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Laid-off Whistler hotel worker wishes COVID concerns had been addressed sooner

FILE -- The village of Whistler, B.C. is seen as the sun sets on the snow capped mountains Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Long-time Whistler resident says resort community looks like a ghost town since province issued orders last month

'We are just left to repair the damage,' says man who has lived in Whistler for 15 years, recently lost job

Philip Johnson wonders why rapid tests have not been utilized to identify asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19

WHISTLER (NEWS 1130) – A hotel worker from Whistler who recently lost his job says concerns he raised earlier this year about that pandemic hot spot should have been addressed much sooner.

Philip Johnson says the resort community has looked like a ghost town since orders were issued last month to end the ski season early.

“Most people lost their jobs, including myself. We are just left to repair the damage that has been done. Also, going into the summer, what is the plan going forward? There has been nothing put in place to curb the infection rate,” he said.

He believes there could be some backlash over how the province has handled the spike in cases in Whistler.

“B.C. has not really been under strict lockdown like Ontario or Quebec has,” he said. “I don’t think [people are] going to respond too well, after a year of already being through what we’ve been through. Now that everything’s got out of hand, the story has changed for them and now, they have to tell people what to do.”

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Johnson, who has lived in Whistler 15 years, says he understands why authorities were reluctant to completely shut down the resort before Spring Break. But he’s still wondering why rapid tests have not been utilized to identify asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

“The U.S. FDA has approved over-the-counter rapid testing, as well,” he said. “It’s very confusing to me why Dr. Bonnie Henry has not decided to follow suit and why we still are not even trying when we have these tests just sitting in a warehouse doing nothing, collecting dust.”

Johnson first spoke with NEWS 1130 in February after he tested positive for COVID-19. That was before the resort community made headlines for having the most P1 variant cases outside Brazil. Since then, hundreds more cases have been recorded there.

“Whistler needs the traffic to stay functioning,” he said. “For example, now that the mountain’s closed, if everyone just came here to ski, it would just be the people who worked at the ski hill who would be employed. There would be no one going to restaurants, there would be no one going to the hotels, so I can understand how it’s a fine line, but this goes back to rapid testing. If we had them, you could open up all the hotels and not have to worry about things getting out of hand when it comes to infections.”

He is not convinced a mass vaccination program now underway in Whistler will keep the virus from spreading after tourism picks up again in the summer.