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Salmon Arm  

Okanagan College student to launch interactive COVID-19 map

Mapping virus spread in BC

An Okanagan GIS mapping student is making the global coronavirus pandemic the focus of his studies.

Sean Heddle of Oyama first launched a global map of COVID-19's spread back in January.

Now, the Okanagan College advanced GIS (geographic information system) student has created an interactive B.C. map that shows the breakdown of virus cases by health authority region. He's working on the project while living and studying in Salmon Arm, where he was recently self-isolating due to the virus he's mapping.

While Heddle isn't an official spokesperson on the pandemic, he does use government numbers to make sure his project is accurate, and when it goes live (likely Tuesday), it will be updated daily as the province releases new stats.

We'll be sure to add a link once that happens.

Heddle, of 5iveby5ive Media, says the live map will show the number of cases in each region and have a gradient scale, showing a darker red in areas where there is more infection.

"I'm also going to include population density, so you can see where the rate of infection is highest in relation to population," he said Monday while taking a break from coding.

"You will see where people are, and how many are infected. And it will show where the hospitals are that can hold acute-care COVID patients."

This is his second school project, and since the first, he says it has been frustrating to watch the spread of the virus.

"You watch it, and it's so easy to predict ... there's got to be somebody who could have seen this coming," he said.

"You can literally watch the spread in Wuhan (China) and apply it to B.C. unless there is intervention – which is distancing, and why it's so important."

Heddle has been busy gathering data and building the map, getting ready for its launch, for about a week.

"This really wasn't a thing before I started this college program, so I thought why not apply my studies to real world things?" he added.

"When I did the first project, nobody thought it would have come here ... now, it has really started to hit home."

Heddle hopes to make his third GIS project on the recovery from the pandemic.



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Secwepemc Nation declare state of emergency over COVID-19

Shuswap declare emergency

The Secwepemc Nation has declared an official state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure was taken to "address to all government, health authorities and all external organizations to ensure the Secwepemc Nation receives equal access to health, social and necessary infrastructure to care for our nation during Covid-19," Shuswap Nation Tribal Chief and Splatsin Chief Kukpi7 Wayne Christian said in a press release.

"As Secwepemc, we will work collectively to protect the health and safety of our nation. Through our joint efforts, we will support one another to ensure we have access to food, medical supplies and necessary equipment. Our nation leaders will have weekly teleconference calls to collectively co-ordinate our efforts," he said.

Leadership, health staff, and other vital staff from Secwepemc communities gathered virtually to share the essential services that each community is undertaking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, said the chief.

"It is the nation’s priority to work together to prepare for this pandemic, but most importantly be proactive."

The measures the Secwepemc Nation will undertake are:

  • Effective messaging of the COVID-19 precautions to all members and respective communities
  • Adequate and timely funding to support all nation members
  • Sharing resources between communities, so none are left out
  • Advocating and securing access to all essential materials, protective measures, and health care
  • Implementing consistent and co-ordinated communication to actively resolve concerns as they arise
  • Ensuring food security for communities

"It is important that we all take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Secwepemc Nation members stand to have considerable impacts on our most vulnerable elders, immunocompromised, and members with pre-existing and chronic health conditions. It is the duty of each of us to care for one another.

"It is not a time to panic, rather it is a time to act rationally for the strongest defence," the chief added.



Wrecked pontoon boat on Shuswap Lake will stay for time being

Wrecked boat will still float

A wrecked pontoon boat that has been floating on Shuswap Lake since January will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.

A property owner in the Eagle Bay area reached out to Castanet, voicing their concern over the potential environmental concerns this homemade boat could cause.

"Half of the pontoon is on the water, the other half is in wreckage on land," says the resident. "Someone has came down and burnt a bunch of it recently, but it's still there.

"I found some oil cans on the shore line too, so there may be more on the boat itself, which could pose some serious risk to the lake. I cleaned up a lot of insulation from it the other day, it's a real mess."

