West Kelowna  

West Kelowna residents irked by lack of virus location information

Residents demand more info

West Kelowna residents are upset with B.C. health officials for not doing more to alert the communities where COVID-19 cases have been identified.

Greg Ingram reached out to Castanet after reading our story on 75 Bylands workers self-isolating, "it's kind of like putting death at your doorstep, except, here is there and nobody even tells you."

Castanet has been inundated with messages from other readers concerned about the situation.

"Where did the infected people go and who did they have contact with?" asked West Kelowna resident Nancy Johnson "I am absolutely sickened by this."

Dr. Henry described the West Kelowna situation as the B.C.'s "large community outbreak" of COVID-19.

"Interior Health became aware of a number of the workers there with respiratory illness, and a number of them have tested positive for COVID-19," Henry said. "The business itself is being quarantined and everybody is able to be isolated effectively in the housing – the very good housing – that is on-site there."

She said the infected workers have had very little contact with the community since coming to Canada and had mostly stayed on the nursery property.

The announcement Tuesday also marked a departure for Dr. Henry who has in the past avoided naming the communities where COVID-19 patients are located, with the exception of outbreaks in care homes. Health authorities have also sent out a handful of notices advising the public of cases where the patient may have come in contact with others, like at a pharmacy.

Ingram tells Castanet he was deeply offended that "there was so many cases right in my neighbourhood and I wasn't told" prior to 14 cases being confirmed Tuesday.

"I believe the local community should have been told earlier."

Ingram says he is not taking exception to temporary foreign workers, rather his beef is with the practice of withholding virus location information. In Alberta, the province has provided the public with an interactive map that includes virus counts in different portions of cities. Ontario has provided patient's ages and public health unit.

In response to questions about the policy, Dr. Henry said Tuesday “this is not a non-disclosure policy. This is how we do business in terms of public health.” 

Dr. Henry and Interior Health, which covers a vast portion of the province, indicate the policy is meant to encourage people across B.C., particularly in small communities, to assume COVID-19 is everywhere and to take proper precautions.

"This is not about protecting people’s privacy, necessarily — although that is obviously an important consideration. It’s about risk to the public and understanding where that risk is, and the measures we all need to take right now in our communities across the province," Dr. Henry said.

Ingram complains, "Interior Health is a huge, huge region, very diverse geographically. I live in Lakeview Heights, not far from Bylands and my job requires me to travel throughout the Okanagan. If I knew there were a whole bunch of cases in a certain community, obviously I wouldn't go there."

Ingram says these days he's not working. The only time he leaves the house is to get groceries, "I'm sure those temporary foreign workers had to get groceries too, how do I know I'm not going to the exact same grocery store that they used?"


Quarantined seniors beg for help for pooch's potty problem

Seniors plea for help

A retired Peachland couple, newly returned from the United States, are living in self-quarantine in their seniors' apartment complex on 6th Street.

Bruce and Bonnie Williams tell Castanet they have no problem self-quarantining but are having problems taking their dog out so it can do its business.

"We don't care if we don't go out, we are having groceries delivered and we've got lots of booze. We're fine with it, but we can't stop our dog's bodily functions," said Bruce.

Bruce says they got back from California last Friday and received a phone call from the police on Saturday acting on a complaint from someone who saw them walking the dog. "I said, 'are you gonna arrest me? 'They said 'no, we just want to find a solution.'"

They haven't had another call from the police since Saturday, but on Wednesday morning, after another complaint they called Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin to ask for advice.

"She said she'd see if there was a solution that we haven't thought of, but we feel like we're between a rock and a very hard place, we're getting harassed daily."

Bonnie Williams says she is a retried ICU nurse, is taking self-isolation seriously after returning to Canada on March 24 with no symptoms.

Bonnie says the dog is 12 years old and won't go out with anyone else, nor will the dog go on the balcony. "We practise social distancing and wear a mask and gloves. Now our apartment manager has called the police and the mayor is getting involved...please! Should we shoot the dog? I am at my wit's end!"

Bruce echoes his wife's words and says they don't know what to do and are open to any ideas, "if anybody's got a solution, please let us know."

