Update, 2:30 p.m.
Since the publication of this article, Interior Health has identified sixty cases of COVID-19 in relation to a cluster at Big White Ski Resort.
About 120 people have been tested so far for COVID-19 at Big White Ski Resort, as the company braces for more confirmed cases of the virus.
An undisclosed number of COVID-19 cases have been identified at the resort, however, Interior Health (IH) has not declared the situation an outbreak.
The cases have been attributed to private residences and social gatherings.
Neither IH or the resort could confirm an exact number of cases. Resort Senior Vice President Michael Ballingall explained any such announcement should come from the health authority.
However, the resort vice president said the situation could worsen before it gets better.
“We think there are going to be more cases in the community for sure, we’re starting to hear rumours about that,” Ballingall said.
Yesterday (Dec. 15), Interior Health confirmed it had deployed a team to the resort community to expedite testing. Ballingall said those at the resort showing symptoms many not have the wherewithal to get to town to get tested there.
For the past 10 days the resort has been working with the health authority to bring testing to the resort, “so that we could understand what was happening in the community.”
Ballingall confirmed Interior Health tested about 60 individuals Friday (Dec. 11), and another 60 Monday (Dec. 14). Some tests were on asymptomatic individuals, out of precaution. He said IH is informing individuals through contact tracing, today (Dec. 15).
“This will certainly give us a good idea of what’s going on,” Ballingall said.
He applauded the health authority for their efforts in combating the virus at the resort.
Big White Ski Resort has called upon the RCMP to help enforce provincial health guidelines at the resort. He said there is little enforcement at the resort, and police could help combat violations, if they were to occur.
“Christmas is coming, and we know that people will start arriving from all over the Central Okanagan. In any given year, there’s parties, there’s loud music. It’s the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, holidays; you can’t do that this year. And we don’t have anyone up that can tell people not to do that.”
Some groups, Ballingall said are staying in large chalets, in four bedroom apartments with up to eight people in each.
“That could be where some of this sickness is occurring,” said the resort vice president.
He said private accommodation is private accommodation, “like it is anywhere else,” but said people likely listen to the police differently than their neighbours.
Kelowna RCMP has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Overall, with thousands of people skiing every day, Ballingall said their protocols seem to be working. However, their biggest frustration continues to be mask violations. On the weekend they revoked another lift pass from an individual not wearing one.
“If you’re going to go skiing, masks are important. Every ride, every lift, every time.”
In addition to wearing masks, Ballingall reminded people to not use indoor facilities unless they have to. He encouraged tailgate lunches.
“Everyone’s just got to play by the rules, relax a little bit and we’ll have a great year.”
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