Teck signage in Elkford, BC. (Soranne Floarea / The Free Press)

Wilks: Teck has our back when it comes to COVID-19

Sparwood Mayor Wilks said he had full confidence in Teck’s response to a cluster at its Elk Valley operations

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks has said he has faith in the ability of major local employer Teck to protect Elk Valley communities from the spread of COVID-19 at its operations.

“I feel much more confidence with Teck than I do with the Province,” he said.

“Teck has been very forthcoming with us, when they have a case they let us know.”

Late last week and earlier this week Teck has issued updates on a cluster of cases spread across three locations in the Elk Valley – the Fording River water treatment plant construction site, Fording River itself, and Elkview operations, with Interior Health declaring the cluster of 27 cases an outbreak on Wednesday Dec. 16.

Wilks has previously said he wanted provincial health authorities to be more forthcoming with information on local cases, saying they needed to “up their game” and alert communities in a more timely manner.

“We don’t want to know who it is, we don’t need to know who it is – we just want to know where it is,” he said. “Teck has been good with us on that.”

The province, said Wilks, had been failing on that front.

“They do it in Alberta, they do it in other provinces, where they can say there are ‘X’ amount of cases in (local communities).

“In fairness to the people of (local communities) they do need to know that there are cases in their community so it heightens their vigilance and heightens their awareness, and really that’s all we need it for – we don’t need anything else.”

Wilks said he had full confidence in Teck’s response so far.

“I think they’ve done their utmost,” he said.

Some of the enhanced protocols and preventative measures announced by Teck earlier this week include the mandatory use of C95 or KN95 respirators in indoor settings and work spaces for all employees, contractors and visitors and enhanced and increased screening of all individuals arriving on site at company operations.

The company also reported it would be “temporarily reducing the workforce at the Active Water Treatment facility construction site,” and would reduce occupancy at the Elk Valley Lodge contractor housing facility in Elkford.

READ MORE: Teck reports more new cases, enhanced protocols to stop spread of COVID-19

“They’ve done what they need to do, and let’s face is, they’ll keep open as long as they can because they’re a big engine for the province economically and for this region.”

Of the 27 cases reported at Teck operations, 15 are at the water treatment plant, eight cases are at Fording River and four cases are at Elkview, which is next to Sparwood.

Only 10 of the cases are residents of Interior Health – the other 17 are a mix of other BC residents and out-of-province contractors.

Two of the cases from IH are residents of Sparwood. Wilks said he wished them the best to get better soon, and back to work.

Last week, provincial health authorities reported there would be increased transparency in COVID-19 case reporting at a local level, with the number of cases within local health delivery areas now updated on a weekly basis, rather than monthly.

The local health area – Fernie – covers the South Country and all of the Elk Valley. Total cases are reported daily during the week, but broken down by regional health authorities.

READ MORE: Numbers rise at Teck operations: IH declares outbreak



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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