The matter was brought to the attention of the Ministry of Environment, who passed it along to the Canadian Coast Guard's Environmental Response group. Since it was a potentially polluting vessel, it was their jurisdiction. The group carried out an investigation on January 7, and found little issue with the watercraft.

"The houseboat in question had two small outboard engines and an unknown amount of gasoline onboard – no visible pollution was present at that time," says Andrew Patrick, Public Affairs Officer for the Ministry of Environment. "The Canadian Coast Guard determined that the vessel posed minimal pollution risk at the time, and the file was passed onto the Vessels of Concern group within the agency."



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Shopping for allergies particularly hard as hoarding clears shelves

What will I feed her?

Food hoarding that has bared grocery store shelves is leaving vulnerable citizens at risk.

Shayla Coates of Chase has a 21-month-old daughter with a severe corn allergy. When she has an episode, she gets hives, her lips and eyes swell, her stomach goes rock hard and she gets diarrhea. Depending on how contaminated the item is, Remington can scream in pain for up to three days. 

Remington has around 15 "safe foods." The list includes organic, grass-fed meats (chicken, hamburger, steak), broccoli, apples, milk, one brand of crackers and a special kind of bottled water.

"I can't buy anything in Chase other than her milk," said Coates, a nurse at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. "We can only shop at Nature's Fare, Superstore and Costco."

During a recent trip to the Kamloops Costco, Coates couldn't find any safe foods on the shelves.

"They had zero organic chicken," she says. "I really didn't care what kind it was. I was going to grab whatever they had."

Coates says she talked to a staff member in the meat department and was told to come first thing in the morning and "pretty much fight to get any sort of chicken."

Given her daughter's circumstance and the distance of travel, she asked if she could be put on a call list. She was told that wasn't an option, something Coates says she "completely understands."

Coates then hit up Nature's Fare; they too had run low on safe foods.

The store did, however, have two packages of sausages. Coates bought them, but says she felt guilty.

"I really don’t believe in this frenzy buying. I'm not buying anything crazy for my husband or I. I feel the need to stock up for (Remington) now because we’re so limited on her safe foods. ... If everybody just bought within their means, nobody would be in this type of situation I’m in right now, where you’re literally worried about your child’s health."

When she got home, she posted her experience on Facebook. Many offered the family the chicken from their freezers; unfortunately, Coates says she can't accept the meat because of the packaging. 

"Packaging is actually 90 per cent of the problem with half of the foods. ... Those soaker pads at the bottom, those are almost completely corn. A lot of companies will actually spray meats or soak meats in vinegar prior to packaging, so that's corn. Some companies dust things with corn starch prior to putting them in (the packaging)," Coates explains.



Salmon Arm hotel guest isolates as bus tours continue

Tour bus virus concern

A Salmon Arm hotel guest awaiting test results for COVID-19 is concerned that tour buses continue to roll through the community, dropping off tourists coming and going from Vancouver to the Rockies.

The man, who we aren't naming, said he first got sick in late January and could hardly breathe.

"At the time, there were no real coronavirus cases in B.C., so I just chalked it up to 'it's winter,'" he said.

The man recovered, but then started to get sick again.

That's when he started to pay attention to buses coming and going from his hotel.

"Buses full of Asian tour groups still coming to my hotel ... There's two or three every day," he said.

He spoke with one of the bus drivers, who said the tours have been cut down in number of passengers, and pass through Salmon Arm on their way to Banff.

"I was told they are cancelling, but clearly they have not cancelled anything," he said.

In a recording of his conversation, the driver can be heard saying: "People have no idea, think 'looks oriental – dangerous.'"

Still, the hotel guest is concerned, saying there is potential for virus exposure in the hallways, elevators and other common areas, not to mention the travel between provinces while health authorities are advocating social distancing and self-isolation.

Another hotel guest saw one passenger exit a bus, coughing and vomiting.

The man was tested for infection on Wednesday and is now waiting on results that should be back next week.

"Meanwhile, I'm stuck here for 14 days," he said.

"Clearly, they continue to operate, even though our health authority has directed these types of gatherings to be halted."