A group of West Kelowna residents play car hide and seek

COVID car hide and seek

For those who are struggling to make human connections during the COVID-19 pandemic, the outdoor game of 'COVID Car Hide and Seek' might be the perfect fix.

West Kelowna's Julie Pringle was intrigued after hearing the idea from a friend so she decided to invite her friends and family to participate in a game of their own.

Everyone who participated stayed in their own vehicles with their household members for the entire game, to follow proper social distancing practices. 

"I get my energy from other people and everybody's in the same boat," says Pringle. "It just kept everyone engaged and happy and kept their mind off of all this serious stuff."

The group of 10 cars met at one location with different coloured flags attached to their antennas. Before the game started, everyone downloaded WhatsApp onto their phones, to make it easy for people to group chat.

"You have to have a designated person in your car, obviously it's not the driver doing the active texting," says Pringle.

Once the game starts, the car that is 'IT' drives off to find a hiding spot. Once hidden, the 'IT' car texts the group chat with a clue on their whereabouts. After the clue is sent out, the 'IT' car sets a timer for 10 minutes.

If the 'IT' car is not found within the first 10 minutes, they must send out another clue and turn on their hazard lights, to make it easier for someone to find them. To keep the game going, the maximum time for one round is 20 minutes.

The first car to find the 'IT' car is the next car to hide. All vehicles will collect at that location before the next car goes to hide.

"I would say we did this in about a three kilometre radius with 10 cars," says Pringle. "It was moms, dads and kids and it was people within our community." 

Each time a group finds the 'IT' car they get a point. If the 'IT' car is not found within the 20 minute time allowance, they get one point.

"I think it's great, I encourage people to try it. Just make sure you're not speeding, some of the parents get a little competitive and excited," says Pringle.


19 Bylands workers have now tested positive for COVID-19

5 new Bylands virus cases

Another five temporary foreign workers at West Kelowna's Bylands Nurseries have tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Wednesday, 19 of the 63 temporary foreign workers at the nursery have tested positive for the virus, which was discovered over the weekend.

Due to the province's first large community outbreak of the virus, 75 Bylands workers, including 12 local employees, are currently self-isolating.

Bylands owner Maria Byland said the outbreak is not believed to have spread to the Bylands Garden Centre on Byland and Bartley roads, but they've closed down the Garden Centre as a precaution. Interior Health says the risk of transmission to the general public is low. 

Karl Hardt, Interior Health spokesperson, said the transmission of the virus to the group of temporary foreign workers may have occurred when a group of new workers arrived in the Okanagan on March 12, before any travel restrictions had been put in place. IH believes the virus may have been brought to the Okanagan unwittingly by the new workers, infecting the employees who were already working at the nursery.

Last week, the federal government announced new regulations around the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program, mandating 14 days of self isolation upon workers' arrival.

On Tuesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the infected workers had been isolated from the community, but there was “considerable mixing on the farm.”

“There are people right now who are not sick who have been exposed to some of those people who are and they have a probability of becoming ill over the next two weeks,” she said.

"It will be two to four weeks before we understand the extent of this outbreak."

West Kelowna man searching for stolen travel trailer

Trailer stolen from business

A West Kelowna man needs your help locating his brand-new stolen travel trailer.

Dan Dionne tells Castanet he showed up for work at 2545 Ross Rd. in West Kelowna Wednesday morning only to find his 2020 Dutchman, Kodiak model trailer was gone.

"I noticed right away that the gate to our companies storage compound was open and the chain had been cut."

Dionne says he purchased the trailer back in August and has only ever used it once, "it's loaded with everything, including custom chrome wheels so it's fairly distinct." Dionne has reported the theft to RCMP and they have started searching for any video surveillance footage that may help with the investigation. The trailer had licence plate WHN75D on it before it was taken.

Dionne is sharing his story with Castanet in the hopes that someone will see the trailer and report the sighting to RCMP at 250-762-3300 or share the story on social media in an attempt to recover the stolen property.

