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As B.C. marks one year of COVID-19, Whistler has become one of the province's latest hotspots

Last Updated Jan 28, 2021 at 11:24 pm PDT

Summary

There's been a spike in cases of COVID-19 in the Howe Sound region, including Whistler

A year since first presumptive positive case of COVID was reported in B.C., some regions continue to struggle with virus

Whistler resident who tested positive for COVID-19 believes province isn't doing enough to prevent spread

WHISTLER (NEWS 1130) – Whistler is emerging as the province’s latest hotspot for COVID-19, a year after the first presumptive positive case of the virus was reported in B.C.

According to BCCDC data, the Howe Sound area reported 224 cases of COVID-19 last week, which is more than triple the number of cases the week before when the area reported 63 cases.

Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed 288 cases have been documented from Jan. 1 to Jan. 26 in Whistler.

“The majority of these cases involve young people in their 20s and 30s who live, work and socialize together. None of the cases have resulted in hospitalization or death,” reads a statement from the health authority.

Whistler’s mayor says most of them are believed to be in his community, where six restaurants and bars were flagged for potential exposure to the virus in just the last three days.

“A year in, and we are just now experiencing some of the most challenging days of this whole pandemic,” Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said in a recent Facebook video. “There have been several public health exposure notices today as well as some businesses that have been forced to close temporarily due to a number of stuff who are self-isolated.”

He urged people in the area to do their part to stop infections in the ski-resort town.

“Whistler, we must respond now, we must step-up, redouble our efforts and knock this back,” he added. “If there’s anything we have learned in this year, it’s how to be COVID safe. We have the tools, let’s use them.”

Some place blame on visitors, hospitality industry

But some are laying the blame of the spike in cases on people who don’t live in the area, as well as the hospitality industry.

Phillip Johnson, who lives in Whistler, recently tested positive for COVID-19. He has no idea where he got it.

“I took a lot of precautions. I took as much precautions as I could,” Johnson told NEWS 1130.

“I spend 90 per cent of my time at home. Work four shifts a week and I go to work in a room where I’m by myself. I don’t have contact with anyone. The odds of me getting it there are very slim and then I come home and I live in a house with five other people. So none of them get sick either or develop symptoms so where am I supposed to believe I get it from?”

Johnson believes more should be done to keep people who don’t live in the area out.

“I’m seeing licence plates from Ontario and Quebec, where its mostly spreading in those provinces,” he added.

“You look at a place like Big White, where they didn’t allow tourists to come for the Christmas vacation. They cancelled that. Why couldn’t [Vail Ski Resort] do that to protect the people in their community?”

Big White near Kelowna cancelled non-local bookings in mid-December after a COVID-19 outbreak involving 60 people was declared on the mountain. Since then, the number of cases has grown to 225.

Johnson also finds contact tracing too slow to curb infections. Contact tracers got in touch with him on Wednesday, two days after he tested positive.

“So we don’t know exactly when I became infectious and started infecting other people but lets say I started infecting people on that Friday. That means there is a six day gap of whoever I infected,” he said.

“All they’re really doing with these PCR tests are just confirming that there’s a pandemic. They’re not trying to stop the spread, it’s too slow cause it’s spreading too fast.”

Whistler establishments listed on the Vancouver Coastal Health current public exposure list are:

– Buffalo Bill’s Bar & Grill

Address: 4122 Village Green, Whistler, B.C.

Potential exposure date(s): Jan. 4 to Jan. 27

Potential exposure time: During operating hours

– Black’s Pub

Address: 7-4340 Sundial Place, Whistler, B.C.

Potential exposure date(s): Jan. 5 to Jan. 27

Potential exposure time: During operating hours

– Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub

Address: 170-4320 Sundial Crescent, Whistler, B.C.

Potential exposure date(s): Jan. 1 to Jan. 27

Potential exposure time: During operating hours

– The Longhorn Saloon

Address: 4280 Mountain Square, Whistler, B.C.

Potential exposure date(s): Jan. 16 to Jan. 25

Potential exposure time: During operating hours

– Hy’s Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar

Address: 4308 Main Street, Whistler, B.C.

Potential exposure date(s): Jan. 13 and Jan. 15-16

Potential exposure time: During operating hours

– El Furniture Warehouse

Address: 4314 Main Street, Whistler, B.C.

Potential exposure date(s): Jan. 12 and Jan. 14 to Jan. 21

Potential exposure time: During operating hours

-With files from Ash Kelly