COVID-19: How the City of Williams Lake and School District 27 are responding to concerns

A spring break school trip is altered, while city workers take precautions

While Cariboo residents keep a watchful eye on the evolving news surrounding COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada and abroad, there has currently only been one case of the virus confirmed within the Interior Health Authority.

“We recognize that there is a heightened awareness around COVID and that rumours are circulating in communities,” said Susan Duncan, a spokesperson for Interior Health.

“Interior Health and the province have been and will continue to provide information about confirmed cases. Every time there is a positive test in B.C., public health connects with anyone who may have come into contact with the case so they are aware and can be monitored for symptoms.”

Interior Health does not provide personal details about people involved with COVID-19, including location, for privacy reasons, Duncan said.

Interior Health continues to have one confirmed case of COVID-19. That person recovered at home in isolation and there was no risk of exposure to others. She was not in a facility, Duncan noted.

Provincial COVID-19 update

On Monday morning, March 9, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed B.C.’s first COVID-19 fatality.

One of the residents of Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver has died, and a second B.C. health care worker has also tested positive, and is in isolation at home in the Fraser Health region.

The deceased is a man in his 80s with a number of underlying health conditions. The other resident of the care home is a woman in her 70s, who is in stable condition.

There have been no identified cases in northern B.C. or Vancouver Island as of Monday.

Henry said people who are feeling ill, even with a cold, should stay home or keep their children at home until they feel better. The possibility of school closures is being considered in the Lower Mainland, but there is a concern that students may congregate in other areas, without the supervision they would have at school, she said.

COVID-19 and School District 27

In School District 27, Supt. Chris van der Mark said at the last board meeting that the risk of COVID-19 in local schools remains low, and that they are taking direction from Interior Health regarding how best to respond.

Monday morning, Carrie Pratt, manager of communications for SD 27, said the district currently has only one planned international trip over spring break, departing Wednesday, March 11 for Greece.

Pratt noted this trip was originally scheduled for Italy and Greece but was changed to Greece only based on reports coming out of Northern Italy and cautions on the Canadian government travel advisory site.

Henry repeated her advice Monday to people not to travel on cruise ships, as U.S. officials dealt with an outbreak on the Grand Princess off San Francisco. The ship has 21 people diagnosed with COVID-19 on board, among 3,500 people from 54 countries.

City of Williams Lake and COVID-19

In the City of Williams Lake, 76-year-old mayor Walt Cobb is encouraging residents to “be sensible.”

“You don’t want to get it, and you don’t want to pass it on either,” Cobb said Monday. “You can’t be too careful,”

Williams Lake stores have experienced the same demand for toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers that other cities have witnessed in the country.

Read More: B.C. care providers say masks, medical supplies ‘drying up’ due to COVID-19 concerns

Cobb confirmed the City’s chief administrative officer Milo MacDonald has been in extensive consultation with Interior Health on a weekly basis for updates.

“At this stage there have been a couple of testings, but nothing identified in Williams Lake yet,” Cobb said.

“Apparently someone from Gibraltar Mine was on a plane and somebody in the plane had been identified so when he came home he was asked to quarantine himself for two weeks. He did and there was no coronavirus identified with him.”

Cobb said he has two hand sanitizers on his desk and several have been placed in city hall and other City sites.

Masks have also been distributed to city workers at the sewage lagoons as an extra precaution.

“One of the big issues in some countries where it was spread was in the sewer system, the same on cruise ships,” Cobb said.

Signage has been placed in all the City facilities, and the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex, encouraging people to wash their hands.

“We have also told our staff if there is any indication of a cold or whatever, to stay home until it is determined what they have.”

Being cautious is all the City can do at this stage of the game, Cobb added.

“We debated whether or not we would put anything on our website, but the decision was made that rather than us relaying messages we would refer everybody to the Interior Health website and Health Line.”

If the City receives any indication that there are cases in town then the City will start to worry about it, he added.

”In the meantime, wash your hands often and be careful who you kiss.”

Cariboo Regional District monitoring COVID-19 situation

Cariboo Regional District manager of communications Emily Epp said the CRD is monitoring official recommendations from the BC Centre for Disease Control and keeping an eye on the situation.

“If formal recommendations come from the BC CDC in terms of meetings or staffing, etc. then we will act on those recommendations,” Epp said Monday.

BC Hockey and coronavirus

At the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex, a BC Hockey memorandum on the coronavirus has been posted on the door leading to the dressing room tunnel since early February in Williams Lake.

That notice instructs players to fist bump with gloves on, rather than shaking hands after games. It also asks players not to share water bottles and to wash hands often.

Kamloops Catholic Diocese

Last Sunday Catholic priests within the Kamloops Diocese read a letter from Bishop Joseph Nguyen asking parishioners to use common sense and exercise caution when approaching familiar practices such as shaking hands during the sign of peace, receiving communion on the tongue and from the chalice.

During this time of heightened precaution, it might be prudent to receive communion in the hand, and refrain from shaking hands, Bishop Nguyen stated, adding if people are sick they should not attend church or other events.

Travel plans and COVID-19

Over at All-Ways Travel on Oliver Street, corporate travel consultant Tanya Vigeant said they have been very busy helping clients change or cancel travel plans due to COVID-19.

“It’s been very stressful for some people,” Vigeant said, noting they’ve helped people change their itinerary while travelling.

“This is a really good example of why it’s good to use a travel agent. We are everyone’s support system.”

Vigeant said whether customers get refunds on trips they want to cancel depends on the type of ticket purchased, or if the travel is in areas where travel advisories have been issued.

She noted there are still many places people can and are travelling to, such as Mexico for spring break.

“The world is still open. People are still travelling.”

Cruise ship vacations, she said, are of course another story, and they are taking a wait-and-see approach as to how that unfolds. She noted many customers have chosen to cancel their cruise ship trips, even without refunds.

Travel Health Notices

There are several active travel health notices for COVID-19 listed on the Government of Canada’s website. Each country or area may have different levels of risk. These risk levels may change as the COVID-19 event evolves internationally.

Before you leave, check the following destinations that have travel health notices for COVID-19 provided by the Government of Canada:

China, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, Northern Italy, Singapore and South Korea.

How coronavirus spreads

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

1. Respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze.

2. Close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.

3. Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.

Preventing coronavirus

At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 or any natural health products that are authorized to protect against it. Hand washing and social distancing are best practices to avoid COVID-19.

If you have travelled to an at-risk area

If you have travelled to Hubei province, China, Iran or Italy in the last 14 days, limit your contact with others for 14 days, starting the day you began your journey to Canada. This means self-isolate and stay at home. Contact the public health authority in your province or territory within 24 hours of arriving in Canada for advice.


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