The mayor of a small city in B.C.’s East Kootenay region said Thursday there is no data to suggest visitors from Alberta are contributing to a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area.
Fernie, a city of about 4,800 people that is less than one hour drive from the B.C.-Alberta border, has seen a recent spike in new cases.
While there has been some concern about inter-provincial travel to these small communities, Fernie Mayor Ange Qualizza told Global News many people from Alberta have second homes in Fernie and stay there long-term to shelter and work.
“When you see Alberta plates in Fernie it could be for a variety of reasons.”
“We’ve also got a lot of workforce needs right now, we’ve got a lot of great industry partners up the Elk Valley that are hiring people and expanding projects,” she said.
Qualizza said the focus on suspected out-of-province visitors only acts to distract from local residents’ own actions.
“Community transmission is happening, and right now Interior Health has confirmed with me… that there is no data right now to suggest that we’re getting positive infection rates from out-of-town, out-of-province travel.”
Dr. Ron Clark, the top doctor at Elk Valley Hospital in Fernie, previously said the city is seeing a 20 per cent positivity rate for COVID tests.
However, Qualizza said that number better reflects the three areas of Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford, not just Fernie alone.
On Thursday, the chief medical health officer for Interior Health, Dr. Albert de Villiers, said in a statement that although COVID-19 is circulating in the area, the current average positivity rate in Fernie is estimated to be between 10 to 12 per cent.
Qualizza said while she knows everyone wants the pandemic to be over, now is not the time to just focus on numbers.
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“We’ve got to get that curve flat so our community stays healthy.”