Wood cutout shows bigfoot with face mask, TP and Corona beer

Sasquatch pokes some fun

As the COVID-19 pandemic sends the world into a tizzy, some are still holding on to their sense of humour.

A nearly three-metre tall wooden cutout of a sasquatch near the Shuswap community of Canoe shows the illusive beast carrying a case of Corona beer while wearing a face mask and holding a roll of toilet paper.

Jim Anderson snapped a picture of the bigfoot to add some much-needed levity to the situation.

Last summer, the sasquatch was seen carrying a case of Kokanee beer.



Trans-Canada reopens near Chase after overnight incident

Trans-Canada reopens

UPDATE 10:40 a.m.

DriveBC reports the Trans-Canada Highway is now clear west of Chase.


UPDATE 7:21 a.m.

Highway 1 six kilometres west of Chase is now open to single-lane, alternating traffic.


ORIGINAL 6:33 a.m.

The Trans-Canada Highway is closed westbound this morning near Chase this morning.

DriveBC reports a vehicle incident five kilometres west of Chase has shut down westbound traffic. A detour is in effect.

Eastbound traffic is still moving.

More information is expected after 8 a.m.



Sicamous school latest to cancel trip because of COVID-19

Virus stops European trip

The coronavirus crisis has claimed another school trip.

Officials with North Okanagan-Shuswap District 83 say a spring break trip by Eagle River Secondary students has been cancelled.

“Concerned about student safety and possibly being caught in a quarantine, the board of trustees decided to cancel the trip planned over spring break,” the board said in a statement.

On the itinerary for the European road trip was the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the U.K.

There were 12 students, two parents and two teachers from the Sicamous school scheduled to go on the trip.

Officials with the school said they hope to reschedule the international adventure for next year.

The cancellation is just the latest trip or event to be cancelled over COVID-19 concerns.

As of Wednesday, the Vernon School District 22 had not cancelled any school trips, but parents did have the option of not sending their child.

The virus has also forced the cancellation of numerous sporting events around the world.



Yesterday's snow leads to number of crashes in North Okanagan

Snow leads to many crashes

Due to yesterday's snow, there were a number of collisions in the North Okanagan in the past 24 hours.

A pickup truck in Tappen lost control on the snowy roads and crossed the centre line on the Trans-Canada Highway. The truck then hit a concrete barrier, and got stuck. The driver of the vehicle was not injured.

On Highway 97B a semi lost control, slid into the ditch and hit a fence. The driver and co-driver were unharmed.

On Wednesday morning, a semi that was travelling east near Bernie Road went through a barricade and down the embankment. The driver and co-driver were not injured, but removing the semi is now being assessed. RCMP say it may cause delays later this morning and this afternoon. Tow operators will be removing the wreckage – so if you are travelling in that area, be wary of tow crews.

"We did have a brief reprieve to wintry roads but when the snow returns this time of year it usually pack to ice
quickly," says Sgt. Scott West, spokesperson for the Salmon Arm RCMP. "Please slow down in the snow and ice."



Hometown Hockey made a stop in Salmon Arm this weekend

Hometown Hockey's back

Rogers Hometown Hockey brings the love of the game to communities across the country, and this weekend's stop was in Salmon Arm. There was live music, food and games for the kids. There were even a couple former NHL stars in attendance to greet fans and sign some autographs.

"Hometown Hockey really means something to people in the smaller communities, and it really shows," says Robyn Regehr, former NHL star and Olympian. "The level of engagement has been fantastic here in Salmon Arm, and the community has really welcomed us and we've had a lot of fun."

The cross-country tour helmed by Ron MacLean and Tara Sloane aims to engage Canadian communities and bring hockey to them on a personal level.

"Hometown Hockey can really put smaller communities on the map," says Kirk McLean, former NHL goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks. "Salmon Arm is known throughout BC, but people back east may not know anything about it. And this is a special community that deserves some time in the spotlight."

Rogers Hometown Hockey continues its BC leg with a stop next weekend in North Vancouver, followed by their last stop in the province in Campbell River the following weekend.



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