Whistler has recorded 288 cases of COVID-19 this month, most involving young people
VANCOUVER -- Health officials are urging Whistler residents to be on their best behaviour after seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the small resort municipality, including a cluster at one of the biggest hotels.
Some 288 infections were identified in Whistler between Jan. 1 and Jan. 26, according to an information bulletin released by Vancouver Coastal Health on Thursday. That's compared to 271 cases that were recorded in the community in all of last year.
The health authority said the majority of this year’s cases involved "young people in their 20s and 30s who live, work and socialized together." None of the infections have resulted in hospitalization or death.
The Fairmont Hotel Whistler says 12 of the cases are hotel employees, who are self-quarantining alongside their close contacts.
“Health officials advise that risk of transmission is low for those who have not been in close contact with these individuals,” the company said in an email to CTV News, adding that the hotel was has been following all provincial regulations and taking additional preventative measures including mandatory screening of all guests and employees.
“These measures include no social gatherings or meetings in any setting; alcohol sales ending at 10 p.m.; a maximum of six people from the same immediate household at any restaurant or lounge table; no movement between tables; and only seated eating and drinking permitted."
As cases surge in Whistler, Vancouver Coastal Health said it's imperative that residents and visitors follow the rules as well, including the province-wide ban on social gatherings. All B.C. residents are currently asked to stick to their household bubble unless they live alone, in which case they're allowed to see a maximum of two family members or friends.
On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan expressed concern about people travelling to Whistler against public health advice, while noting that skiing and snowboarding alone are not considered risky activities during the pandemic.
"It's when people leave the hill and look for the party that we're seeing transmission, and that's where we're very concerned," Horgan said.
"This is not the time to do that."
Tourism Whistler told CTV News that occupancy in the resort municipality was at just 27 per cent last month, a major drop from December 2019, and that almost 90 per cent of overnight guests came from within B.C.
"Whistler continues to encourage everyone to follow the guidance of our provincial health authorities, including their recommendation to avoid non-essential travel," spokesperson Lauren Everest said in an email statement.
Whistler has also seen a recent rash of COVID-19 exposure incidents at local bars and restaurants, including three that were announced Wednesday at Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, Buffalo Bills Bar & Grill and Black's Pub.
Vancouver Coastal Health said all of the recent public exposures are considered to be "low-risk," but still asked anyone who visited any of the locations on the specified dates to self-monitor for symptoms.
The resort municipality saw a similar spike in cases in November, but health officials said it was resolved by early December.