The Howe Sound health region comprising the Sea to Sky has had 18 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).
While unable to provide community-specific numbers, Sea to Sky medical health officer Dr. Geoff McKee said he was recently given the greenlight to share COVID-19 figures for the Howe Sound local health region, which includes Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish, Lions Bay and parts of the southern Stl’atl’imx Nation. There are also no current active cases in the Sea to Sky, he added.
“While these numbers may not include every case if they weren’t tested, I think it shows that the rural areas [of B.C.] were less impacted than urban areas,” said McKee. “When you look at the numbers, particularly compared to other places, it really speaks to how everyone throughout the province and throughout our communities really took responsibility and really embedded a lot of the public health measures into their daily lives, to the point where we’re able to not only flatten the curve but suppress the curve in our province, which is really inspiring.”
McKee will be holding a virtual COVID-19 Q&A on Zoom for Sea to Sky residents on Tuesday, July 7 at 12:30 p.m. The 30-minute session will give the public a chance to speak directly with the region’s health officer and “touch on different areas, both the personal measures that we can take on in our day-to-day lives, but also some of those considerations locally that come up as businesses and organizations start operating again and develop COVID safety plans,” McKee said.
Balancing the safety of both residents and guests with the need to jumpstart the resort economy is top of mind for many Whistlerites. As the anticipated rubber-tire traffic looks to pick up this summer, McKee believes “travel within the province can be done in a way that reduces risk."
“This is as long as travellers are respectful and take appropriate cautions as well as our communities, our businesses and our organizations,” he added.
McKee took a similar stance on managing a potential influx of temporary foreign workers, which have been allowed to travel to Canada during the pandemic.
“While there may be temporary foreign workers coming into the country, it doesn’t mean they’re fully exempt from the quarantine period. There still are measures in place even in those situations,” he said. “Whenever we talk about international travel, we come back to the fact that I think there’s effective public health measures at the border to help reduce risk for anyone coming into the country.”
Even with B.C. inching closer to Phase 4 of the provincial recovery plan, McKee said it is not time to become lax with the recommended health protocols.
“Irrespective of the numbers, we need to continue being vigilant and take precautions, as these only represent cases that have been identified—and also there will continue to be risk until we get a treatment or vaccine,” he noted. “If people do become a little less diligent, we do have risk of outbreak and of numbers increasing again. So we’re not heading back to the old normal right now; we’re heading into a new normal where we can carefully relax measures, as we have.”
Tuesday’s Zoom Q&A can be viewed at facebook.com/events/672419496675915.