Big White ski resort in Kelowna, B.C., fires staff after spread of COVID-19

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KELOWNA, B.C. — Big White Ski Resort says it has fired "a number" of staff after a cluster of 60 cases of COVID-19 was discovered earlier this week.

Michael Ballingall, the senior vice-president for the Kelowna, B.C., resort, says in an email reply the staff were let go either for violating the provincial health officer's orders or the resort's own contracts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Ballingall says the resort has a zero-tolerance policy on such matters, while he wouldn't say how many people were let go.

A statement posted on the resort's website says it requires all staff to sign a health declaration before starting work each day and to follow all provincial health rules.

The Interior Health authority says most of the spread of the illness was related to large households, social gatherings and shared housing at the resort that's home to more than 150 staff each ski season.

It says everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 at Big White is required to self-isolate and public health workers are following up with their close contacts while testing at the resort is ongoing.

Public health orders in B.C. prohibit social gatherings among people from different households and non-essential travel is discouraged.

Interior Health says the risk is low for families and individuals visiting Big White as long as they stick to their household "bubble" and follow other rules, such as wearing a mask and practising physical distancing.

"We are confident with the safety plan in place by Big White Ski Resort," the health authority said in a statement. "Outdoor activities at Big White are considered safe for anyone following public health direction."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2020.

The Canadian Press