Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton is calling on the province to launch a community vaccination program for those aged 18 and older in the wake of an outbreak that brought the resort to a standstill.
“The challenge we face here is urgent enough that Whistler’s economy has been shut down for the season,” Crompton said. “… [Whistler] welcomes over 3 million people a year. We need to have our community vaccinated if we’re going to continue to do so after the order is removed.”
The province hadn’t responded to the request by Pique’s press deadline.
While Crompton wouldn’t confirm that COVID-19 is sweeping through the Whistler Fire Rescue Service, he said, “We’re concerned about our community’s essential service workers—fire, ambulance, and police.”
A spokesperson for the Resort Municipality of Whistler said Whistler has a large pool of paid, on-call firefighters if need be to respond as needed.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health hasn’t updated the number of COVID-19 cases in Whistler since revealing there were 218 cases in the resort from March 22 to 28. (Numbers by health authority were also not updated due to the long weekend.) But in her briefing on Tuesday, April 6, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry shed a little more light on the P1 variant of the virus.
She said Whistler’s recent coronavirus outbreak of the variant had several chains of transmission and was likely due to multiple visitors.
“It wasn’t one single cluster or superspreader event; it was many different chains that were happening in and around Whistler, as we know,” she said.
“We were doing a lot of testing and there was a lot of transmission happening in young people and people who were visitors as well. And it is likely that visitors from other parts of Canada initially introduced that strain, but then it started to circulate … between workers, visitors, and, from there, spread to other parts of the province.”
Health officials estimate that the P1 variant circulation peaked the week of March 22, and suspect most of those cases have been identified to help stop transmission, but with a 14-day incubation period, that still remains to be seen.
In total, there have been about 197 cases of the variant in Whistler alone, in comparison to 1,120 COVID-19 cases recorded in the resort in 2021, though that number hasn’t been updated since March 30. “[It’s] a small percentage,” Henry said.
Whistler Community Services Society working to meet rising demand for food bank deliveries
As they’ve done throughout the last year, the team at Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) continued to adjust their services this week in response to both high COVID-19 cases and the number of residents in isolation.
Last week, the organization delivered food to almost 100 people in isolation over four days. That’s compared to 167 deliveries in the entire month of February (which saw food served a total of 645 times, including food bank pickup).
“Today [April 6] we have requests for over 40 deliveries and the day isn’t over yet,” said Jackie Dickinson, executive director of WCSS. “As we share these stats, I try to communicate that this is in no way to let people know we’re overwhelmed. We’re really proud of the work we do and this is what we signed up for. We really want to bring awareness to the impact this virus has on an economically vulnerable population.”
On top of increased deliveries to those who are sick with the virus or in self-isolation, the team was also prepared to see an increased need for its food bank following the sudden closure of Whistler Blackcomb.
“We knew based on what we [learned] from last March, people reached out about a week after the closure,” she said. “We knew after a week [this year], we’d see an increase in need.”
To that end, WCSS has extended its food bank hours in order to remain in their building at 8000 Nesters Road and better connect people with the other resources they offer. (Rather than moving to the Whistler Conference Centre like it did last year to meet increased demand.) As of April 6, public drop-in hours will be offered Monday to Saturday from 1:30 to 5 p.m.
“February gave us some time to replenish resources,” Dickinson said. “When Monday, [the day the new public health order closing Whistler Blackcomb and banning indoor dining] hit, we had food piled to the ceilings and hygiene packs stocked. We were prepared to see another increase.”
The temporary self-isolation unit has also been busy, she added. That program is run by WCSS with Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing. From Jan. 22 until March 29, those units provided 360 nights of emergency housing.
“It’s being used at a very high rate,” she said. “We’re fortunate to have that resource.”
Whistler's Scandinave Spa closes temporarily after staff ordered to isolate
Businesses in the resort continued to feel the impact of the virus this week. On Monday, April 5, the Scandinave Spa Whistler had to close its doors when all staff members were required to go into 10 days of isolation.
Vancouver Coastal Health sent a notice of a potential exposure to the spa on April 3 to say any staff that worked March 22 to 31 were required to self-isolate until April 14, according to a release from the spa.
“Guests who have visited the spa recently are not deemed to be at risk for exposure to the virus due to the extensive safety protocols in place at Scandinave Spa Whistler,” it said. The spa is set to reopen on April 16.