What started out as a minor sore throat has one former Sun Peaks employee urging people to stay home after she tested positive for COVID-19 upon returning home after the resort closure.
Twenty four year old Courtney Beatty arrived in Sun Peaks from Perth, Australia, in November to start her two year visa to work in Canada.
She said the experience of living with snow for the first time was incredible and she was enjoying learning to snowboard. She worked in Mantles Restaurant in the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel for the ski season.
But on March 21 she had to leave the community after the novel coronavirus pandemic shut the resort and most of its businesses. After she and her boyfriend met with her sister and friend in Vancouver they flew home on March 24.
By March 30 she had tested positive for the virus.
Beatty said she and her friends, like many others, didn’t expect the virus to have such an impact on them.
“Originally when we first heard about coronavirus it was almost a joke,” she said. “We didn’t know it was going to affect us this much but then it started getting worse and worse. We were talking to the GM and he was saying ‘we’re staying open, we’re staying open,’ and I kind of did think this is a bit weird, if everywhere in the country is closing why are we staying open, and then the next day he announced that we shut.”
She said changes happened so quickly it was difficult to keep up with the information during her last few days of work.
“It was a bit like ‘this doesn’t sit right with me’ but it all happened so quickly that I just kept going along with it.
“My last shift I served 24 people who flew in from Ontario that day and it was just a lot of exposure to a lot of different things. The U.S. closed their borders yet there were still Americans arriving that day to go skiing,” she said. “I just thought, ‘if it’s going to happen to me this is it’…I didn’t really think about it too much at the time but I did think ‘gee I wonder if this is the right move for me?’”
With the resort closed and more international borders shutting every day, their families encouraged them to come home and they booked flights.
Her sore throat first started bothering her on and off in Vancouver but she brushed it off as due partying. By the time they landed in Australia she said she felt run down, had a cough, headache and achy body.
“I wasn’t feeling right and decided to get tested for peace of mind, the next day it came back positive.”
Beatty was able to get tested because she had recently travelled and had to show her boarding pass. Her flight details and travel information were recorded and she’s contacted daily to report and record her symptoms.
Due to her positive test result those she was travelling with also got tested. One was negative and two were positive, including her boyfriend who has experienced no symptoms other than a headache one day.
“He would’ve never known if it wasn’t for the testing,” she said.
Now the three are in mandatory quarantine at a family friend’s home. Despite being symptom free for a few days Beatty said they have to complete a full 14 days.
“I’ve been checked by police four times to make sure we’re at the house.”
Despite losing out on months of their visa by returning home and having to cancel plans for travel throughout Canada and the U.S., Beatty said she feels grateful she didn’t have a more severe case.
“I think I got really lucky to be honest,” she said of her mild symptoms.
“Definitely stay home, it’s not hard. We have the stats on how it’s going to impact the whole community. Everyone thinks that they won’t get it but you can, you’re not immune, stay home.”
After the mandatory quarantine she will return to her parents; home until the crisis passes and they can find work again, and hopefully use what’s left on their Canadian visa. It’s unknown if visas will be extended due to the crisis.
“Stay home so that we can get back to normal life as soon as possible.”
Beatty is one of several international seasonal staff that have confirmed positive diagnoses after returning home from Sun Peaks. Two sports school instructors have tested positive. Dr. Chip Bantock of the Sun Peaks Health Centre was the first positive case to be publicly announced in the community.
Others in Sun Peaks have been isolated with symptoms but unable to be tested or are quarantined for 14 days after travel.