 13, and 15 and 16 at Hy's.

All the possible exposures are considered to by low risk by VCH, and anyone who attended the establishments during operating hours on the listed dates and has not been contacted is asked to self-monitor for symptoms.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler has also confirmed, in a statement to CBC, that 12 of its employees have tested positive. In the statement, it said it was "working closely with Vancouver Coastal Health to follow the appropriate protocols to mitigate risk and ensure that our hotel remains a healthy and safe place for all who visit." There is a 48-hour hold on guest rooms between occupancy wherever possible, it went on. 

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, in the past two weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the Howe Sound Heath region, which comprises Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish, Lions Bay and parts of the southern Stl'atl'mx Nation, has been two to 13 times higher than anywhere else in southwest B.C., with nearly one per cent of the region's population becoming infected during that period. 

Between Jan. 17 and 23, the health region saw 224 new cases, up from the 63 confirmed cases the region recorded between Jan. 10 and 16, and the 14 the week prior to that. By comparison, the Howe Sound health region had a total of 503 cases for all of 2020. 

VCH urges Whistler residents and potential visitors to continue to follow public health guidelines, including:

  • Keep to your household bubbles and avoid social gatherings.
  •  Avoid all non-essential travel; visit your local mountains for winter and recreational activities.
  • Stay home if you have any symptoms and get tested if your symptoms are consistent with COVID-19.
  • Practise physical distancing and wear a mask, if possible, if you cannot.
  • Wash your hands often.

VCH said it “remains grateful to Whistler community leaders for their support. VCH is committed to continuing to provide care and guidance to those who have tested positive for COVID-19.”

Anyone with COVID-like symptoms is advised to first consult B.C.’s self-assessment tool at bc.thrive.health/covid19/en. If you meet the self-assessment criteria or you are still concerned, you should call Whistler’s COVID clinic line at 604-966-1428, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. 

For anyone experiencing food insecurity, the Whistler Food Bank remains open for drop-in from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, while food-bank deliveries are also available by calling the Whistler Community Services Society office line, which is open six days a week, at 604-932-0113. Each delivery also includes hygiene kits for each member of the household to allow them to safely self-isolate.