Peachland mayor frustrated with vandalism of public mural

Mayor laments vandalism

A frustrated Mayor of Peachland took to Facebook Wednesday to appeal for clues after the district’s retaining wall at the south end of town was vandalized. 

“This is extremely frustrating,” Cindy Fortin said in a post to the Peachland Neighbours Facebook Group. “To be blunt, only someone very selfish would deface the mural.”

“Not to mention at a time when the public are doing their best to deal with the COVID-19 health crisis and trying to stay positive,” she continued.

Working off the vandals’ tags, Fortin asked if the public knew anyone with overt 911 conspiracy theories or has an interest in Milli Vanilli.

“While we normally associate graffiti with youth, this could very well be a well-cooked adult. Think of everyone you know, or any social media messages you've heard that are similar to this. Particularly someone who spouts hate messages and distrust,” Fortin said.

“This could also be someone who is enjoying the attention, so may be talking about it. Maybe someone who even feels this town deserves it, or thinks it's funny.”

“Anyone buy black spray paint recently? Smell like spray paint, or have it on their clothes?” she asked. 

The mayor urged the public to not approach or accuse anyone they suspect, but rather called CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Fortin said local governments are restricted as to where they can place surveillance camera, “but we are looking into this and other solutions.”

COVID-19 outbreak did not impact Bylands retail garden centre

Low risk from outbreak

The COVID-19 outbreak at West Kelowna's Bylands Nurseries is not believed to have impacted the Bylands Garden Centre near Byland and Bartley roads.

On Tuesday, Interior Health announced an outbreak of the virus had been discovered amongst a group of temporary foreign workers who were working for the nursery. The case is the first large community outbreak of the virus in B.C., and it's believed the workers contracted the virus while in Canada. Fourteen workers have tested positive for the disease, while a total of 75 employees are now self isolating after the discovery.

It's unclear when the workers arrived in Canada, but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it was in early March, before any travel restrictions had been put in place.

Maria Byland, owner of both Bylands Nurseries and the Bylands Garden Centre, says the outbreak is contained to workers at Bylands Nurseries, and not at the Garden Centre.

“None of the workers were in roles that interact with customers and members of this group had very minimal contact in the community,” Maria Byland said in a statement.

Temporary foreign workers have been required to self isolate for 14 days upon their arrival to Canada and Interior Health says the risk of exposure to the general public in this case is low.

While the Interior Health investigation into the outbreak does not include the Garden Centre, the company has voluntarily shut it down as a precaution.

As a result, West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom is pausing the city's tree delivery program, that sourced trees from Bylands. Those who've purchased trees can find more information by emailing [email protected]

“We’re keeping our staff and community informed based on the updates from the BC Ministry of Health, particularly with today’s update being so close to home,” Milsom said in a statement. “We’ll also continue to support Bylands in West Kelowna and we know they are taking the necessary measures in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority during these challenging times.”

Maria Byland says it's been a difficult time.

“As a family-owned and operated business, we feel a strong connection to our community, staff, suppliers and customers we proudly serve and are working to ensure the health and safety of all those involved,” Byland said “We thank you all for your support during this time, which is very difficult for all members of the community.”

Crash took out power in large part of West Kelowna

Power restored after crash

UPDATE: 7:05 a.m.

RCMP say two people in a BMW that crashed into a power pole in West Kelowna overnight were not injured in the collision. 

Police were called to the 3400 block of Elk Road about 11 p.m., where the southbound vehicle failed to negotiate a corner, left the roadway, and struck the pole. 

Speed is believed to have been a factor in the crash, says RCMP Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy. The adult male driver was issued a violation ticket under the BC Motor Vehicle Act. His female passenger was unhurt.

UPDATE: 5:25 a.m.

BC Hydro reports power was restored to 2,585 customers in West Kelowna about 3 a.m.

A two-vehicle crash about 11 p.m. on East Boundary Road near Chief Tomat school took out a power pole and brought lines down on the road.

A BMW reportedly went off a curve near Elk Road, hitting a tree and the pole, ending up in the front yard of a home.

The incident closed the road while Hydro crews restored power and the crash scene was cleared.

It's not known if there were any injuries in the crash.

