Program in place to help Interior ski towns with self-isolation

·3 min read

Editor's note: Ths story was published on Feb 12. - A reference to "free" was taken out of the second paragraph - A reference to SilverStar was taken out - And a reference to " the Medical Health Officer" was taken out of the bottom of the story

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) has an arrangement with ski resorts in its jurisdiction to plan for the self-isolation needs of local community members.

People in need of self-isolation support for COVID-19 will have access to a hotel room or private accomodation for the duration of their sickness.

With ski resorts like Whistler and Big White in the news of late with high numbers of COVID-19, many point to crowded living conditions in mountain towns as one of the possible culprits, and this step could help address this issue.

“In situations where individuals do not have an appropriate place to isolate (ex. if they are in a shared housing situation with limited room), Interior Health will look at alternate locations,” stated Brent Hobbs, an IHA employee in charge of the program, said in an email to Sun Peaks Independent News (SPIN).

When hotels are used, any COVID positive person would be isolating in a room that is separate from other guest areas. Food and supplies are brought to the guest and no interaction occurs with hotel staff, explained Hobbs.

“Hotel staff do not go into the room to provide housekeeping services or other care,” he said.

“Trained Interior Health social workers and other staff connect with the patient to provide what services or medical care is needed.”

The location of participating accommodation providers and hotels is not being provided out of respect for the businesses who are supporting the IHA’s efforts.

IHA’s jurisdiction covers Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM), Big White Ski Resort and Revelstoke, among other many other resorts.

According to Karl Hardt, a spokesperson for IH, this isolation program is “not limited to ski hills” and has been in place throughout the pandemic.

“Overall, the isolation program is not new,” stated Hardt. “However, in IHA and provincially there has been a recent focus and specific arrangements with ski resorts and ski towns based on concerns about the increased cases at resorts like Whistler and Big White and winter destination communities like Revelstoke and Fernie.”

IHA has committed to covering the costs of the program for people who need the support, yet individuals may be required to pay if they have the resources.

“It is important to stress that accommodation and other costs are looked at on a case-by-case basis and we review each individual’s ability to pay, other options for temporary housing, etc,” stated Hardt.

IHA also stated that any issues with non-compliance will be taken very seriously.

In an email that SPIN obtained, between IHA and a ski industry organization, IHA stated the following: “If we get a report of non-compliance, it is taken very seriously. We will intervene directly with the client.”

The email does reveal some positive news for SPMRM, stating that there are currently “no active cases of citizens in your area that require self-isolation for COVID-19.”

The self-isolation program is part of a larger suite of initiatives aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in mountain towns.

Today (Friday, Feb. 12) the provincial government announced an educational campaign aimed at curbing fraternizing with people outside of one’s bubble in ski resorts—the so called “apres activities” that ski towns are famous for.

The campaign includes provincewide television and digital advertising, enhanced communication to employees and education for eliminating social gatherings in shared housing and short-term accommodation, employers assisting with contact tracing, and reinforcing quarantine and self-isolation accommodation information and protocols for people working and living in ski communities.

SPIN will bring you more on this program in the coming days.

Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.