Sun Peaks mayor appreciates provincial COVID-19 ski hill education plan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Sun Peaks mayor appreciates provincial COVID-19 ski hill education plan

Image Credit: Sun Peaks Resort via Facebook
February 15, 2021 - 8:00 AM

The Ministry of Tourism has unveiled a new COVID-19 education campaign for staff, residents and customers at ski resorts and Sun Peaks’ Mayor Al Raine says he appreciates the help.

“This is one of those issues that needs repeated messaging… people just want to reach out and do more socializing, so repeated messaging is good at this point,” he said.

Sun Peaks has only had roughly 14 cases since COVID-19 began, he said, adding that the businesses and resort have been taking COVID-19 protocols seriously throughout the pandemic. The Sun Peaks Health Centre has also been working with Interior Health, receiving COVID-19 test results overnight and connecting with those who have taken tests and with those who need to self isolate, Raine said.

“Just the job the province has to do is so enormous, it’s not as timely as (what) the local doctors do here. In addition (to that), we’ve had some good luck,” he said.

However, if a super spreader comes into the community and socializes, “you’re in trouble,” Raine said.

In Whistler, there’s been a surge of COVID-19 infections, with 614 reported since Jan 1. The Vancouver Health Authority says most of the cases continue to be among young adults who are becoming infected in household settings.

READ MORE: Spread of COVID-19 in Whistler, B.C., ski resort slows, health officials say

This week, health officials reported the cases are starting to slow down at the resort.

The province announced the educational campaign Feb. 12 and it includes provincewide television and digital advertising, enhanced communication to employees and education for eliminating social gatherings in shared housing and short-term accommodation, employers assisting with contact tracing, and reinforcing quarantine and self-isolation accommodation information and protocols for people working and living in ski communities.

“I want to personally thank the ski industry and communities who have been working non-stop to save this ski season, and I know most people are doing the right thing to avoid spreading COVID-19,” said Minister of Tourism Melanie Mark, in a press release.

“However, those who are mixing households, throwing parties and ignoring the rules are putting jobs, our economy and our health at risk. Now is the time for each of us to step up and do our part so we can continue to enjoy all that ski communities have to offer.”

At Big White, only one new COVID-19 case was reported in the last week, bringing the total number of cases reported since its COVID-19 cluster cluster was announced Dec. 15, 2020 to 236.

Of the 236 cases, 149 have resided and-or worked on Big White Mountain, according to Interior Health.

Big White Ski Resort senior vice president Michael J. Ballingall said it was relatively easy to set up the emergency operations centre with the Regional District Kootenay Boundary and Interior Health and the campaign applies more to resorts with municipalities.

The emergency operations centre has disbanded since the health authority and Big White will be able to provide accommodation to those who need to self isolate.

“That’s the benefit of having a one-company town operation like Big White, it’s only a ski resort. When you look at these other resorts, Fernie, Revelstoke… how you try to figure out how you communicate with all these people that aren’t attached to the ski hill? And that’s really the goal of what this campaign is. In the village of Big White, it’s very easy to know who you’re living beside, whereas in other villages and other communities the resort staff might not live in the same type of conditions,” Ballingall said.

“I think the most important thing that we applaud is that the ski industry has taken a leadership role. We employ a tremendous amount of seasonal workers and you have to get them up to speed early and I applaud that 99% of the resorts haven’t had any outbreaks… quite frankly, ‘don’t be the reason we lose the season’ that’s been out pitch all day every day (to employees), it’s like Groundhog Day,” Ballingall said.

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