British Columbia

COVID-19 alert issued for northeast B.C. after Alberta prayer meeting attendees test positive

Northern Health says anyone who attended the It Is Time Canada prayer gathering in Deadwood, Alta., between July 30 and Aug. 2 should self-isolate, self-monitor for symptoms of the disease and seek testing if they begin to exhibit symptoms.

Northern Health confirms 17 cases linked to It Is Time Canada event, including 12 people who attended

Individuals who attended the It Is Time Canada event in Deadwood, Alta., between July 30 and Aug. 2 are being asked to self-isolate, self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and seek testing if they begin to exhibit symptoms. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Northern Health has issued a public exposure alert for northeast B.C. after a dozen people in the region tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a faith-based event in Deadwood, Alta., about 430 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

According to the health authority, anyone who attended the It Is Time Canada prayer gathering between July 30 and Aug. 2 should self-isolate, self-monitor for symptoms of the disease and seek testing if they begin to exhibit symptoms.

In a statement, Northern Health warned it has identified 17 people with lab-confirmed cases related to the event — including 12 people who travelled to the event and and five people who were exposed afterwards due to close contact with an attendee.

Ten of those cases remain active and seven people have since recovered, said Eryn Collins, communications manager at Northern Health.

Collins says the majority of the cases are in the Fort St. John, B.C., area but the exposure alert applies to all of the province's northeast. She said while it is not believed there is widespread community transmission, the health authority wanted people to be aware and vigilant.

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman said she's pleased that the health authority alerted the city to the exposure, but wishes it had heard about it sooner so it could thave taken preventative measures. 

"You've got these people that have gone over to this event and have come back potentially gone back to work and it really can multiply from there in a very significant way," she said. 

The only two hospitals in the region are in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, and Ackerman worries an outbreak could be overwhelming for their health-care system.

"I don't think that we were expecting this kind of spike and so I do have concerns that our hospital wouldn't be able to handle it," she said.

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said he's disappointed, because overall, he said, residents have been diligent in trying to protect the community from COVID-19. 

"We can't afford to have our community closed down again. We can't have our small businesses closed down again and we can't risk the health of those people who are more vulnerable to the virus by having this kind of exposure."

Contact tracing underway

"The virus is still circulating and it's really important that no one become complacent," said Collins on CBC's Daybreak North on Monday.

The health authority said contact tracing is ongoing and, where possible, staff are reaching out to individuals who may have been exposed.

So far, contact tracers have identified a number of additional close contacts, and 24 of those are currently in self-isolation with active daily monitoring.

People seeking a coronavirus test should call their primary care provider (family physician or nurse practitioner) or the Northern Health COVID-19 Online Clinic and Info Line at 1-844-645-7811.

As of Monday afternoon, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, there have been 4,594 total COVID-19 cases in B.C. and 198 confirmed deaths.

There have been 117 cases confirmed in the Northern Health region. 

"It is important to remember that there are hundreds of people with COVID-19 and hundreds more are self isolating," Deputy Provincial Health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said during Monday's COVID-19 update.

Ackerman is reminding residents to maintain physical distancing when they can, and when they can't, wear a non-medical mask. 

"The reality is that people need to be a little more aware of the environment that they're in."

To hear the complete interview with Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins on Daybreak North, tap here.

With files from Daybreak North, Sarah Penton and Matt Allen


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