Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)

MLA Shypitka urges calm after COVID-19 cluster identified in Fernie

A Kootenay MLA is urging calm in the face of a COVID-19 cluster identified in the Elk Valley, as the provincial government holds off on implementing further travel restrictions from out-of-province visitors.

Tom Shypitka, who represents Kootenay-East, says the riding has been “well-insulated” since the pandemic began a year ago. But earlier this week, that all changed with a community cluster being declared in Fernie. As of Thursday (Jan. 28), Interior Health said there have been 81 confirmed cases since Jan. 1, 63 of those considered active.

The health authority has said most of the transmission is from within the community through social gatherings and not out-of-province travellers crossing the nearby B.C.-Alberta border.

However, that hasn’t stopped talk of the province implementing a ‘travel bubble’ similar to what the Maritime provinces have done, among others. This would mean out-of-province visitors must apply for pre-travel approval and self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Shypitka said he wants to see the province create a better plan to address domestic travel into B.C.

“What happens if the situation gets increasingly worse?” asked Shypitka. “I certainly hope the premier has a Plan B for that situation in case it ever arises, and I certainly hope it doesn’t.”

Last week, the government announced that inter-provincial travel is for work-related reasons and cannot be restricted, following a legal review. Premier John Horgan said his government is looking at other options if transmission increases.

Shypitka urged locals to push through frustration and fatigue and adhere to the directives issued by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“Their message has been pretty simple, pretty clear right from the start: If it’s not essential, don’t travel, so lets do that and lets be kind with the people that may not follow those rules,” Shypitka said.

“We’re all humans here, worry about your own practices, maybe don’t worry about other people so much. There could be a reason or a rationale behind it. Don’t judge people by the colour of their license plate; you don’t know their specific situation as well.”

There have been 124,365 doses administered in B.C. as of Wednesday, 4,160 of which are second doses. Federally, vaccine procurement has hit some snags with Pfizer-BioTech – one of two approved vaccine distributors in the country – leading to a dip in anticipated supply.

Because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored in fridges set to -80 C, only Kamloops and Kelowna have access to that brand in Interior Health. The Moderna vaccine will be targeted to rural and remote communities.

Shypitka said the age-based vaccine rollout plan current underway is effective, which puts seniors and essential care workers top priority for inoculation. But the definition of ‘essential workers’ has become a grey area.

“Definition on who gets priority is probably the biggest concern I have right now,” he said. Dentists and first responders have voiced confusion as to where on the list their industries lie.

Meanwhile, Shypitka joined the chorus of voices condemning the wealthy B.C. couple who recently travelled to a remote community in the Yukon and allegedly misrepresented themselves to get vaccinated.

“Those kind of things are just crazy and I wish people would just relax, we’re going to be fine, lets take care of our most vulnerable first and go from there.”



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some of the folks behind Angel Flight East Kootenay: Todd Weselake is a director, partner and pilot while Brent Bidston is the president and lead pilot of the not-for-profit. Pictured here with their older plane, they hope to get an upgrade for thanks to RDEK funding. (Image courtesy of Angel Flight East Kootenay)
Angel Flight secures RDEK funding for next five years

$100,000 will go to the not-for-profit each year, with the funds to be used to acquire a larger plane

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

Last week warming temperatures were a concern for Avalanche Canada forecasters, and those trends likely contributed to an avalanche that killed a West Kootenay snowmobiler on Thursday, March 4. Jen Coulter file photo.
Warming trend contributed to Kaslo fatality: Avalanche Canada

Concern for persistent layers has reduced since then

(L-R) Michelle Malan, Administrator for the Elk Valley Seniors Housing Society (Lilac Terrace) and Stephonie Gordon, Staff Representative of the Legacy Celebration Committee, Sparwood Branch. (Contributed by EKC)
EKC gives $10k to Lilac Terrace

The funding is part of the EKC’s 70s anniversary celebrations

Forty-eight vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read