No data to suggest COVID transmission is coming from out-of-province travel: B.C. mayor

Click to play video 'Fernie experiencing spike in coronavirus cases' Fernie experiencing spike in coronavirus cases
Despite the ongoing health order and travel restrictions, Fernie residents say they're still seeing an influx of visitors from across Canada, as the number of coronavirus cases in the community are climbing rapidly. Catherine Urquhart reports – Jan 21, 2021

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.

Story continues below advertisement

Qualizza said the focus on suspected out-of-province visitors only acts to distract from local residents’ own actions.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“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.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: B.C. premier on a mechanism to ensure non-essential out-of-province visitors stay home' Coronavirus: B.C. premier on a mechanism to ensure non-essential out-of-province visitors stay home
Coronavirus: B.C. premier on a mechanism to ensure non-essential out-of-province visitors stay home – Nov 18, 2020

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.

Read more: COVID-19 positivity rate in small B.C. city ‘as bad as anywhere in the world right now’: doctor

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.

Story continues below advertisement

Qualizza said while she knows everyone wants the pandemic to be over, now is not the time to just focus on numbers.

“Whether it’s 20, 40 or 60 [per cent positivity] for a week, you should be acting as if there’s five cases here. So let’s not focus on those numbers and focus on what you’re supposed to be doing,” she said.

“We’ve got to get that curve flat so our community stays healthy.”

Sponsored content