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Big White COVID-19 cluster grows as district sets up emergency housing

Last Updated Dec 18, 2020 at 3:23 pm PST

FILE - Big White. (Chad Harris, CityNews Photo)

The COVID-19 outbreak at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna is getting bigger

16 more people have tested positive for a total case count of 76

Interior Health says the cases are linked to shared accommodation and social gatherings

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — The COVID-19 cluster at Kelowna’s Big White Ski Resort is getting bigger now that another 16 people have been infected with the virus, the Interior Health Authority confirmed.

At least 76 more cases have been confirmed as of Friday, with 44 of the infected people living on the mountain.

RELATED: 60 COVID-19 cases linked to Big White Ski Resort

Interior Health says the cases are linked to shared accommodation and social gatherings, including a party with about two dozen people held at the end of November.

Frances Maika, with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, says they’ve set up an emergency operations centre to help people find housing if they need it while isolating.

“There is accommodation available on-site at Big White. Some of these people, of course, once they recover through the quarantine period will in all likelihood be able to return to what they were doing before,” she says.

Maika adds that her team will spend the weekend trying to find appropriate housing for those who need it.

Big White told NEWS 1130 some people were fired last week while three others were let go this week. They were terminated for breaching Big White’s Social Responsibility Contract.

Nineteen people who became infected through the cluster have recovered so far, and no one connected to it has been hospitalized, according to the health authority.

Despite the outbreak, the local health authority says it’s safe to go to Big White if visitors stick to their immediate household bubble and don’t socialize.

Under public health orders, social gatherings have been restricted and there is an advisory to only travel if it is essential, which means sticking to local ski hills.

The resort is currently only welcoming season pass holders and any guests that have booked from outside the local area have been contacted and offered a refund or chance to re-book.