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‘We need to stay home’: British Columbians urged to avoid preventable injuries amid COVID-19

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Despite repeated warnings to stay home and refrain from high-risk recreation during the pandemic, a young man is in the hospital with a serious back injury after trespassing onto a closed ski resort. As Kristen Robinson reports, doctors and police are pleading with the public to stay safe and avoid preventable injuries.

Doctors and first responders are urging British Columbians to refrain from taking unnecessary risks that can lead to preventable injuries that take up valuable hospital beds during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to stay home,” Doctors of BC president Kathleen Ross told Global News Saturday.

“We need to try and keep ourselves safe and leave the resources in place for those that actually need them.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Big White issues public plea to stay away after man suffers back injury

The plea comes after a young man landed in Kelowna General Hospital with a serious back injury on Friday. Staff at Big White Ski Resort say he and a group of friends decided to slide the slopes of the mountain, which has been closed to the public since March 16.

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“That accident didn’t have to happen,” said Michael J. Ballingall, the resort’s senior vice president.

Despite clear signage stating the mountain and its ski areas are closed for the season, Ballingall says the group spent the day hanging out in TELUS Park, a terrain park with a snowcross course, rail jams and slopestyle events.

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“This gentleman hurt his back. It was very serious, his friends called 911,” Ballingall told Global News.

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Fortunately, the Big White Fire Department was just 200 metres away. A team of on-call firefighters used a backboard and neckbrace to carry the injured man to the road where a waiting ambulance transported him.

Ballingall says the incident was not only avoidable, but extremely frustrating considering so many people are trying to do the right thing by staying home to bend the curve.

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“There are a few that break the rules and now tax the health-care system,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Thinking of a hike this weekend? B.C. search-and-rescue crews say you’re putting them at risk

That could have serious consequences for COVID-19 patients seeking urgent care, Ross said.

“It’s very important that we maintain the number of resources that we have right now in case we face a surge with the COVID-19,” she stressed.

“That includes our operating room space and that includes all those things that we do to treat preventable injuries in the emergency department.”

With more people staying at home, there are fewer drivers on the roads and police departments across B.C. are responding to fewer crashes.

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B.C. parks closed to reduce transmission risk

In Saanich, 94 collisions were reported to police in March 2019 compared to 71 this past March — a decrease of 24 per cent.

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Abbotsford Police received 79 motor vehicle incident related calls in March of last year, but recorded just 41 in March 2020. Officers attended 59 of the collisions reported in March 2019 compared to 40 last month — a decrease of 32 percent.

In Delta, collisions in the month of March were down 25 percent, from 96 in 2019 to 72 in 2020. Despite the emptier streets, the city’s top cop warns traffic rules are still being enforced.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. outdoor hot spots closed ahead of Easter long weekend

“The last thing we need is more crashes on the road leading to more people going to hospital,” said Delta Police Department Chief Const. Neil Dubord.

“We want to keep our emergency rooms open for all the people that are suffering from COVID-19.”

At the same time, Ross is concerned that some people who may require health care may not be seeking it during the pandemic. She says anyone with a true emergency should call their physician, in order to get the treatment they need.

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As for staying home and avoiding injury, Ross says you can cross-train from home and a fitness regime can be maintained through online and virtual exercise classes.

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Meantime, Big White Ski Resort is hoping the fact one man’s trespassing adventure ended with a serious back injury will dissuade other thrillseekers from venturing into closed, ungroomed terrain that’s no longer patrolled.

“We’re asking not to put yourself at risk so first responders and you don’t take up a bed in a hospital,” said Ballingall.

“It’s just simply dangerous.”