The COVID-19 virus is making an impact on life in the Shuswap from the cancellation of events to the disappearance of toilet paper and other supplies from store shelves. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm)

The spread of COVID-19 virus making its mark in Salmon Arm

Efforts to curtail the virus include the cancellation of hockey games and more

The COVID-19 virus’ global spread is being felt locally in everything from the cancellation of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ playoff run to the swift disappearance of toilet paper from store shelves.

Local organizations including the City of Salmon Arm, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and School District #83 say they are closely monitoring the situation.

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Salmon Arm Council has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday, March 18, where it will discuss the impact that COVID-19 will have on city facilities.

The CSRD is not currently planning to close any of its facilities; a regional district representative said the organization is taking its cues from the Ministry of Health, which is not advising closures at this point.

A statement from Superintendent of Schools Peter Jory said the district would be using information from Interior Health and Health Canada to help it make decisions that will keep students and staff safe. The school district has not decided to close schools yet, while some jurisdictions including those in Ontario and Alberta have. As students are presently away on spring break, parents are being advised to stay up-to-ate on new developments in case school will not be resuming as planned on March 30.

Local grocery stores have seen shelves empty as people stock up as a precaution against possible quarantines or supply disruptions. A particular target of Salmon Arm shoppers has been toilet paper and hand sanitizer, with some stores having their stocks nearly depleted.

Read More: Number of COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region remains at two

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The number of people who have tested positive for the virus in B.C. has exceeded 100; the majority of cases have been located in the Lower Mainland but only two as of early this week were detected in the Interior Health region.

Travellers coming to or returning to Canada are advised to isolate themselves for 14 days following their arrival. Concerns over international travel led the School District #83 board to cancel a school trip planned for Eagle River Secondary students over the school’s spring break, even before the federal regulations restricting international travel came in.

Health Canada recommends social distancing and careful attention to hygiene in order to slow the spread of the virus. The health service says it is more important than ever that people practice regular handwashing and avoid touching their eyes nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

Interior Health suggests that anyone who is concerned they might have been exposed to the virus should contact their primary care provider or call 8-1-1 to discuss whether COVID-19 testing is required. There is also a COVID-19 telephone information line available at 1-833-784-4397.

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Taking cues from the NHL and other pro leagues, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ playoff run was halted along with the rest of the BCHL season, just as the team finished celebrating its first-round win. Salmon Arm Minor Hockey announced an abrupt end to its teams’ seasons as well. The KIJHL also suspended its playoffs.

While many groups which had booked space at the Salmon Arm Rec Centre have cancelled, Salmon Arm Recreation General Manager Darby Boyd said there are currently no plans to close the facilities and in-house programs haven’t been suspended. The Shaw Centre was an emptier place than expected over the weekend with the Silverbacks’ home playoff games cancelled and the provincial ringette championships, which were expected to bring 450 athletes to Salmon Arm from March 13 to 15, were also cancelled.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for most Canadians but noted that it could change. Those 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions are at risk of more severe outcomes as the virus spreads.

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