Concern grows about ski resort worker exodus

Sun Peaks doctor and mayor raise concerns

File photo.

At the end of any ski season, there is always a wave of workers who immediately depart, moving on to travel or work in other tourism destinations. 

Yet in the time of COVID-19, there is greater concern about this exodus, and more specifically about how it could translate into greater transmission of the virus around the province. 

Dr. Shane Barclay of the Sun Peaks Community Health Centre noted the concern during a recent online panel hosted by Sun Peaks Independent News. Barclay said  two Sun Peaks residents had travelled to Vancouver Island in the days after getting tested in Sun Peaks, and that they ended up being positive for the virus. 

Barclay said both had “pretty minimal” symptoms and could have transmitted the virus to others. 

“That’s really my fear,” he said, adding that there is currently a provincial advisory against non-essential travel. “I don’t want to spread this…far and wide.” 

Baclay added if people have been contacted by Interior Health about being exposed, or even if they think they may have been exposed, they should stay put.  

Sun Peaks Resort LLP recently saw a spate of positive COVID-19 tests, which has resulted in some temporary business closures in the village. 

On Friday, April 9, six cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Sun Peaks, and in total 25 people tested positive for the virus over the following weekend. One additional case was announced this past Sunday. 

Medical officials on Vancouver Island are currently seeing an uptick in case numbers after registering relatively few throughout the pandemic. 

Island Health has already seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases related in part to an influx of visitors from migrating seasonal workers. 

Island Health Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick told the Capital Daily it is related directly to the exodus of ski resort workers.  

“When Whistler [Blackcomb Ski resort] was closed…many of these individuals needed employment and one of the traditional corridors, in terms of the workforce, is between Tofino and Whistler,” Stanwick said.

“So we actually saw a number of individuals moving from the closed down Whistler to Tofino over the long weekend. Unfortunately, with the high rates of the P1 [variant recorded in Whistler], we anticipate that we will see a continued rise in the P1 cases [in the Island Health region].”

For his part, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality mayor Al Raine said he is concerned some seasonal workers left the community before learning about the cases. 

The resort closed on April 5, four days before the community learned of the positive test results. 

Some of those people were with the groups that tested positive over that last week. 

“They could be traveling with no idea that they were exposed,” he said. 

Raine said he is happy with the coordinated approach the community has taken to getting out the message on positive cases. 

“I think we’ve done the best we can. Informing everybody. I would be shocked if there’s somebody in Sun Peaks today  who is not aware that their COVID is here and has been spread among a small group of people,” said Raine.  

Sun Peaks’ testing site is now closed, and anyone who is showing a symptom of COVID-19 must seek testing in Kamloops. Those who get tested in Kamloops are asked to put S. Barclay on their requisition form so the Sun Peaks Clinic receives a copy of the results

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