The outage affected an area east of Saddleback Place, west of McCallum Road, south of Auburn Road and north of North Ridge Estates.

ORIGINAL: 11:15 p.m.

A large part of West Kelowna lost power late Tuesday night. 

The lights went out for nearly 2,600 BC Hydro customers shortly before 11 p.m.

While the cause remains under investigation, emergency crews responded to a report of a vehicle hitting a power pole on East Boundary Road around the same time.

There is no estimated time the power will be restored.

Blasting permit to start for Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant

Water plant blasting begins

The City of West Kelowna has issued a blasting permit for early site works for the Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant starting next week. 

The work will take place Monday to Friday and occasionally on Saturday as needed.

The blasting is required to prepare for civil site works on a 24-acre property at 2010 Bartley Rd., which the municipality acquired to construct its long-awaited multi-barrier water treatment plant.

As part of early site works, blasting is required to create access and service line conduits to the site and establish foundations for the plant and the required holding tank reservoirs.

As part of WorkSafeBC requirements, safety horns will sound before the blast and again once the area is clear.

The company will conduct ground vibration and air overpressure monitoring during blasting activities.

Construction is expected take at least 20 months to complete, allowing the plant to be commissioned and fully operational by late spring of 2022.

Interior Health confirms cases of COVID-19 at Bylands Nurseries

75 Bylands workers isolating

UPDATE: 4:40 p.m.

Seventy-five employees of West Kelowna's Bylands Nursery are self isolating, after 14 of them recently tested positive for COVID-19. 

The outbreak at the nursery was discovered over the weekend, and as such both Bylands Nurseries and their Garden Centre have closed. 

Of the 75 people who are now self isolating, 63 are temporary foreign workers while 12 are local employees. 

Interior Health says the positive cases "may be linked to a group of workers who arrived in Kelowna from outside of Canada on March 12."

UPDATE: 4:10 p.m.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called the outbreak of COVID-19 at West Kelowna's Bylands Nursery the province's "first large community outbreak" of the disease. 

Over the weekend, Interior Health tested a group of temporary foreign workers at the business who were experiencing symptoms. Dr. Henry would only say that "a number of them" tested positive, but the exact number is unclear

Interior Health continues to investigate the outbreak, but it's believed the people contracted the virus while they were in Canada. The group of workers arrived in Canada in early March, before there were any COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Interior Health said the cases "may be linked to a group of workers who arrived in Kelowna from outside of Canada on March 12."

"They did an investigation, a public health follow up, of all of the people who had been in the premise and where they were working," Dr. Henry said. '"Finding out who was in contact with whom."

Dr. Henry said the people who tested positive hadn't been going out in the community since their arrival in Canada.  

"These people were being isolated, in that they weren't going out into the community because they had come in from another country, but there was some considerable mixing on the farm when they were working together," Dr. Henry said. 

"It is a community outbreak that was caught relatively early, we hope, but we will see over the next coming two weeks. There are people right now who are not sick who have been exposed to some of those people who are and they have a probability of becoming ill over the next two weeks. 

"It will be two to four weeks before we understand the extent of this outbreak."

ORIGINAL: 2:40 p.m.

Interior Health has announced an outbreak of COVID-19 at West Kelowna's Bylands Nurseries involving a group of temporary foreign workers.

The group involved is currently residing in on-site housing at the business, and was ordered on March 27 to remain in quarantine on the property until further notice.

A number of the workers have now tested positive for COVID-19. 

Interior Health says the medical health officer who made the order remains confident that the risk of exposure to the public is low because none of the workers interacted with customers and have had very little contact within the community. The business is currently closed.

Interior Health says the workers who are quarantined on site have good housing accommodations which allow for safe self isolation. The company has been fully co-operative with Interior Health.

"These cases may be linked to a group of workers who travelled to Kelowna from outside of the country on March 12," Interior Health says.

Under the order of the medial health officer, Bylands Nurseries "has undertaken several measures including enhanced cleaning of all nursery, housing, sanitary and other facilities accessed by employees as well as denying access to all visitors to the site."

The adjacent garden centre has also closed voluntarily.

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