Interior Health (IH) has declared a COVID-19 community cluster in the Fernie area as of Wednesday Jan. 27.
A total of 81 new cases have been identified in the local health area since Jan. 1, with 63 currently active.
“This week, contact tracing confirms new cases of COVID-19 where people are reporting higher numbers of close contacts which contributes to increased community spread and heightened concern,” said Dr. Albert De Villiers, Interior Health chief medical health officer.
IH said that no single location or event is tied to the majority of cases, as they primarily appear to be associated with local social gatherings.
“These events are a significant concern, and all residents are reminded to refrain from contact outside your immediate household, and seek COVID-19 testing at the first sign of symptoms.”
The Fernie local health area is defined as the region served by the Elk Valley Hospital (in Fernie), including all the Elk Valley and South Country, but cases are concentrated in Fernie itself.
Neighbouring communities within the area, including Sparwood, have minimal cases, but travel should be restricted between the areas.
Fernie Mayor Ange Qualizza said the cases currently in Fernie and surrounding communities are the result of community transmission and not out-of-province travel.
“Cases locally are linked to a variety of social events and household transmission; we need everyone to reduce their potential of exposure by staying home and avoiding any unnecessary activities in the community.”
She said that while B.C. Premier John Horgan has ruled out restrictions on inter-provincial travel, “we need to start talking non-essential travel.”
Qualizza said she had “no reason to expect anything other than another extension” to provincial health orders discouraging travel.
As mayor of a resort municipality popular with tourists, Qualizza said she hoped the winter season was not a wash.
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