COVID-19 arrives in Interior Health region

There are seven cases in the region as BC closes schools and declares a public health emergency.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said on Tuesday, March 17 that there are now seven reported cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Interior Health region and 186 in the province. Numbers will likely increase across the province as test results continue to come in, she said.

The numbers are only reflective of those who have been tested, not those with moderate symptoms who are managing their illness at home.

Also on March 17, the Province delared a public health emergency and cancelled school indefinitely for elementary and secondary students.

While parliament is suspended for at least five weeks, MP Rob Morrison has extra time home in his riding.

“We need to be really careful,” he said. “It’s a good practice to take all the precautions you can, right now, everything.”

He recommends that people be vigilant about washing their hands, get out of the habit of shaking hands (elbow bump, if you must) and stay a meter or two away from others. Anyone who is sick should absolutely not visit the elderly or those with weakened immune systems. He also advises watching out for symptoms including a throat itch, a dry cough and shortness of breath.

“If you think you have it, make sure you don’t go into a hospital or a walk-in clinic. Make sure you self-quarantine and phone 811 … The people at 811, they know exactly what they’re doing, and they’ll come out and they’ll test and they’ll make sure that you’re looked after,” he said. “They don’t want you to go out and about and possibly infect other people.”

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) provided an update saying that they are finalizing a pandemic response plan “so that we are proactive and prepared should the spread of the virus escalate into sustained community transmission. The focus of the plan is on minimizing risk to RDEK employees and the public while ensuring critical local government services are maintained.”

The Columbia Valley Rockies will not get to continue their playoff run. Panorama Mountain Resort and Fairmont Hot Springs Resport have closed as the pandemic spreads. Seniors’ events, shows and all kinds of activities, even at the libraries, have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

“Whatever we talk about now won’t matter even in an hour from now because that’s how rapidly things are changing,” said Steve Paccagnan, Panorama’s president and CEO.

“There definitely is some impact to the business but the most important thing is it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re dealing with things in a professional and rational way and relying on the great resources of our federal and provincial and regional governments and we’ve got a very strong team of people that are working collectively together to deal with the situation as it comes.”

Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) cancelled all remaining playoff games as the Rockies were battling the Dynamiters for first place. Kimberley took the first two games of the playoff round that was intended to be a best-of-seven series, winning 4-3 on March 9 and 3-0 on March 10 in their arena.

The Village of Radium Hot Springs is following guidelines provided by medical officials and the Province’s emergency preparedness plan.

“There have been events and hotel rooms (in Radium) that have been cancelled because of the outbreak,” said mayor Clara Reinhardt.

While she was looking forward to hosting the 2020 convention for the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) next month, the convention has been cancelled.

“We are disappointed because it was an opportunity to showcase Radium, but it is a good decision for the safety of everyone,” said Reinhardt.

For the short term, a committee is being established to ensure that time-sensitive AKBLG items can still be addressed.

Invermere mayor Al Miller said the District is taking advice from health officials and that the RDEK will be the community’s go-to source for emergency preparedness as needed.

“My main concern at this point is for people to not panic and listen to our qualified medical experts. Wash your hands lots, stay upbeat and communicate with others positively as some people might be more fearful due to their own health and/or mental well-being. We will get through this,” he said.

The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce anticipates that there may be a need for delivery drivers to take supplies to those in need.

A message from the Chamber said: “It is imperative that our community rallies together during this time, and we strongly encourage everyone to support local business as much as possible.”

The Chamber recommends that businesses offer “compassionate and flexible cancellation policies,” take care of staff and, if possible, allow employees to work from home.

To do a COVID-19 self assessment, visit https://covid19.thrive.health

“This is our time to be kind, to be calm and to be safe,” Henry said.

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