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Whistler seeing ‘big increase’ in COVID cases, says medical director

Howe Sound health region reported 63 new cases between Jan. 10 and 16
Whistler has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases this week.
Whistler has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases this week.

Whistler has seen a “big increase” in positive COVID-19 cases in recent days, confirmed Whistler’s medical director.

“I can’t share numbers but it’s safe to say we’ve had a big increase in positive cases,” wrote Dr. Fern Van Der Porten in an email. “This is a time to be very careful and keep to your household.”

While Vancouver Coastal Health doesn’t share community-specific COVID numbers under a certain threshold due to medical privacy, the BC Centre for Disease Controlis reporting that the Howe Sound health region, which comprises Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish, Lion’s Bay and parts of the southern Stl’atl’imx Nation, saw 63 new lab-confirmed COVID cases between Jan. 10 and 16. There were 14 new cases reported in the region the week prior. The health region had 502 positive cases for the entirety of 2020.

Numerous businesses have also reportedly been impacted. Whistler Blackcomb said this week that a number of staff may have recently been exposed and are in self-isolation. Hy’s Whistler also confirmed it has closed temporarily after two staff members tested positive, while Splitz Grill is also closed after a member tested positive this week.

Mayor Jack Crompton put out a message to social media asking the community to “redouble your efforts” to prevent further spread of the virus.

“Our doctors asked me to share that we are seeing a significant increase in positive COVID cases in our community,” Crompton wrote on Wednesday evening, Jan. 20. “COVID is spreading in workplaces, shared living situations and indoor get-togethers with people not in the same household. We need to take steps right now to stop the spread. We do this by not visiting other people's homes, not having playdates or sleepovers, not having beers with the buddies or not going out with people outside your household. If you feel unwell you must stay home. If public health has asked you to self-isolate you need to stay home for the full 14 days. You cannot ski or ride if you’ve been told to self-isolate.”

Local medical personnel also urged the public to “get treatment if you need it,” Crompton said, reminding that COVID testing is free of charge. Call 811 if you have COVID-like symptoms.

Whistler Community Services Society is also available to help with any personal needs, and outreach workers can be booked for free

Pique will update this story as more information becomes available.