Fears of out-of-town workers spreading COVID-19 in Kamloops are unfounded

Some Kamloopsians worry that the 50 pipeline workers from out of town will bring the Cov2 virus into our community. That number of workers will swell to 600 by August.

Pipe stored in Kamloops. image: National Post

The Site C dam site serves as an example. After concerns were raised in March, several workers went into self-isolation. Even though none of the workers had been tested positive at the time, people in the closest town of Fort St. John worried that the hospital would be inundated. Town councillor Trevor Bolin said the site should be shut down and added:

“If there was an outbreak at Site C, our hospital would be inundated with patients that we could not handle, that our health system couldn’t handle, with the seven ventilators that we have in the community.”

Months later, one case of COVID-19 has been recently indentified at Site C. That person has been isolated before having contact with other workers. Just one case. Fort St. John’s hospital has not been inundated.

No COVID-19 cases have been indentified in Kamloops pipeline workers, despite ongoing work in preparation of the new pipeline near Ord road. This month, crews will start to pull the new pipeline under the Thompson River.

Last weekend saw a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the interior of B.C. So why hasn’t the presence of 50 pipeline workers not resulted in an outbreak in Kamloops?

The answer is precautions. It is not in Trans Mountain’s best interests to have a skilled, expensive workforce out of commission.

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Trans Mountain delayed construction in Kamloops for two months to ensure its pandemic safety measures were in place, including temperature checks (Kamloops This Week, June 2, 2020).

In addition, Trans Mountain will implement precautions such as one person per hotel room, spacing for dining, extra cleaning requirements and maintaining spacing during transport to worksites.

The economic benefits to Kamloops are substantial. Seventeen hotels and motels in Kamloops will accommodate Trans Mountain’s workforce. Construction spending in the Kamloops area is expected to be more than $450 million over the next two years. The workforce will spend an estimated $40 million for goods and services at local businesses.

There is no room for complacency when dealing with Cov2. Contagion is an obvious risk with this virus. Kelowna’s experience is a cautionary tale. On the Canada Day weekend an advisory for downtown Kelowna was posted after eight people had tested positive following two house parties involving visitors from other parts of B.C. That number quickly grew to 13 on July 13, then to 35, and now to 60 plus.

According to reports, those parties were not wild free-for-alls like some Texas bar scene.  The parties were mostly done with the right intent with the numbers were kept small. The mistake they made was not the high numbers at any one time but that there were different people every night.

The fact that there are no COVID-19 cases in pipeline workers in Kamloops is no accident. With careful precautions, Kamloops can economically benefit without a COVID-19 outbreak from the workers.

What will cause an outbreak is the assembly of large numbers of people who blissfully don’t practice good pandemic hygiene.