Ski lodge staff self-isolating after clients test positive

The owner and employees of a ski lodge in the Robson Valley are self-isolating after learning two of their clients tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

As of Tuesday, Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing owner Mark Aubrey and nine others were laying low and practicing self distancing at the lodge while another 10 or so are staying in their homes elsewhere around B.C. and Alberta.

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Aubrey said they took the step upon being told one client tested positive upon returning home to California. A second client from the same state also tested positive a couple days later.

The two were on a trip originally planned to last six days starting March 14 but it was cut short after three days because of warnings that flights in and out of the country were to be put on hold. By the morning of March 17, all the guests had left the lodge, about 165 kilometres east of the city and had flown home through Prince George and Vancouver airports.

At that time, none of the guests or staff had shown any symptoms, Aubrey said.

Aubrey said he had previously refused two clients from Spain because of the high likelihood they may have contracted the virus. And prior to the trip, the other clients were asked if they had been to any high risk countries in the previous 14 days. None said they had, Aubrey said.

Once the last of the guests had left, staff also got in touch with everyone who had been at the lodge in the previous three weeks to ask them to report any symptoms. 

"A couple days later we started getting reports of people showing symptoms consistent with the virus and then on (Sunday) March 22nd, we received news that someone had tested positive," Aubrey said.

Even before then, Aubrey said it had been suggested to staff they self-isolate. Once they got the news, everyone took the step, he said.

"At that time, we realized there had been somebody possibly in the incubation period when they were at the lodge so we said everyone should self-isolate," Aubrey said. 

One of the staff had shown symptoms significant enough to get testing. None live in Prince George and the one who was tested lives in Jasper, where he is self-isolating.

"He's feeling much better, he's just waiting for the test results," Aubrey said.

On Tuesday, shortly before he was contacted by the Citizen, Aubrey received news that a second client, also from California and on the same March 14 trip, tested positive.

In all, there were 19 clients on the trip, none of whom are from Prince George. Three live in B.C. and the rest were a mixture of Americans and British.

Staff who remain at the lodge are in good spirits.

"We've got a big property here, there are no restrictions on being outside," Aubrey said. "We're preparing meals for each other, movies, we're practicing social distancing amongst each other, people, so far, are coping well, spirits are high.

"These guys have spent the whole winter together, many of them for several winters and they're friends and supportive and nobody is showing any psychological problems...everyone gets it."

Because of the virus, the lodge's ski season, originally set at 13 weeks, has been cut short by three.

"It's a very significant impact economically," Aubrey said.

For Aubrey, Tuesday was day seven of his self isolation. The rule of thumb is 14 days but Aubrey suggested it could be longer.

"We'll stay self isolated as long as recommended," he said.

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