COVID-19 outbreak at Bylands in West Kelowna grows to 19 workers - InfoNews

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COVID-19 outbreak at Bylands in West Kelowna grows to 19 workers

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April 01, 2020 - 4:50 PM

Seven more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among foreign workers employed by Bylands Garden Centre in West Kelowna.

While the company employing the workers is separate from Bylands and the workers did not interact with staff or customers there, the owners have announced that the garden centre is now fully closed, as a precaution. Before the outbreak on March 20, it had scaled back to pick-up orders only but today, April 1, it announced on its website that it is closed completely.

Yesterday, Interior Health reported 12 cases of COVID-19 but Dr. Silvina Mema, a medical health officer with Interior Health, told today that the number has grown to 19. All are amongst the 63 foreign workers employed there but not all have been tested.

They are in quarantine in a number of houses and trailers in various locations near Bylands, she said, as are a dozen local workers who do not seem to have symptoms but worked with them.

The housing is not yet full of workers so there is plenty of room for them to keep apart. They are equipped with things like kitchens, washrooms and laundry facilities.

She thinks the foreign workers are all from Mexico but there may be one or two from other countries.

The foreign workers arrived at various times between January and March 12 and did not work near staff or workers at the garden centre.

The first lab-reported case was confirmed on March 24. A second case was confirmed late Friday evening, March 27.

“That’s when we said, ‘we need to take action on all 63, based on these two cases,’” Mema said. “We didn’t want to take any chances so we quarantined them all and the 12 local workers who have interacted with the migrant workers.”

The situation was not made public right away, she said, because there was no risk to the public.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that clusters and outbreaks will be made public so it was announced in both a news release and at her daily update yesterday. This is the first cluster outside a long-term care home.

Most of the workers have minor symptoms but two were taken to Kelowna General Hospital for examination and discharged. Mema noted that, as farm workers, they are very fit and generally healthy.

Workers brought in through the Temporary Foreign Workers program all have to have their own private health care coverage, Glen Lucas, general manager of the B.C. Fruit Growers' Association, told Most buy coverage through a Canadian group policy.

For now, they’ve been asked to stay indoors but, over the next few days, Mema will determine if some may be able to leave their homes and work in the fields, which are isolated from the public.

She also stressed that the COVID-19 virus does not survive long outside or on plants.

“It doesn’t live very long, outdoors,” Mema said. “This virus doesn’t like the sun. It doesn’t like the wind. It doesn’t like the heat. It’s not very stable on things like soil.”

Still, the City of West Kelowna stopped delivery of trees to residents who had bought though them. The trees come from Bylands.

“We are taking precautionary measures to pause the tree delivery to the City and subsequently to those who purchased the trees,” communications supervisor Jason Luciw said in an email to “This will give Bylands time to focus on the necessary measures they need to take for their staff and operations.”

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